Rancho Los Cerritos in Long Beach California
Just 50 years after Columbus discovered America, Cabrillo
and his crew of explorers anchored off the present site of Long Beach.
Vast clouds of smoke rolled high in the sky from burning grass and brush
ashore where the native Indians conducted one of their periodic rabbit
drives. Cabrillo named the area “Bahia de los Fumos” -- the Bay of Smokes.
A massive Spanish land grant to soldier
Manuel Nieto went into effect in 1784 and lasted for nearly a century.
Called "Rancho Los Cerritos," it was sold to prominent rancher Lewellyn
Bixby whose name became well known for development and growth of the region.
Competition between the new Santa Fe Railroad and older southern Pacific
Railroad attracted hordes of visitors, creating a real estate boom in the
late 1800s and the town was branded "Willmore City" after yet another investor.
But residents felt that name didn't reflect what the city was about so
in 1888, they incorporated and called it Long Beach for its wide, long
stretch of coast.
The fifth largest city in California is now home to the
busiest port in the United States, the Port of Los Angeles. Trade
and tourism stand side by side in a city proclaiming there's enough beach
to satisfy its varied needs. The downtown region offers a "bohemian" feel
with art deco architecture dating to 1933. A destructive earthquake in
that year knocked down many structures and deco was the style of choice
during that era so the city took on a whole new feel as it rose out of
the ashes of devastation.
Take a drive along Ocean Avenue, the main street in Long
Beach to view neatly painted and appointed residential and commercial buildings
from the deco period.
Available for tours
are several historic ranchos, Rancho Los Alamitos and Rancho Los Cerritos.
Rancho Los Cerritos was at one time a land
grant of 300,000 acres to Manuel Nieto. Reduced significantly, the land was
deeded to his children when he died in 1804. His daughter, Manuela Cota,
received Rancho Los Cerritos area bordered on the west by the Los
Angeles River and on the south by the Pacific Ocean. She and husband
Guillermo built at least two adobes on the land and raised twelve children,
as well as cattle and crops. Following her death, heirs sold the Rancho to
John Temple in December, 1843.
Temple constructed the present two-story
Monterey-style adobe in 1844 as headquarters for cattle operations that
supplemented his Los Angeles mercantile business. Though Temple used the
Rancho as a summer home while maintaining a Los Angeles residence, he
pastured ran and operated a lucrative cow hide and tallow business with as
many as 15,000 livestock at the Rancho. Temple's cattle were taken north to
feed the hungry miners of the Gold Rush but floods and drought destroyed his
healthy cattle trade and the business and rancho were sold in 1866 to the
firm Flint, Bixby & Co. for $20,000.
In 1866 Jotham Bixby and his family resided in the Cerritos adobe. As many
as 30,000 sheep were kept at the ranch and sheared twice yearly to provide
wool for trade for over a decade. Toward the late 1870s Jotham Bixby leased
and sold parcels of the property and in 1884 the town of Long Beach occupied
the southwest corner of the Rancho. Eventually Bellflower, Paramount, Signal
Hill and Lakewood were founded on Los Cerritos lands. Dairy farms grew and
thrived to feed a growing population surrounding the Rancho lands. From 1890
to 1927, the Cerritos adobe housed tenants who neglected the Rancho which
fell into disrepair.
In 1930, Lewellyn Bixby's son Llewellyn,
Sr. remodeled Rancho Los Cerritos. With the original configuration of
Temple's adobe intact, the grounds were reconfigured for the family,
incorporating the trees that survived from the Temple era. After Llewellyn,
Sr.'s death, the family sold the house and 4.7 acres of land to the City of
Long Beach. In 1955 the site opened as a public museum dedicated to the
history of the Rancho and the surrounding area. It is located in Virginia
Country Club, a beautiful residential community that includes houses
situated along a golf course.