Huntington Beach History Profile Tin Can Beach

Huntington Beach, CA -

Huntington Beach, one of the fastest growing cites in the nation during the 1960s, has slowed down quite a bit since it was transformed from a rough and tumble oil town into the third largest city in Orange County.

The community was founded in 1901 as Pacific City on the site of a former Spanish land-grant ranch. In 1904, the townspeople changed the name to honor Pasadena developer Henry Huntington, who made the small city a stop on his Pacific Electric "Red Car" Railway line.

The city's first boom occurred after Standard Oil Co. began drilling for oil in 1920, and a forest of derricks lining the beaches led to the nickname "Oil City."

It gained the unflattering nickname of "Tin Can Beach" early on from the debris found in the sand. Following is a first person account from Ed Sweeny, who used to visit the area at the time:

"During the years that we used to go to 'Tin Can Beach' 1946-1956, it was not uncommon for people to go and stay for a week or two at a time. Families with 20-30 members would go during the summer, when it was so hot in the inland valley, and pitch army tents and stay for a couple of weeks at a time. The men went off to work every day and came back to the beach afterwards. The adults slept in tents on cots and the kids slept out under the stars. Families camp fires every night. It was family fun, especially during  Grunion run. On the down side, the kids had cuts all over their feet from all the tin can lids buried in the sand...and of course, it was free."

In 1961, the state cleaned up the tin cans and created Bolsa Chica State Beach.

Oil drilling and farming were the major sources of employment in the Huntington Beach area until the 1960s. The economy since has diversified greatly, with some 900 companies employing more than 40,000 people.

Huntington Beach probably is best known for its 8.5 miles of sandy beaches stretching along the Pacific Coast Highway. An annual surfing contest, the US Open of Surfing, attracts some of the top surfers from around the world.

Huntington Beach's famous pier, built in 1914, was shut down in July 1988 after officials found it to be structurally unsafe. Reconstruction started in 1990, taking almost 4 years to complete. Today, it is a blend of old and new in design. It resembles the 1914 pier in architectural style, but its new construction of reinforced steel is expected to make it last through the next millennium.