Long Beach





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.






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