los alamito
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Los Alamitos or "Little Cottonwoods", located in northwest Orange County, California less than five miles from the Long Beach Airport, is a best known as one of Southern California's playgrounds for horse racing fans.  It has no beach of its own but is located next door several in Seal Beach and Long Beach.  Local residents consider its public schools some of the finest and they willingly pay handsome prices to live in Rossmoor, a family-oriented community designed by Ross Cortese in 1956. Rossmoor's 3,400 or so homes include exceptionally, large lots and offer a mid-western feel and charm, with everything from a farmhouse style home to a modern mansion.


The City of Los Alamitos or "Los Al" has approximately 15,000 residents and includes a Naval Air Station with a beautiful Navy Golf Course and an active Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Center, located there since 1941. Three major freeways, the 405 and 605 and 22 meet near Los Al,  making this region ideal for commuters working in both Los Angeles and Orange Counties. 


For the guest visiting Los Alamitos, and even locals who live there or in nearby Cypress, the city boundaries are not always known and when asked, some are confused as to which city a business or street is in.  Never mind. The folks running Los Alamitos Museum on  11062 Los Alamitos Boulevard might be able to answer your questions.  (310) 431-8836 Located in the adobe building which originally housed the volunteer fire department, it features a Hall of Fame. This section of the Museum includes displays that honor local residents who have received national and or international recognition in sports or other fields of endeavor. This location was once the site of the town's volunteer fire department and pays homage those families that put Los Alamitos on the map.


It's interesting how Los Alamos became a city. Once farmland contained in the stately Bixby family's Rancho Los Alamitos, the ground contained fertile soil which was well suited for sugar beets and even dairy farming. While the convenient roadside, drive-thru dairy marts were popular outlets for local products, those are mostly gone. Yet the history of the region is well documented and lives on in books, maps and artifacts seen at Rancho Los Alamitos in the Bixby Hill region of Long Beach. 


Driving down the busy streets of Los Alamitos today, the experience feels more a race course than what we can only imagine must have been wide open land with farms, cattle and horses. How fitting it is that the city is known for Los Alamitos Race Track which features Quarter Horse, Arabian, Thoroughbred, Paint and Appaloosa Racing! Open to the public, there's free general parking and an affordable admission fee. You don't have to be wealthy to have fun watching thoroughbreds run the 5/8 mile track, as long as you don't spend all your money on a long shot. The facility also includes horse stables, party and event facilities and an award winning restaurant. Los Alamitos Race Track,  4961 Katella Ave., Los Alamitos, CA., 90720 Phone (714) 820-2800, losalamitos.com


A brief history of Los Alamitos

The Puvu Indians, a branch of the Shoshones, lived in what is now the Southern California basin possibly 3,000 years or more. When the expedition of Spaniards, led by Gaspar De Portola, arrived to explore and colonize Upper California in 1769, they found the land marked by many Indian villages, or "rancherias," containing from 500 to 1500 huts, in which is now Los Angeles and Orange Counties.


The Portola expedition consisted of colonists to settle in selected pueblos or towns, missionaries to convert the natives and prepare them to become "civilized" enough to assume control of the land which the missions held in trust for the Indians, and soldiers to establish military strong points or "presidios" to protect both groups, as well as to keep foreign interest such as Russia or England from invading lands claimed by Spain.


The intention of holding the land in trust for the Indians ended in 1784 when Governor Fages, an original member of the expedition, made vast grants of lands to two of his former soldier companions. These were Sergeants Dominguez and Nieto. The Nieto Grant consisted of all the lands lying between the Santa Ana and San Gabriel Rivers, extending from the ocean to the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. This huge mass is now occupied by most of the cities in Los Angeles County and northern Orange County.


Upon the death of Don Manuel Nieto, the Grant was divided into five large ranchos and divided among his children. The two ranchos most familiar to us are Los Cerritos (The Little Hills), located in northwest Long Beach next to the Virginia Country Club, and Los Alamitos (The Little Cottonwoods), with its ranch house atop the hill at the south end of Palo Verde Avenue, also in Long Beach. Los Alamitos contained six square leagues, or 85,000 acres of range land. Granted to son Juan Jose Nieto, he soon sold the property to then Governor Figueroa for $500. Upon the death of the governor, the land was bought by Abel Stearns in 1842 for $5,934. The price included not only the land, but all the cattle grazing upon it. He successfully raised cattle until the extended drought of 1863-64 killed more than 30,000 head of stock, and he lost the rancho through foreclosure to Michael Reese, a money lender in San Francisco.


Reese let the land lie fallow until 1878, when John Bixby leased the rancho to raise grain and sheep. In 1881 I.W. Hellman and the J. Bixby Company joined in buying the Los Alamitos Rancho which by then had been reduced to 28,087 acres by sales of parcels during the years. Five thousand acres were set aside for a township to be established in the near future. It was a township which developed after John Bixby had died. In 1896 ex-Senator William Clark of Montana purchased 8,139 acres of rancho land for raising sugar beets. He planned the township of Los Alamitos, building the first sugar refinery in Southern California here, as well as constructing housing and recreation buildings for workers, and guaranteed to buy all the sugar beets that could be raised in the surrounding 70 square miles of territory during the next five years. Practically all the land between what is now Lakewood and the Santa Ana River became one vast field of sugar beets.


Township of Los Alamitos - The township of Los Alamitos had already begun, the first school being built in 1881 at what is now Katella and Los Alamitos Boulevard. Most of the workers in the fields were Mexican, but many immigrants from Belgium, France and Germany came here to work and establish their own farms and businesses. When nematodes (burrowing insects that fed on the roots of the plants) destroyed the sugar beet industry, the sugar refinery was closed down and eventually leased in 1921 to a Dr. Ross, who used it to process wild horse meat into dog food.


The 1929 depression, followed by damage caused by the 1933 earthquake, ruined this enterprise. Dr. Ross died a pauper, and eventually the mill was torn down. While the sugar mill was prospering, Los Alamitos had become the typical wild west town. Reagan Street was the principal thoroughfare until Los Alamitos Boulevard was black topped in 1921-22. There were two hotels in town, and reportedly an average of two shootings or stabbings every weekend. Katella was a country road that led to the entrance of a farm on the edge of Coyote Creek. It was named after the two daughters of the farmer, "Kate" and "Ella," who, well into their eighties, were proudly present when "their" road was named and dedicated. On March 1, 1960, the township of Los Alamitos became a chartered city.