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How Long Beach Got Its Name & Other Fun Facts

Have you ever wondered how Long Beach got its name? Why does Long Beach have so many gorgeous Art Deco buildings? And what’s with those funny little islands with the lights and waterfalls in the Long Beach harbor? We’ve been asking ourselves the same questions ourselves, and discovered some fun facts about Long Beach!

Source: Visit Long Beach



How Long Beach Got Its Name

In 1784, the area that is now Long Beach was first settled as part of a massive Spanish land grant to soldier Manuel Nieto, encompassing the historic 28,000-acre Ranch Los Alamitos and its sister rancho, 27,000-acre Rancho Los Cerritos. In 1866, Rancho Los Cerritos was sold to Lewellyn Bixby and then managed by his brother Jotham. The Bixby family soon became prominent ranchers and developers of Long Beach. In 1882, Long Beach, originally planned as Willmore City by developer William Willmore, began forming along the coast. In the following years, the railroads attracted hoardes of visitors to Long Beach and created a real estate boom. In 1888, the original residents of Willmore City renamed their town Long Beach, after its long, wide beaches, and the city became incorporated.



Long Beach Boomtown

In 1902, the introduction of the Pacific Electric trolley caused the city to grow both as a resort and commercial center, and from 1902 to 1910, Long Beach was the fastest growing city in the United States. In 1911, the Port of Long Beach was established and in 1921, oil was discovered on Signal Hill and Long Beach flourished with a million-dollar-per-month building boom downtown.



1933 Long Beach Earthquake

On March 10, 1933, Long Beach was struck by a 6.4 magnitude earthquake, with the epicenter offshore, southeast of Long Beach on the Newport–Inglewood Fault. Destruction was widespread, with an estimated $40 million worth of property damage due to unreinforced masonry and unfavorable geological conditions such as landfill. As a result, stricter construction codes were implemented and Long Beach was rebuilt in the the stunning Art Deco style we see today.



Astronaut Islands

Have you ever wondered about the mysterious islands that appear in the Long Beach harbor? These manmade isles, dubbed the Astronaut Islands, are the only decorated oil islands in the U.S. Measuring 10 acres each, they were built in 1965 as part of a city beautification project to camouflage offshore oil derricks and muffle their sound. Construction of the islands was overseen by Disneyland architect Joseph Linesch. To disguise the industrial oil production, he planned waterfalls, screens, and extensive landscaping along with the condo-style camouflage, and colorful lights at night. The islands are ringed by rocks from Catalina Island and filled with millions of cubic yards of material dredged from the bay. The islands were originally known as the THUMS Islands, based on the name of the oil consortium that built them: Texaco, Humble (now Exxon), Union Oil, Mobil and Shell. Since 1967, they have been commonly referred to as the Astronaut Islands, with each individual island named after an American astronaut killed on a mission. The islands are off-limits with the exception of occasional guided tours hosted by private organizations.

Source: Atlas Obscura



The Making of Modern Long Beach

In 1967, the City of Long Beach purchased Cunard’s former luxury cruise liner, the Queen Mary, to be docked in Long Beach Harbor as a major tourism attraction and hotel. Then in 1975, the city embarked on a 25-year multi-billon dollar redevelopment program and the first Long Beach Grand Prix auto race took place on downtown streets. The following year, the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center opened, adjacent to the Long Beach Arena. The complex includes the Terrace Theater, Center Theater, 14 meeting rooms and 88,000 square feet of exhibit hall space.



In the years to come, Shoreline Village, the Downtown Shoreline Marina and Shoreline Park opened. In 1990, the Long Beach to Los Angeles Metro Blue Line, the first link in the Los Angeles Metro Rail project, started service. In 1998, the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific opened and 2003 marked the opening of the The Pike at Rainbow Harbor Entertainment Complex.



Recent Milestones

On Earth Day April 23, 2003, famed marine artist Wyland completed his “Earth, The Blue Planet” mural on the rooftop of the Long Beach Arena, the largest painting of planet Earth from space.  The new mural complements his “Planet Ocean” or “Whaling Wall” which encircles the Long Beach Arena and was recognized as the world’s largest mural by the Guinness Book of Records when it was finished in 1992. That same year, the prestigious TED Conference moves to Long Beach for a five year annual engagement, bringing notable luminaries in Technology, Entertainment and Design to speak on “Ideas Worth Spreading.”



Long Beach, Our City on the Waterfront

Today, Long Beach continues to grow and evolve, adding exciting new cultural attractions, restaurants, bars, retail and other great urban amenities to our neighborhoods. With 11 miles of shoreline, 7 beaches, 6 marinas, and miles of paths, piers & boardwalks; you’ll find your bliss living in Long Beach.


Photo credits:

Photo #1: City of Long Beach

Photo #2: Visit Long Beach

Photo #3: City of Long Beach

Photo #4: City of Long Beach

Photo #5: Island Grissom/THUMS Islands/Public Domain

Photo #6: The Queen Mary

Photo #7: Shoreline Village

Photo #8: Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center

Photo #9: Visit Long Beach