History of Los Angeles

The human history of Los Angeles begins with Native Americans, as with every other place in the United States, and the traditions of the region's various tribes still play a role—not the least of which are the only true casinos in the state. The principal tribe in the region was the Gabrielinos-Tongva, today known as the San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians. There were as many as 5,000 living in the LA Basin from Santa Barbara to San Clemente and on the coastal islands when Los Angeles history was forever altered by the arrival of the Spaniards in the eighteenth century.

One of the legacies of the Spaniards' arrival in LA history is the San Fernando Rey Espana, the 17th of the 21 Spanish missions that were founded in California in the late 1700s and which stretch from San Diego to San Rafael north of San Francisco. It is the only Spanish mission in the metropolitan area, and is located in the San Fernando Valley about ten miles northwest of the Burbank Airport. One of the little known facts About Los Angeles is the existence of the mission's cemetery, which is the final resting place for a number of famous Angelenos such as Bob Hope, Ed Begley, Jane Wyatt, and Chuck Connors. The mission itself is one of the city's museums and has a church with a typically ornate gilded altar, as well as fascinating period furniture and artifacts of the era.

The history of Los Angeles as we know it begins with the founding of the settlement in 1781 by the 44 Los Angeles Pobladores (townspeople). The official listing of the adults in this group consisted of: one Peninsular, Spaniard born in Spain; one Criollo, Spaniard born in New Spain; one Mestizo, mixed Spanish and native American; two Negros, black of full African ancestry; eight Mulattos, mixed Spanish and black; and nine Indios, Native Americans. It wasn't until well into the twentieth century that California historian William Mason "rediscovered" this original ethnic richness that popular LA history had largely glossed over. For many years, Mason was curator of the respected Natural History Museum, and during his career he dispelled many other popular myths about the ethnic minorities (who were the majority when Los Angeles was founded) that make up the melting pot of Los Angeles and the Golden State.

By 1821 (the year that Mexico became independent from Spain), Los Angeles was the largest self-sustaining farming community in southern California and was still part of Mexico. Los Angeles history took another turn during the 1846 Mexican American War. American forces, under General Kearny and his guide Kit Carson, entered Los Angeles and the 1847 Treaty of Cahuenga ceded California to the United States. After the discovery of gold in northern California in 1848, Los Angeles became known as "Queen of the Cow Counties" for supplying most of the beef and other food to the miners.

Los Angeles history saw a major boom in growth and industry from 1870 to 1913, and in the process became more and more dominated by its white citizens who exploited and decimated the Native American population and then did the same to emigrating Chinese. The transcontinental railroad came in 1876, and this saw the rise of industrial barons and magnates whose names appear on landmarks throughout the city today. Colis Huntington was president of the Southern Pacific Railroad, and his nephew's Huntington Library, Art Gallery and Botanical Gardens (near Pasadena and Burbank) is today one of the city's finest museums and most popular attractions. Edward Doheny discovered oil in the city in 1892, and his name graces one of the most beautiful of the area's beaches, the stately Victorian Doheny Mansion between downtown Los Angeles and Culver City, Doheny Plaza is one of the most prestigious addresses in West Hollywood, and Doheny Drive in Beverly Hills is one of the most prestigious business addresses. The engineer William Mulholland shaped much of modern day Los Angeles through the building of the dams and aqueducts that brought waters from the Colorado River to this mostly arid landscape. LA history and the natural resources of all of the American Southwest are still changing because of these engineering projects. One of the most famously scenic stretches of road in the city will be found on the miles of Mulholland Drive.

The history of Los Angeles was also changed by the arrival of the film industry pioneers in the early 1900s. Culver City, where Sony Pictures is still located, was the first center of cinema. The huge studios and back lots quickly outgrew this congested urban area, and the production companies moved on to Century City, then to Hollywood, and on to Burbank and Universal City. All these places now provide the attractions that draw millions of visitors every year, from movie studio tours and TV tapings to the Hollywood Wax Museum and famous Sunset Boulevard.

A hidden gem of Los Angeles history can be found at the Adamson House, beautifully situated on the ocean in Malibu. The house was built in 1930 for the Adamson Rindge family (the Rindge's were from Cambridge, Massachusetts where they left their mark on Boston history). It is a lovely Spanish Revival home lavishly decorated with ceramic tiles from the Malibu Potteries company the family owned, and is furnished with most of the original family furnishings, It once was the center of the vast ranch during the time when a stagecoach ride from Malibu to Santa Monica took the better part of a day. There is an excellent museum with fascinating artifacts of the area Indians and the old ranch lifestyle, and the expansive grounds and gardens are magnificent. You can take guided tours of the house interior, and the grounds are open throughout most of the year.

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