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A Bit of Santa Monica Canyon History

Posted by John Hathorn on May 15, 2012
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The Following is from the Winter 2010 Newsletter

A Bird’s-Eye View of Santa Monica Canyon, 1884 Credit: Santa Monica Library

Surely, you have heard of the Santa Monica Canyon. However, did you know that The Santa Monica Canyon lies between Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades and makes up less than one square mile? Did you know that it is actually not in Santa Monica?  That’s right Santa Monica Canyon is in the City of Los Angeles though it has a Santa Monica address and 90402 zip code.

“The Canyon” was originally home to the Gabrieleno Indians and had been under both Spanish and Mexican control before ‘Alta California’ was ceded to the United States in 1847.  It was under the Mexican rule when historic land grants were issued to Francisco Marquez and Ysidro Reyes  1834.

Francisco built his first home on what is today San Lorenzo Street; and Reyes built his ranch house near where Chautauqua and Sunset intersect today. The Canyon began to attract other, near-by Angelenos, and small tents dotted the mouth of The Canyon for picnicking and camping. By 1872, a hotel opened near the waterfront advertising, “Come and enjoy yourself- A week at the beach will add ten years to your life.”

Given the growing popularity of The Canyon, unclaimed land was to be sold at public auction. Advertisements for the July 15, 1875, auction read: “On Wednesday afternoon at one o’clock we will sell at public outcry to the highest bidder, the Pacific Ocean draped with a sky of scarlet gold”.

 By December of 1875, a railroad had been built to Shoofly Landing where Colorado Ave reaches the beach today. The Canyon was now accessible to hundreds of people. Traveling characters enjoyed days of croquet, horseback riding, and, of course, bathing. Evening entertainment, lasting into the early hours of morning, was marked by music and dancing.

One of the biggest surprises in The Canyon is hidden on San Lorenzo Street. Because the nearest Catholic cemetery was more than a day trip away, Francisco Marquez set aside a portion of land for a cemetery within view of his adobe house.  It is believed that the cemetery was established in the late 1840’s.  Over the years, members of the Marquez and Reyes families, along with their close friends, were buried there.  The early graves were marked with wooden crosses, all of which have long since disappeared.  Canned peaches, spoiled with botulism claimed the lives of 12 family members over 5 days after a picnic here on New Year’s Eve.

The Canyon enjoys some of the highest priced and most affordable real estate in the 90402 zip code and is home to an award winning LAUSD Canyon Elementary school.

Click Here to download the entire Winter 2010 Newsletter

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