Long Beach History Timeline

Take a step back in time to experience Long Beach when it was an 1800s ranching community and see how the railroad and port established the city as a booming hub of industry and culture.

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.

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.

1882: Long Beach, originally planned as Willmore City by developer William Willmore, began forming along the coast.

1885: Competition between the new Santa Fe Railroad and older southern Pacific Railroad attracted hordes of visitors to Long Beach and created a real estate boom.

1888: Original residents of the foiled Willmore City renamed their town Long Beach, after its long, wide beaches, and the city became incorporated.

1902: The introduction of the Pacific Electric trolley caused the city to grow both as a resort and commercial center.

1902: From 1902 to  1910 Long Beach was the fastest growing city in the United States.

1911: The Port of Long Beach was established.

1921: Oil was discovered on Signal Hill and Long Beach flourished with a million-dollar-per-month building boom downtown.

1933: Long Beach was struck by a major earthquake. Downtown Long Beach was rebuilt in Art Deco style.

1941: The U.S. Naval Shipyard dry dock built to service the largest naval ships.

1947: The first and only flight of Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose, the world's largest airplane, took off over Long Beach Harbor.

1949: California State University Long Beach was founded.

1962: The Long Beach Arena opens.

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.

1975: The city embarked on a 25-year multi-billon dollar redevelopment program.

1975: The first Long Beach Grand Prix auto race takes place on downtown streets.

 1978: 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.

1982: Shoreline Village, the Downtown Shoreline Marina and Shoreline Park opened.

1983: The Spruce Goose was moved from its hidden hangar to be exhibited in the world's largest geodesic dome adjacent to the Queen Mary.

1984: Long Beach was the site for four Olympic events during the Los Angeles Olympics--yachting, volleyball, fencing and archery.

1988: Long Beach celebrated its Centennial.

1989: The Greater Los Angeles World Trade Center in Long Beach opened.

1990: The Long Beach to Los Angeles Metro Blue Line, the first link in the Los Angeles Metro Rail project, started service.

1992: The Spruce goose is moved to McMinnville, Oregon to become the centerpiece for the Air Venture Museum, and its dome is "converted" for use as movie studio by Warner Bros.

1994: Completion of the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center expansion, tripling the existing exhibit space to 334,000 square feet.

1998: The Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific opened.

1999: The Long Beach Town Centre, a sprawling entertainment, dining and shopping complex opened on site of the former US Naval Hospital.

2002: CityPlace, a modern, open-air shopping plaza, opened downtown.

2002: JetBlue flew into Long Beach Airport with first flight on May 1, lending to ever-expanding service to major cities across the country.

2003: Carnival Cruise lines opened a terminal adjacent to the Queen Mary and becomes the first cruise line to operate in Long Beach.

2003: The Pike at Rainbow Harbor Entertainment Complex opened in the downtown waterfront.

2004: The Long Beach Aquatic Festival features the US Olympic Team Trails-Swimming, the most successful Trials ever in both records broken and attendance.  The festival also included the FINA World Championships in men's and women's water polo.

2006: Long Beach celebrated “A Royal Rendezvous” on February 22, as the Queen Mary 2, the world’s largest ocean liner, sails into Long Beach Harbor to salute her namesake, the RMS Queen Mary.  Hundreds of small boats and more than 10,000 spectators surround the harbor area.

2007: Long Beach is the host city for the "overall finish" of the AMGEN Tour of California professional bicycle race.  Eighteen international teams compete in this "Tour de France style" cross country race that covers more than 650 miles of scenic California roadways.

2009: April 23, “Earth Day, famed marine artist Wyland completes 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.

2009: At midnight on New Year’s Eve, Travis Pastrana breaks rally car jump world record by soaring 269 feet over downtown Long Beach’s Rainbow Harbor as part of Red Bull’s “No Limits” event.

2009: 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.”

2010: Red Bull Flugtag soars over Rainbow Harbor as dozens of whimsical human powered aircraft attempt to fly while entertaining a host of 100,000 spectators.

2011: Long Beach celebrates the 100th anniversary of the first trans-continental airplane flight by Cal Perry Rogers.  In a special ceremony a commemorative plaque and replica of Perry’s Wright Flyer is installed in the lobby of the Long Beach Arena.  

2013: Downtown Long Beach celebrates the opening of Harvey Milk Park and Equality Square, completing the multi-million dollar renovation of The Promenade from Ocean Blvd., to 3rd Street.  The Promenade, an open air pedestrian walkway through the center of the downtown entertainment district, features attractive landscaping, public art and restaurants with open air dining patios.


For additional information on Long Beach history, contact the Long Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, the private, non-profit marketing organization promoting conventions and tourism into the Long Beach area. LBACVB, 301 E. Ocean Blvd., Suite 1900, Long Beach, CA 90802. 562/436-3645.

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