Hermosa Beach was originally part of the ten-mile frontage of Rancho Sausal Redondo. In 1900, tract of fifteen hundred acres was purchased at $35 per acre from A.E. Pomeroy, then owner of the greater part of Rancho Sausal Redondo.
In the early days, Hermosa Beach, like so many of its neighboring cities - Torrance, Lawndale, Inglewood - was one vast sweep of rolling hills covered with fields of grain, mostly barley. During certain seasons of the year, large herds of sheep grazed over this land, and corrals and large barns for storing grain, as well as providing shelter for horses and farm implements, were located on the ranch between Hermosa and Inglewood. The Spanish words, Rancho Sausal Redondo, mean a large circular ranch of pasture with a grove of willows on it.
The first official survey was made in the year 1901 for the boardwalk on the Strand, Hermosa Avenue and Santa Fe Avenue. In 1904, the first pier was built. It was constructed entirely of wood, even to the pilings. It extended five hundred feet out into the ocean. The pier was partly washed away and later torn down. A new pier was paved with asphalt over its entire length. Small tiled pavilions were erected at intervals along the sides to afford shade for the fisherman and picnic parties. Eventually, a bait stand was built out on the end.
Soon after, about 1914, an auditorium building was constructed. Over the years, it has housed various enterprises. Presently, it is used by the Los Angeles County Life Guard Service. Hermosa Avenue was the first street to be paved. The boardwalk on the Strand was constructed of planks. The walk extended the entire length of the two-mile Strand. High tides sometimes washed away portions of this walkway. In 1914 part of it was replaced with cement. The remaining two thousand feet on the north end was finally completed with cement in 1926.
The water supply for the town was installed by the Hermosa Beach Land and Water Company in 1901. They located a well on the north city limits. Later the company bought an artesian well and built a reservoir just outside of the east end of town. The water from this well was drawn from a seemingly limitless subterranean reservoir three hundred feet below the surface.
The Santa Fe railway was the only transportation system through Hermosa Beach. It was seven blocks from the beach. The street that led to the tracks was called Santa Fe Avenue, but was later renamed Pier Avenue.
There was no railway station for Hermosa, but Burbank and Baker built a platform on the west side of the tracks near Santa Fe Avenue, and later the Railroad Company donated an old boxcar to be used as a storage place for freight. In 1926, the Santa Fe Company built a modern stucco depot and installed Western Union telegraph service in it. The first city election for city officers was held December 24,1906. The town incorporated and its charter was obtained from the state on January 14, 1907.
At that time, the city acquired ownership of its two-mile stretch of ocean frontage, this being included in an original deed to the city from the Hermosa Beach Land and Water Company. The deed stated that this land was to be held in perpetuity as a beach playground, free from commerce, and for the benefit of not only residents of Hermosa, but also for the sea lovers of Southern California. Hermosa Beach has never permitted cheap amusements along its strand and its original ideals are its present day standards. The sports of fishing and swimming have always prevailed here and many famous anglers have reeled their lines off its pier. Persons of world renown have splashed through the ocean's rollicking surf on vacations in Hermosa.
In March, 1926, a lateral sewer system for the city connected up with the $350,000 trunk line of the South Bay Sanitation District and was designed to accommodate a population of thirty thousand. The Hermosa system is now a part of the extensive project that covers the southwest portion of Los Angeles County.
Ocean View School, now torn down, was the first school building erected. It was located on top of a sand dune four blocks from the beach, and no walks or streets of any kind led to it when it was built. This school was constructed of wood, two stories high with a belfry.
St. Cross Episcopal Church was the first church building erected in the city of Hermosa Beach. Donations, subscriptions and entertainment provided the finances for the lumber and carpenter work.
Mr. Otto Meyer opened the first grocery store and fish market. The first boarding and rooming house was conducted in a frame building on Pier Avenue. Mrs. M. Darling operated it and also sold bread occasionally. John Kerwin bought the property and operated a bakery in the building during the summer months.
A bowling alley was the only amusement house operated. It was located in a long, one-story building on the corner of Eleventh Street and the Strand. It housed several activities during its time. Here, at one time, was to be the tax collectors office and the press rooms for the Hermosa Beach Review. The first theater building was owned and operated by a woman. She bought the lot from Ben Brown and constructed a frame building on it. The building was eventually turned into a garage and is located just in back of the Barstow Building on Tenth Place. In 1915, C.D. Barlow built a small brick building which he used as a motion picture theater. The Otto Meyer building showed early motion pictures also. The building had previously been used as the city hall. It is now the Bijou Theater.
Hermosa Beach Civic Club was a citizen's improvement association and was the only civic club ever organized in the community. The Woman's Club dates back to 1907 and is still vigorous. The Hermosa Beach Chamber of Commerce was organized in 1912 and is still active. Much of the city's popularity is owed to the faithful and enthusiastic service promoted by this chamber.
The first bank was organized by James Walker. Located on the northwest corner of Pier and Hermosa Avenue, it was called the First Bank of Hermosa Beach. Later it became the First National Bank.
The first street lighting system in the community consisted of one 40-watt bulb at the end of each side street along the Strand.
Famous people have, at times lived in Hermosa Beach or visited it during the summer seasons. Judge Curtis Wilbur, a secretary of the U.S. Navy, was interested in it's legal affairs in earlier days. William Jennings Bryan, in the last years of his life, rented a summer home for several seasons and brought his family to Hermosa to spend their vacation. He was often seen on the pier in the mornings wearing a plebeian suit of overalls and an old straw hat, enthusiastically fishing and "yarning". Charles Lindbergh was entertained a number of times as a guest of the Surf and Sand Club.
Books on Hermosa History
Hermosa Beach Historical Society and Museum