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The History of Pacific Palisades

by Randy Young and Betty Lou Young
Pacific Palisades Historical Society

The land which is now Pacific Palisades was part of a 6600 acre land grant given by the Mexican government to Francisco Marquez and Ysidro Reyes in 1838. It was named the Boca de Santa Monica, or "Mouth of Santa Monica", referring to the fertile flatland in Santa Monica Canyon, which served as the center for the families' farming operations.

In the late 1870's, the same canyon became a popular summer resort, as city folk from Los Angeles took day-long treks to the beautiful beach to enjoy the sun, sand and surf. The journeys were long and arduous. Some ocean-loving visitors pitched tents or built simple log and tent cabins so they could lengthen their stay at "the shore".

A gathering in the parking area behind the businesses on Antioch Street, looking toward Via de la Paz. The small building on the right is where Amazing Music is now located. Circa 1961

Landmark vanishes - In 1961, workmen demolish one of the oldest buildings in Pacific Palisades, originally the location of the Pacific Palisades Sales Association, which launched the community.

Prospects for development were dampened by World War I, but in 1921 the site was chosen by the Southern California Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church for a summer Chautauqua site and a permanent community based on religious, cultural and educational ideals. On January 14, 1922, the site was dedicated and the subdivision formally opened by the Reverend Charles H. Scott, who had led a group of Methodists charged with the mission of establishing the "Chautauqua of the West", an outgrowth of the renowned cultural center in New York state. The new town was named Pacific Palisades, descriptive of its location on the naturally sculpted palisades overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Lots for the first homes were purchased on leasehold, contingent on ownership of a $1,000 share in the enterprise. The first streets were named after great religious scholars and leaders and Christian colleges. The Pacific Palisades Association, which conducted the real   estate  operation,  fell  upon  hard  times

during the depression and was forced to sell the property outright and to open the community to development by outside investors. Neighborhoods of single-family dwellings sprang up in the 1920s and the first Business Block was built in 1925. The 1930s saw steady growth, and vigorous expansion in all directions occurred after World War II. By 1947, the community had several retail stores and a restaurant or two.

Today, with a population of 23,000 residents and 630 businesses - including retail shops and professional services - the atmosphere of a village still persists and personal concern over the quality of the community remains high.

Though the community is within the City of Los Angeles, in keeping with the original intent of the founders, Pacific Palisades has kept its own name and post office designation, and functions as a town through the Community Council, has a first class and well-read weekly newspaper, a hometown band and symphony, a community theater, service clubs, fine schools, and places of worship, a YMCA, plus many active clubs and organizations. Civic pride by local residents is readily seen by the amount of extraordinary time spent in volunteerism and community service.