History of Redondo Beach
Redondo Beach does not have one key year in its history, it has several. Over the centuries the City has been inhabited by Native Americans, was a booming trade center for oil and lumber, and was fashioned as a popular resort town.
Before 1784, Native Americans occupied the Redondo area. They lived off the sea and used the salt flats located where the Edison Company is today. This Native American land became Rancho San Pedro in 1784 when the California government made it part of a large land grant to the Juan Jose Dominguez family.
In 1890, the Hotel Redondo opened. The City was becoming “The Place” for tourists. Railroads and steamships brought people by the thousands, not to mention freight loads of oil and lumber. At this time, Redondo was the first port of Los Angeles County. Steamers from the Pacific Steamship Company stopped at Redondo four times a week, at one of its three piers, as part of regular runs between San Francisco and San Diego. The Redondo Railway Company and the Santa Fe Railroad left Los Angeles daily for Redondo at regular intervals. Eventually the City was served by Henry Huntington’s Big Red Electric Cars.
The Hotel Redondo, with its 18-hole golf course, lush landscaping, tennis courts and 225 luxurious rooms, each of which was “touched by sunlight at some time of the day,” induced more visitors than ever before to venture to the coast. If the price of hotel accommodations was too steep, one could rent a tent at nearby Tent City. Patrons were charged $3.00 per week, or $10.00 per month for a tent. Wooden floors and electric lights were included in the price.
Several natural and man-made novelties lured visitors to Redondo Beach. Between Diamond Street and the Hermosa Beach city line there was Moonstone Beach. Natural mounds five to six feet deep and 40 to 50 feet wide of gem stones were there to poke around in.
Carnation Gardens, in the general vicinity of Ruby and Sapphire Streets east of Catalina Avenue, offered 12 acres of sweet smelling flowers that were almost always in bloom. The piers, too, were an attraction. Sports fishing was unsurpassed and amusements such as games, rides and the largest salt water plunge in the world added to the excitement.
On April 18, 1892, Redondo voters adopted cityhood by a vote of 177-10. The first City Hall was built in 1908 at Benita and Emerald Street.
Redondo’s popularity began a slow decline when San Pedro Harbor started to take shape in 1899. By 1912, the Pacific Steamship Company stopped calling at Redondo altogether. Lumber schooners still used Pier No. 3 at Topaz Street until the railroad pulled out in 1926. Because of prohibition, the $250,000 Hotel Redondo closed its doors and in 1925 was sold for scrap lumber--the price was $3,000.
Big time gambling, complete with mobsters and shooting incidents, found its way to Redondo during the Depression. Chip games, bingo parlors, and a casino were run in full view of the law between 1936 and 1940. For a fare of 25 cents, a water-taxi would transport a visitor to the gambling ship Rex which operated three miles off shore.
Storms have been an ever-present danger to the City’s piers. They have been washed out, then rebuilt, then washed out again. Redondo’s first breakwater was built in 1939 and although the cost was more than $500,000, it provided only limited protection. Because of the way it was constructed, wave action and the normal movement of the beach sand was altered. Following every storm, sand accumulated north of the breakwater. Eventually the beach area between Diamond and Beryl Streets was obliterated. A raging storm in 1953 caused extensive damage not only to the breakwater, but to City streets and private property. In 1956, work began on the marina Redondo has today--King Harbor. It is named after the man who was a moving force behind it, Representative Cecil R. King (Democrat, 17th District).
Redondo’s population boomed in the ‘50s and ‘60s. In 1890, the population was 668; in 1940 it was 13,092; and in 1965 it was 54,772. Today, Redondo citizens number a little over 63,000. Still known as a tourist and resort town, Redondo can boast of piers with fishing and amusements, a Saltwater Lagoon reminiscent of the old plunge, many fine food restaurants and hotels, and a beautiful harbor. But Redondo today is not all fun and games. Some of the best and most innovative schools in the State are located in Redondo. Small and large businesses flourish, and City services are on a par with or exceed those of any other South Bay city.