Commodore Pacific Electric
Red Car in Huntington Beach, circa 1907
photo courtesy of ocbook.com
Huntington Beach, one of the fastest growing cites
in the nation during the 1960s, has slowed down
quite a bit since it was transformed from a rough
and tumble oil town into the third largest city
in Orange County.
community was founded in 1901 as Pacific City
on the site of a former Spanish land-grant ranch. In
1904, the townspeople changed the name to honor
Pasadena developer Henry Huntington, who made
the small city a stop on his Pacific Electric
"Red Car" Railway line.
city's first boom occurred after Standard Oil
Co. began drilling for oil in 1920, and a forest
of derricks lining the beaches led to the nickname
It gained the unflattering nickname of "Tin
Can Beach" early on from the debris found
in the sand. Following is a first person account
from Ed Sweeny, who used to visit the area at
the years that we used to go to 'Tin Can Beach'
1946-1956, it was not uncommon for people to go
and stay for a week or two at a time...Ou families
20-30 members would go during the summer, when
it was so hot in the inland valley, and pitch
army tents and stay for a couple of weeks at a
time...The men would go off to work every day
and come back to the beach afterwards...The adults
would sleep in the tents on cots and the kids
would sleep out under the stars...we would have
camp fires every night...It was so much fun...When
the Grunion were running we did the same thing...The
kids would end up with cuts all over their feet
from all the tin can lids buried in the sand...and
of course it was free back then..."
In 1961, the state cleaned up the tin cans and
created Bolsa Chica State Beach.
drilling and farming were the major sources of
employment in the Huntington Beach area until
the 1960s. The
economy since has diversified greatly, with some
900 companies employing more than 40,000 people.
Beach's famous pier, built in 1914, was shut down
in July 1988 after officials found it to be structurally
unsafe. Reconstruction started in 1990, taking
almost 4 years to complete. Today, it is a blend
of old and new in design. It resembles the 1914
pier in architectural style, but its new construction
of reinforced steel is expected to make it last
through the next millennium.
Newland House Museum - 19820 Beach Blvd
white, Queen Anne-style farmhouse was built in
1898 by William Newland when Huntington Beach
was known as Pacific City. It has two stories
and 13 rooms. Newland was a pioneer in clearing
the Santa Ana River lowlands for productive farming.
Phone: (714) 962-5777
Beach High School - 1905 Main Street
The school was built in 1926 for $500,000.
The auditorium and tower are the only original
structures left on the campus.