The history of Imperial Beach, a “funky” beach town in San Diego County, California, known for its surfing and giant pier.
Early History of Imperial Beach
The land has an exciting past before becoming a part of America. From 1300-1769, the land was claimed by the Kumeyaay Indians. In 1769, the Riveria/Crespi expedition brought the first Europeans to Imperial Beach. It wasn’t until the 1848 Mexican and U.S. war that Imperial Beach officially became part of U.S. territory.
Several decades later, in 1887, the area started to shape into what it is today. At first, Imperial Beach was simply a coastal retreat for the farmers and landowners that lived some 90 miles inland from the area. These farmers would come to Imperial Beach looking for cooler weather during the hot summer months.
In March 1887, approximately 2,000 laborers quickly settled into the area to build the Hotel Del Coronado. The hotel was commissioned by E.S. Babcock and became the largest resort in the world at that time. After construction of the hotel, many of the workers chose to stay and make the area their permanent home.
The area began to take more formation in 1909 when a pier was built, along with the first sidewalks in the town, a public library, a general store, and a cafe. The South San Diego Investment Company built the fishing pier in the hopes of luring investors to the area and continue expansion for Imperial Beach. The pier would go through two-rounds of construction and rebuilding in 1960 and 1988.
From early on, an army presence also settled into the area, due to Imperial Beach’s proximity to the Mexican border and Tijuana. Throughout the years, the military presence stayed in the town as the small area grew in population density. At the start of World War II, the defense industry in the area was booming with both the army and the navy’s presence concentrated around the San Diego Bay areas. This caused house prices to surge in Imperial Beach at the time, and newcomers often lived in shacks or tents.
Imperial Beach was officially incorporated as a city in 1956, becoming the tenth city in San Diego County and the 327th city in the state of California.
A few more notable dates for this city include:
- 1917: Aviation Field is established.
1982: Tijuana Estuary Preserve is established.
1999: Mel Portwood Pier Plaza opens.
Today, Imperial Beach has a population of over 27,000 residents. Click here for Things to do in Imperial Beach article.