History of Walnut Creek, California


Introduction on Walnut Creek

Walnut Creek is a city in Contra Costa County, in San Francisco’s Bay Area. The city serves as a center for the neighboring cities in Contra Costa County such as the neighboring Concord.

The area during the pre-Spanish, Spanish and Mexican rule

The first known inhabitants of what is now known as Walnut Creek were either the Bay Miwok or Bolbones Indians. The Spanish conquistadores arrived in 1772, and continued to settle there until Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821.

As a result, California was subjected under the Mexican rule. Private individuals became the recipents of four Mexican land grants that included today’s Walnut Creek. One of these land grants was measured 18,000 acres which were bestowed to Juana Sanchez de Pacheco. She deeded the land to her two grandsons, Ygnacio and Ysidro Sibiran. Around 1850, Ygnacio went on to build the first roofed residence in the valley.

The name “Walnut Creek” was derived from the Spanish name of the land grant called Rancho Arroyo de las Nueces y Bolbones, which was itself named after the pricipal waterway Arroyo de las Nueces, which means walnut creek. The “Bolbones” was in honor of the American Indians (mentioned earlier) who once settled the area.

Early American settlements

Following the Mexican-American War, the United States claimed California as their territory and made it a state in 1850. The first American settlers established a community called “The Corners” because it was the location where th roads of Lafayette and Pacheco connected. Among the first American settlers was William Susher who built a hosue on the bank of Walnut Creek. Americans also used to call the area as “Nuts Creek.”

Walnut Creek in the early 20th century

Like in many inland towns in California, the circumstances around Walnut Creek dramatically changed with the arrival of the South Pacific Railroad service in 1891. By 1913, regular passenger and freight service were in active operation between Oakland and Walnut Creek. However, the demand for railroad services plummeted quickly, and as a result they closed in 1934.

In 1914, Walnut Creek and its surrounding 500 acres-area were voted to be incorporated as Contra Costa County’s eighth city. The City Council was initially named as the City’s Board of Trustees, whose first president was Harry Spencer.

The subsequent progress of the city

The fast-paced growth of the city meant street improvements. The effort brought a $2 million street improvement program that included the establishment of both Broadway and California boulevards. The opening of Contra Costa County’s Broadway Shopping Center resulted to explosion of Walnut Creek’s population. From 2,460 in 1950, it quadrupled to 9,903 in 1960.

The city council, aniticipating further commercial and residential growth, adopted its first General Plan in 1971.

The Bay Area Railroad Transit (BART) system was approved by Bay Area voters in 1962. There’s a BART station (established in 1973) situated in Walnut Creek’s Ygnacio Valley Road and I-680.

In 1974, the city’s voters ratified a $6.7 million bond measure which allowed it to buy over a thousand acres of open spaces for development. Walnut Creek, at present, has more open space per capita than any other cities and towns in California.

Commercial activity in Walnut Creek progressed further; by 1985 there were about a million square feet of new office space. They replaced the block of small, post-World War II dwellings which once occupied to the north of the BART station.

The city launched its own official website in February 1996, joining other cities and government agencies which had gone into cyberspace.

As of 2010 US Census Walnut Creek’s population stands at 64,173. The San Francisco Chronicle voted Walnut Creek as one of the best cities in the Bay Area. Check out more about Walnut Creek (including the business directory) in the links section of this hub.

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