Alhambra is known as the Gateway to the San Gabriel Valley. Historians credit its beginnings to Benjamin Davis Wilson (Don Benito), who in the 1840s stopped at the San Gabriel Mission on his way to China. He was so intrigued by the region and its history that he decided to stay.

In the 1870s, he and his son-in-law, J. De Barth Shorb, subdivided a portion of the acreage that Wilson had purchased from the state into a new community.

The area was bounded on the east by what is today the boundary of the city of San Gabriel, to the west the Arroyo de San Pasqual (Story Park), Alhambra Road to the north and the Union Pacific Railroad to the south.

Shorb is credited with bringing water to the new tract by trying something unique and innovative for the time: iron pipes instead of the traditional open water ditches or wooden pipes. The water was piped from Lake Vineyard to two reservoirs, one located at Almansor Street and Alhambra Road and the other at Granada Avenue and Alhambra Road.

As the result of their efforts, Wilson and Shorb made history by creating the first subdivision in California, and perhaps the world, to have water piped onto the property.

Also, Wilson’s daughters, who at the time were reading Washington Irving’s The Alhambra, suggested the book’s romantic title for the name of the new tract. Alhambra was incorporated on

July 13, 1903.

The population reached 5,000 by 1910 and as many as 40,000 by 1930. Today, the population of Alhambra is estimated at 84,000.

More Alhambra facts
  • Alhambra High School was established in 1898.
  • The city’s first mayor, following incorporation, was Newton Thompson.
  • The Alhambra Police Department was established in 1903.
  • The Alhambra Fire Department was established in 1906.
  • The Alhambra Airport, built in 1929, cost $1 million and had the largest airplane hangar in the world at that time.