El Monte’s first permanent residents arrived in 1849-50, a time when thousands of prospectors and immigrant pioneers came to California seeking gold. Few found wealth in the gold, but some found the riches of a fertile land and built homes.
Agriculture remained at the core of El Monte’s economy in the early 20th century, though fruit orchards, walnut groves, truck farms, hay and vegetable fields and a growing dairy industry replaced most of the earlier field crops. Arden Farms was one of the largest dairies in the area. Bodger Seed, Ltd. leased large tracts of land on the southern part of the “island” to grow plots of flowering plants for seed production. Laid out in precise geometric patterns, these fields brought visitors from throughout San Gabriel Valley during the blooming season and led to the area being called Las Flores.
In the 1930s, EI Monte was a small community with a Mexican population of about 20 percent, a Japanese population of five percent and an Anglo population of 75 percent. However, the Depression of the 1930s brought drastic changes to EI Monte, as it did to many other communities. Farm profits plummeted, leading some landowners to sublet small farm tracts to Japanese tenants, who raised such cash crops as berries, melons and vegetables. Other areas of El Monte, particularly large groves and orchards, were subdivided into home sites of one acre or less, transforming El Monte to a bedroom community from which residents commuted elsewhere.
From a population of about 10,000 in 1940, the population now numbers approximately 116,000.
In place of the sleepy little town of orchards, flower fields and farms and dairies, is an urban community of homes, schools and parks supported by an expanding industrial and commercial base.
Located approximately 12 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, El Monte is the hub of the San Gabriel Valley, where two major freeways – Interstates 605 and 10 – intersect. Other transportation alternatives are offered by a MetroLink train station, MTA bus terminal and El Monte Airport, a county-operated general aviation facility. The 10th largest city (out of 88) in Los Angeles County, the land use within its 10-square-mile area is 58 percent residential, 11 percent retail, 10 percent industrial, seven percent office/commercial and 14 percent other. El Monte is a very ethnically diverse community, with the year 2000 demographics reflecting an increase in the Asian population up to an all-time high of 18 percent, the Hispanic population remaining steady at 75 percent and Caucasians decreasing to seven percent.
Historically, El Monte is known as “The End of the Santa Fe Trail,” and today the city’s rich transportation history is reflected in a bustling transit center; the state-of-the-art El Monte Bus Station is the largest west of Chicago, connecting the San Gabriel Valley to Downtown L.A. and serving 22,000 passengers daily.
Today, El Monte’s economic development extends well beyond the transportation and auto sectors, and in recent years the city has attracted over $1 billion dollars in new investment. Since 2014, completed, under construction and/or in the pipeline projects include 2,038 residential units, seven hotels, 2.88 million square feet of commercial property and 520,000 square feet of industrial property