Exploring Our Roots

Anaheim, now the tenth most populous city in California, began in 1857 as a colony of German farmers and vintners. Founding member George Hansen surveyed Anaheim’s original 200 acres that now comprises the City’s downtown area (bounded by North, South, East and West streets). The City’s name is a composition of “Ana” from the nearby Santa Ana River and “heim,” German for home. Those early pioneers considered Anaheim their “home by the river.”

Wine grapes were among the crops grown for the first few decades of settlement, but a plague in the 1870s wiped out the vineyards, and groves of citrus trees were planted in place of the destroyed grapes. The first commercially grown oranges in Orange County were grown in Anaheim, where the growers attributed their success to the local hills that protected the fruit against the cold winds coming down from the mountains. Other crops included walnuts and chili peppers.

Writers, artists and musicians also represented the early settlers, and the first public buildings were not administrative facilities but a school and an opera house.

Anaheim was incorporated in 1876 with a population of 881. The little rural community grew slowly but steadily for the next several decades. In 1887, the construction of the Santa Fe depot linked Anaheim’s citrus growers with the East, providing vital markets for their golden crops. By 1920, the population had risen to 5,526, and Anaheim was an agricultural community that was as tightly knit as a small town can be.

In 1955, Walt Disney opened the doors to Disneyland and the landscape of Anaheim was changed from a modest farming community into a growing metropolis. Today, Anaheim boasts a successful economy rich in tourism, manufacturing and construction, among other industries. Anaheim is home to the largest convention center on the West Coast and a new Disney theme park called Disney’s California Adventure. Anaheim also continues to change in other ways, luring high-tech companies to Anaheim’s Canyon Technology Corridor, one of the largest industrial centers in Orange County.