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Torrance History


The earliest residents of the area were members of the Chumash Indian tribe, also called Chowigna or Gabielenos, who took up residence here at least 500 years before white men appeared.

Torrance was part of Rancho San Pedro, a Spanish land grant running from Long Beach to Redondo Beach, originally given to soldier Juan Jose Dominguez in 1784. This land was eventually passed to his nephew, Juan Jose, his son Manuel, and Manuel’s six daughters. Many downtown Torrance street names memorialize the Dominguez family and its descendants. There were many ranches in south Torrance including the Weston Ranch that was the site of the first school in 1890.

In 1910, partly due to labor troubles in Los Angeles, South Pasadena industrialist, Jared Sidney Torrance, developed a plan for Torrance as a model industrial and workingman’s city, halfway between Los Angeles and San Pedro Harbor. He and his associates bought several thousand acres of Rancho Dominguez and introduced the Union Tool Company, Llewellyn Iron Works, Pacific Electric Railway, and other industrial firms to the area. Torrance formally became a city in 1912.

The old downtown was laid out by the sons of the famed architect Frederic Law Olmstead of Boston with shops and residences to the west and factories in the east so that prevailing winds would blow smoke inland. San Diego architect Irving Gill was hired by the developer, the Dominguez Land Company, to design buildings, the depot, and the railroad bridge used to symbolize the City.

To avoid an annexation threat from Los Angeles, Torrance incorporated in 1921, gradually annexed more territory, and today is 21 square miles including a 1.5 mile beachfront. There have been many economic ups and downs, beginning with a large oil boom in the 20's. Flower, vegetable, and dairy farming was widespread until the 1950's, but a post-war housing boom used virtually all vacant land, squeezing out those uses as the population grew from 10,000 to more than 141,000 today. The National League of Cities honored Torrance with the All-America City Award in 1956 for “growth without strain."

As the smokestack industries of its early years have changed, so too has Torrance and its businesses. A modernized Mobil Oil Refinery remains an integral part of the Torrance economy and has been joined by U.S. headquarters of Toyota, Honda, and Epson with other names of note including Allied Signal (Honeywell), Dow Chemical, Panasonic, Moog, and Hughes Electronics. Retail businesses include the world’s second largest covered shopping mall, the Del Amo Fashion Center, the Promenade, Rolling Hills Plaza, and Torrance Crossroads. Finance, automobile dealerships, and real estate also play important roles.

The Civic Center complex moved from downtown to Maple and Torrance Boulevard and has grown to include a library and a first class Cultural Arts Center serving the needs of the community with a theater, meeting rooms, and classrooms. An urban wetland has been preserved at the Madrona Marsh, and Torrance provides over 320 acres of parks and open space. Torrance also has its own municipal bus line and municipal airport.

Torrance retains its sense of community and is a thriving “location of choice” for residents and businesses looking forward to the challenges of the 21st century.