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Rancho Los Cerritos Historic Site
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Rancho Los Cerritos Historic Site

All photographs taken by Kenneth A. Larson. All rights reserved. © 2008 - 2017.

Modern day Long Beach sits on remnants of two Spanish land grants, one of which was Rancho Los Cerritos, the other was Rancho Los Alamitos. The core of both survive today as historic sites open to the public.
The land that became Rancho Los Cerritos was probably first settled about 500 A. D. by the Tongva who established a Povuu'nga on the mesa. These people lived a hunter/fisher/gather lifestyle until the Spanish arrived and moved them to the nearby Mission San Gabriel.
In 1790, Manuel Nieto, a Spanish foot soldier, received a 300,000-acre land grant in what is now the area around Long Beach. To settle a dispute with Mission San Gabriel, the holding was reduced to 167,000 acres. Nieto built a home for his family near modern day Whittier and died in 1804. The land was operated jointly by the family until 1834 when the land was divided by Nieto's heirs into six ranchos, Los Cerritos, Los Alamitos, Santa Gertrudes, Los Coyotes, Las Bolsas, and Palo Alto (Palo Alto seems to have disappeared into history). Nieto's daughter Manuela Cota received the 27,000 acres known as Rancho Los Cerritos (Ranch of the Little Hills). Manuela and her husband built two or more adobes. Following her death, the land was sold to John Temple in 1843.
John Temple made his primary home in Los Angeles but in 1844 he built the two-story Monterey style adobe that stands today and established a formal garden. He ran a heard of 15,000 cattle and produced hides and tallow. Just as the market for cattle hides was decreasing, gold was discovered in northern California and Temple sent his cattle north to feed the miners. By the early 1860s, drought and flood had taken a toll on the heard and Temple retired selling the ranch to the firm of Flint, Bixby & Co in 1866.
The firm of Flint, Bixby & Co was founded in 1854 in northern California to raise sheep. Two brothers, Thomas and Benjamin Flint and their cousin Lewellyn Bixby were later joined by Jotham Bixby who had been running the southern ranch for three years. Jotham bought into the partnership and later formed his own company to run the Los Cerritos Ranch. Jotham and his family lived at the ranch from 1866 to 1881 and kept as many as 30,000 sheep.
In the late 1870s, sheep ranching was in decline and Jotham began to lease and sell parts of the Ranch. By 1884, Long Beach occupied the southwest corner of the ranch and was followed by Bellflower, Paramount, Signal Hill, and Lakewood. Dairy, beans, barley, and alfalfa replace sheep and the adobe fell into disrepair as a series of tenants occupied the land.
The Virginia Country Club and homes were built around the adobe by 1930 when Llewellyn, Sr. began an extensive remodel of the adobe for his family, preserving the original configuration. The grounds were redesigned as well. Upon his death, the family sold the house and remaining 4.7 acres to the City of Long Beach which opened it as a museum in 1955 and Long Beach Parks, Recreation, and Marine operates the museum today.

Wednesday - Sunday 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Tours are hourly on weekends and self guided Wednesday - Friday.

4600 Virginia Road
Long Beach, CA 90807


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This page last updated: Saturday, 06-Jul-2013 19:58:48 EDT

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