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Walnut Creek Guide History of Walnut Creek

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History of Walnut Creek
History of Walnut Creek

While there were surely inhabitants in Walnut Creek before the first Spanish explorers arrived in the region, the first occupants historians know about are the Bolbones Indians, who were a part of the greater Miwok Indians. However, with the arrival of the Spanish in 1772, the land that now makes up Walnut Creek was dominated by European missionaries. When the Mexican Revolution took place in 1821, the land then passed to the Mexican government, which granted out the lands to encourage settlement. What is now Walnut Creek was a part of four land grants, one of which was 18,000 acres in the Ygnacio Valley, owned by Dona Juana Sanchez de Pacheco and passed to grandsons Ygnacio and Ysidro, who built the first roofed residences in the valley.  After the Mexican-American War, the territory became a part of the U.S. and then part of the state of California in 1850.

Before it was known as Walnut Creek, this area was refereed to as “The Corners,” because the two roads that led from Lafayette and Pacheco met there. The area’s first settler was William Slusher, who was actually a squatter who built a roofed home on the bank of “Nuts Creek” in 1849. Then in 1855, Lafayette man Milo Hough decided to develop the Corners and built the Walnut Creek House hotel. After the hotel was built, a blacksmith shop and store followed. A year afterward, Hiram Penniman, builder of the ranch house used for the Shadelands Ranch Historical Museum, laid out the first town site. Growth continued, leading to a U.S. Post Office being established in 1862, and the city was renamed Walnut Creek.

The store built by Albert Sherburne in 1863 is the oldest commercial structure that still stands in the city. Over the years, it has served as many businesses, including Arthur’s Liquors and La Fogata Mexican restaurant. Walnut Creek’s first bank, The San Ramon Valley Bank, was established in 1910 thanks to Joseph Silveira, a local merchant. The growth of the town continued due to the arrival of the railroad in 1891. By March of 1913, regular freight and passenger service operated between Oakland and Walnut Creek.

Then in 1914, the city was incorporated on Oct. 21, as the eighth city in Contra Costa County. The incorporation included the original town and 500 acres surrounding it. This brought the city’s first fire station in 1926. However, the modern era of Walnut Creek’s growth didn’t begin until 1951, when the Broadway Shopping Center opened in the city as the county’s first major retail center. The city’s population quadrupled by 1960. The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system came to Walnut Creek in the 1973, filling a hole left by the closing of the railroad in the 1930s. By 1985, the city was developing quickly, adding one million square feet of office space, leaving leaders to deal with traffic congestion and population problems, which the Town Council spent much of the 1990s trying to rectify. Now the city is known for its open spaces, Broadway Plaza and being one of the best places to retire.