While Pacifica remains one of the youngest communities in San Mateo County, our Spanish origins make us one of the oldest. Our history is enriched by Spanish explorers, Mexican ranchers, Irish and Italian farmers and a surfing community who made us one of the first surfing destinations in the 1930’s. The current population of nature and culture-loving Pacificans has worked together to preserve our heritage, while creating new amenities to enrich this beautiful destination. Today, Pacifica offers an abundance of natural beauty, activities, lodging, dining and shopping that draws visitors worldwide.
Pacifica was discovered during the same 1769 expedition that founded the entire San Francisco Bay. Led by Gaspar de Portola of Os de Balaguer, Spain, the expedition came across the same Mediterranean climate and fertile farmland that later beckoned immigrants from Ireland and Italy. A thriving vegetable farming area soon produced the largest artichoke crop in the country in the 1890s. Today, Catalonia remains Pacifica’s Sister City.
While the name Pacifica means “peace” in Spanish, the City of Pacifica was named not by its Spanish immigrants, but through a contest in 1957 that was held to find a name for the newly incorporated coastal city. The winning name, Pacifica was based on the 80-foot statue by sculptor Ralph Stackpole, which was created as the theme lady for the Golden Gate International Exposition. Two of the sculptor’s working models have been saved. One is over the front stairs at City Hall and the other sits in the City Council Chambers.
Between 1905 and 1920, the Ocean Shore Railway attracted small settlements around each station. Ray Higgins brought development to the area, building many homes and the San Pedro School. When the student population outgrew the school, Mr. Higgins donated the building to the City of Pacifica and it became City Hall. The coast north of Devil’s Slide remained sparsely populated until the post-World War II building boom. Developers Andy Oddstad and Henry Doelger later influenced the area with residential planning, and thousands of small houses covered the valleys and crept up the hillsides, each its own distinct community.
In 1957, Pacifica was incorporated, consolidating nine small communities of Fairmont, Westview, Pacific Manor, Sharp Park, Fairway Park, Vallemar, Rockaway Beach, Linda Mar and Pedro Point. Park Pacifica was later added to the community. Although early plans seeked to expand Pacifica to about 100,000 inhabitants, preservationists in the early 1970’s saved much of its hillside open space as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and an effective limit of about 40,000 inhabitants was put into place.
Our Historical Sites
|Sam's Castle The LIttle Brown Church Gaspar De Portola statue|
We are proud to showcase a wide range of well-preserved historical sites in Pacifica as part of our rich history. Here are some of our favorites:
Constructed in the 1840’s from timbers salvaged from a wrecked Spanish ship, found on Point San Pedro, Sanchez Adobe’s authentic Monterey architecture is heavily influenced by Spanish design, coupled with relics of the Ohlone Indians and Spanish artifacts. During its first century of its origin, the Adobe served as a bordello, hunting lodge, artichoke packing shed, farm laborers’ quarters and a speakeasy during the prohibition era. It is the second oldest structure still standing in San Mateo County.
The Adobe is open to the public Tuesday through Thursday from 10am to 4pm and Saturday and Sunday from 1pm to 5pm Admission is free except during Rancho Day Fiesta where admission is $1.
School programs feature hands-on activities. Non-school groups can call to schedule a tour. A $2 donation, per person, is suggested for general tours. Sanchez Adobe is located at 1000 Linda Mar Blvd., Pacifica, CA. For information call 650.359.1462 or visit the website at, http://www.historysmc.org/
Little Brown Church
Beginning life in 1910, the Little Brown Church was Pacifica’s first church. It was built of rough sawn fir and redwood and stood just 100 feet from the Ocean Shore Railroad. Known as the Salada Beach Presbyterian Church, it served as a church, community social center, meeting room, public school, well baby clinic and neighborhood movie house. The City of Pacifica bought the church for temporary use of the Pacifica Police Department and now leases it to the Pacifica Historical Society. Currently, the society is focusing on a $500,000 restoration fundraising in recognition of its significant contribution to the Pacifica community. 650.359.5462 Pacifica Historical Society, P.O. Box 752, Pacifica, CA 94044
In 1908, San Francisco rail magnate, Henry Harrison McCloskey, grandfather of Congressman Pete McCloskey, modeled and built Sam’s Castle after his wife Emily’s childhood home in Scotland. McCloskey erected the castle by the sea as a safe haven after his San Francisco home was severely damaged in the 1906 earthquake. With its century-long reputation as a speakeasy, an illegal abortion clinic, a brothel and Coast Guard barracks during World War II, the castle was purchased and restored in 1959 by the late Sam Mazza. Mazza filled it with wondrous works of arts and antiques collected during his career as theater painter/decorator for 20th Century Fox. Sam’s Castle, as it has been known for 50 years, is now in trust and is being renovated. The Castle is occasionally open to the public for tours by the Pacifica Historical Society courtesy of the Sam Mazza Foundation. 650.355.0272 Sam Mazza Foundation, 900 Mirador Terrace, Pacifica, CA 94044
Ocean Shore Railroad
Established in 1905, the Ocean Shore Railroad Company’s tracks started in San Francisco ran along a coastal route through the small villages that later became Pacifica. It hugged the mountain at Devil’s Slide and traveled south through Montara, Moss Beach, El Granada and Half Moon Bay. The route ended at Tunitas Creek, south of Half Moon Bay. Most of the Ocean Shore right of way was paved over and turned into Highway 1, reputed to be the most spectacular road on the West Coast. Signs of Pacifica’s early railroad days can be seen along the Rockaway headlands and along the railway berm in Pedro Point. The huge cut between Fairway Park and Vallemar was created by railroad engineers and three railroad stations still stand.
This L-shaped 1,140 feet long pier is offi cially named the Rev. Herschell Harkins Memorial Pacifica Pier, after the much-admired Reverend from the Little Brown Church. Located at Sharp Park Beach, Pacifica Municipal Pier was opened in November 1973. It was built as a cooperative development of the City of Pacifica, the Wildlife Conservation Board and the California Dept. of Fish & Game. Famous for its salmon runs and winter Dungeness crabbing, the pier attracts anglers from around the globe. Other species caught at the pier are Jack Smelt, White Croaker and Striped Bass. The pier also provides a great vista for whale viewing during their biannual migration. The Pier is open daily from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Please note that the pier closes during rough weather.) 650.738.3760, www.CityofPacifica.com