Farm land that was to become a fashionable health spa and later became one of the largest oil producing fields in the world -- that's the rather amazing and colorful heritage of what is today the industrial city of Santa Fe Springs.
Late in the nineteenth century, stage coach passengers en route from Los Angeles to San Diego often stopped here for a few refreshments. In the mid 1870's, Dr. J. W. Fulton had built his resort hotel, attractively landscaped, on the north side of Telegraph Road, two blocks east of the intersection of Telegraph Road and
Then in the early part of the twentieth century, oil was discovered: first on the Marius Meyer property, where mechanical difficulties caused abandonment of the well, then late in gusher quantities on the Alphonzo Bell property. The center of this prolific field was in the vicinity of Telegraph Road and Bloomfield Avenue.
Prior to the discovery of oil, the land was farmed. The area had once been part of the Santa Gertrudes Rancho, an original Spanish land grant. Cattle and sheep had grazed on brushland where once Indians had hunted with bows and arrows. The foundation of a fort, built when California belonged to Mexico, is still imbedded in property south of Telegraph Road, between Pioneer Boulevard and Norwalk Boulevard. After California became a state in 1850, high taxes caused the rancho to be broken up. Cattle grazing gave way to farming: grapes, corn, wheat, barley, beans, cabbage, onions, tomatoes, alfalfa, and sugar beets. Oranges, walnuts, apples, peaches, and plums were the tree crops. There were a number of dairies in the area. A landmark was the winery owned by John Baker, who built it from adobe bricks made on his own property.
The Los Angeles and Anaheim Railroad, now the Southern Pacific Railroad, was the first line completed through Santa Fe Springs in 1888. The railroad established its depot in the area under the name of Fulton Wells. The California Southern Railroad, now the Santa Fe Railroad, completed its tracks through Santa Fe Springs in 1889.
After World War II, when the population growth in California became greatly accelerated, land value rose sharply as developers looked for acreage on which to build tracts of houses. The one elementary school, Little Lake School on Florence Avenue, was forced to double sessions before enough schools could be built to accommodate the children of school age.
The new residents faced a question of identity. Some identified with Norwalk, some with Whittier, some with Downey. "Santa Fe Springs" was the name on the freight station depot beside the Santa Fe Railroad tracks on the tiny post office at the Four Corners, Norwalk Boulevard and Telegraph Road. It was a name residents could identify with and it became the permanent city name.
Various committees were formed to discuss the possibility of incorporation. A report made to the Greater Santa Fe Springs Industrial League pointed to the alternatives...1. Incorporate 2. Annex to an adjoining city 3. Remain unincorporated.
Remaining unincorporated would have been a difficult position to maintain. Other areas, incorporated or considering incorporation, were attracted to this high value area. Annexation would have been more expensive than incorporation. Per capita assessed valuation was three to five times greater than in adjacent areas. Tax money collected in Santa Fe Springs would have exceeded the expenditures made in this area.
Finally, in May 1957, the question was put to the voters, who voted for incorporation and elected five councilmen, each representing a separate district.
Santa Fe Springs incorporated with 4.9 square miles. The city now comprises 8.67 square miles and is 87% industrial.
Oil derricks are no longer silhouetted against the skyline. As the oil production has declined, industrial plants have moved in. The high per capita assessed valuation has enabled the city to provide many services to residents as well as to industry that cities with lesser-assessed valuation could not provide.
Located at the intersection of the Santa Ana Freeway (Interstate 5) and the San Gabriel River Freeway (605), Santa Fe Springs is in a strategic position for access to major arteries of transportation connecting Los Angeles and Orange counties.