• About Santa Maria Valley

  • Located along the Pacific Ocean halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Central Coast region offers long sandy beaches and rocky coastline vistas, wine country tours, and world famous barbecue. Agriculture, personal services, and government dominate the economic base of the Santa Maria Valley, a growing region of about 137,000 people. The beaches and mountains of California’s Central Coast are the backdrop for an economy expanding far beyond its agricultural and tourism base that includes regional trading, manufacturing and service industries, transportation, oil, electronic manufacturing, and government installation at nearby Vandenberg Air Force Base.

    The Santa Maria Valley is a pro-business community that promotes responsive and properly planned growth. It is a safe, family oriented community where residents enjoy working and living. Over the years the Santa Maria Valley has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the 1998 All-America City Award and the California Parks & Recreation Society Award.

    Besides the Valley’s business friendly reputation, the city offers a wide range of choices for recreational, cultural and social pursuits. There are two public libraries, one of which is currently expanding to be the most state-of-the-art learning center in the Valley. The Abel Maldonado Community Youth Center, Paul Nelson Aquatic Center, YMCA, Natural History Museum, Santa Maria Civic Theater, Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts and the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum all offer recreational activities and programs for youth and adults.

    Other recreational facilities include one drive-in and one walk-in movie theater, twenty-two parks including playgrounds, a municipal swimming pool, a nine-hole golf course, a modern 18-hole golf course, one softball complex, a 32-lane bowling alley and a miniature golf park.

    A forty-acre fairground facility accommodates the Santa Barbara County Fair and Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival each year. It also serves as host to many conventions and community events. The Elks Unocal Event Center is also available as a facility that hosts local fairs and events, including the annual Elks Rodeo.

  • History

  • The beginnings of Santa Maria Valley’s development date back to the adventurous era of Spanish land grants and ranchos. After Spanish explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo arrived in the Valley in 1542, and the Portola exploration party passed through in 1769 during its search for the Monterey Bay, two sites were eventually chosen to the north and southwest for missions built by the Spanish church. Mission San Luis Obispo (1772) and La Purisima Concepcion (1787) were catalysts for early settlement, and flourished until 1821 when Spain granted Mexico independence and the missions were secularized. Lands were broken up and for the first time individuals were granted land ownership.

    When Benjamin Foxen purchased Rancho Tinaquaic in 1837, he and his Spanish Bride, the former Eduarda Osuna, built a small adobe on the property. The Foxen family lived for many generations on the rancho where Benjamin was called “Don Julian” by Eduarda’s people. One of Foxen’s daughters, Ramona, married Englishman Frederick Wickenden. Their early adobe still stands. Ramona longed for a nearby church as the drive to the Santa Inez Mission proved to be quite a task with their many small children. Ultimately, the death of Benjamin Foxen inspired the construction of the San Ramon Chapel in 1875. Today, the chapel, which may still be seen along Foxen Canyon Road, has been dedicated as County Landmark No. 1 and as State Landmark No. 877.

    Santa Maria Valley’s first town was La Graciosa, which included a store, post office and school located near present-day Orcutt. However, in 1877, H.M. Newhall was granted the land on which the town was built, and summarily ejected one and all.

    While the nineteenth century saw California gain statehood, the Santa Maria Valley blossomed as one of the most productive agricultural regions in the state. The area’s multi-ethnic population also grew as Swiss-Italian dairymen, and Filipino, Portuguese and Japanese farmers joined the already established English, Irish, Scottish and Mexican settlers. Between 1869 and 1874, four of the Valley’s prominent settlers, Rudolph Cook, John Thornburg, Isaac Fesler and Isaac Miller, farmed the land at the corners of Broadway and Main Streets. In 1874, these individuals each donated a square-mile of land where their properties met to form a four-mile city center. The township was surveyed in the fall of 1874, and the surveyor’s maps were accepted and recorded at the county seat on April 12, 1875. First christened Grangerville, and later Central City, the name was ultimately changed to “Santa Maria” on February 18, 1885 because mail was often mistakenly sent to Central City, Colorado. The city remained limited to four square miles until 1954. Since then, annexations have increased its size to roughly 21 square miles.

    Rich, gushing oil was discovered in the Santa Maria Valley in 1904 near what is now Orcutt. When exploratory crews struck a huge gusher, they lovingly nicknamed it “Old Maud,” and for the next 80 years, the oil industry flourished. Development intensified in the 1930s, and, by 1957, as many as 1,775 oil wells were producing $64 million worth of oil annually.