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How Torrance Got Its Name

As noted in the book, Historic Torrance (pages 56-57), according to the minutes of March 20, 1912, meeting of the board of directors of the Dominguez Land Co., the U.S. Post Office Department would not allow the new development to be called "Dominguez" because there was already a Dominguez on the map in California and another in Colorado.

Various variants of the name "Dominguez" had been suggested, principally "Dominguez City," "San Dominguez," and "El Dominguez," but the (Dominguez Land Co.) general manager (H.H. Sinclair) reported that none of these would be satisfactory to the Dominguez family and that they would prefer to retain the name "Dominguez" for the present (railroad) station of that name (near the Dominguez adobe) and requested that the Dominguez Land Co. select some other name for the industrial city.

A general discussion followed in which about 30 names were suggested, most of which had to be dropped on account of duplication in other parts of the United States . The names " Southport ," "Obrador," "Coronel," "Don Manuel" and "Industrial" received the most favorable considerations, but none of these were considered to be satisfactory.

An informal vote was then taken on the name " Torrance " it was unanimously decided that this name was the logical and most satisfactory name and should be used if (Dominguez Land Co. Board) President (Jared Sidney) Torrance would withdraw his objections. President Torrance protested against the use of the name, but Vice President Sinclair assumed the chair and a resolution proposed by Mr. (John S.) Cravens and seconded by Mr. (Maurice S. Hellman) was unanimously adopted.

A Brief History of Torrance

From Hunter-Gatherer Lands to Dense Urbanization

The earliest known residents of Torrance were hunter-gatherers called Tongva --"People of the Earth" in the Uto-Aztecan language -- who first inhabited the resource-rich Los Angeles Basin about 500 BC.

Spain began colonization of Alta (Upper) California in 1769 with the "Sacred Expedition" led by Father Junipero Serra and Captain Gaspar de Portola. They were directed to build a series of missions and forts acrss the terriroty. Subsequently the Tongva became known as Gabrielenos after the Mission San Gabriel nearby.

Expeditionary solder Juan Jose Domingquez was given a 75,000-acre land grant by the Spanish crown upon his retirement in 1785. His Rancho San Pedro comprised roughly 120 square miles, from El Segundo to Long Beach. These lands eventually passed to nephew Cristobal Dominguez, his son Manuel and then to Manuel's six daughters.

A portion of the Dominguez Rancho is supported by family control today.

Prompted by developing labor troubles in Los Angeles, industrialist Jared Sidney Torrance decided in 1910 to build a "workingman's paradise" -- a model industrial city halfway between Los Angeles and the San Pedro harbor. He formed the Dominguez Land Corporation and spent $1 million to buy 3,522 acres from the Dominguez family for the new city. He then persuaded major industrial firms and a railroad to relocate here.

The city was planned by world-famous landscape architects Olmsted and Olmsted. Modernist architect Irving J. Gill designed the original buildings, including the city's emblematic depot and railroad bridge. Frank Lloyd Wright, Jr. was hired to help with landscaping. Although the city was founded in 1912 (population 180 by year-end), the Olmsted plan was implemented over a 30-year period due to economic fluctuations.

Torrance incorporated as a city in 1921, and through gradual annexation increased to its present-day size of 21 square miles, including a 1.5-mile beachfront. A late 1940s housing boom consumed virtually all the remaining vacant land and the population rapidly expanded to 140,000+ today. Yet Torrance received an All-America City award in 1955 for "growth without strain."

Although seated in one of the most densely urbanized zones in the world, Torrance still strives to remain true to its motto as a balanced city.

History of Torrance with Michael George

Michael George, Torrance historian and former THS Board Member, presents a history of Torrance. The videos are produced by Betty and Jarel Wheaton.

Additional videos depicting "an alternative Torrance," historical sites and how they've changed in the present day, plus other historical vignettes are available for viewing.
See Michael George's Digital History page for details.