Principal Events in
The History of the Ojai Valley

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Mission and Rancho Days

1782 – Father Junipero Serra founds Mission San Buenaventura.

1812 Severe earthquakes damage California missions.

1818 The California coast is threatened by pirates.  

1830:  Lopez Adobe, at the mouth of Matilija Canyon. Originally served as a soldiers' garrison under the command of Raphael Lopez.  The Lopez family lived here for about 90 years.  The walls still stand, incorporated into a private dwelling. 


1837 Governor Juan Alvarado grants Rancho Ojai to Fernando Tico.

1837 Gov. Alvarado grants Rancho Santa Ana to Crisogono Ayala and Cosme Vanegas.

1846 – The United States takes possession of California.

1853 – Fernando Tico sells Rancho Ojai.


1854 - The earliest known image of the valley was a lithograph made by A. H. Campbell, during surveying  for a railroad route from the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean.

Oil and Tourism

1861 – George Gilbert extracts and refines oil near Rancho Arnaz.  

1867 – Thomas Bard, agent for Thomas A. Scott's California Petroleum Company, finally strikes oil in Well No. 6 in the upper Ojai. But it is too little to late. 

1868 – Thomas Bard (at right), at Scott's instruction, sells the first subdivided land within Rancho Ojai.

1872 – Charles Nordhoff’s California for Health, Pleasure and Residence is first published.

1873 – William McKee opens Oak Glen Cottages in the east valley.

1873 Sea captain Richard Robinson begins farming in the upper valley.


1874 - First jail.  Built by town constable Andy Van Curen in his back yard.  
No windows, two cells, six-inch slots for air.


The Village of Nordhoff

1874 – Royce Surdam (at right) establishes the village of Nordhoff (now the City of Ojai).

1874 – Abram Wheeler Blumberg’s hotel opens with a grand ball.

1874 Lafayette Herbert opens Nordhoff’s first general store.


1876 - The Nordhoff School officially opens.  John Montgomery donated the land for the first school in the town center to be built. After a new school was built in 1895, the little brick schoolhouse was used as a private home by several families and later served as several bed and breakfasts. The much-altered school is now the Lavender Inn (a bed & breakfast).

1875 – The first Ojai Valley Grange organizes.

1876 John Meiners gets a ranch northwest of the village of Nordhoff for an unpaid debt.

1877 – Presbyterians begin regular church services that are held in the brick schoolhouse until a church is built in 1884. (Presbyterians were the first to organize a church in the valley).

1878 The Casitas Pass stagecoach road is opened.

1881 Charles Nordhoff makes his first visit to the valley, escorted by William Hollister.

1887 – Railroad services begin between Ventura, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles.


1884 - First church in the valley. a Presbyterian Church, is built on Ojai Avenue where Fairway Lane is today. The American Colonial Revival structure still stands at the corner of Montgomery and Aliso Streets.  Photo: a new bell is hoisted to the belfry in 1889.

1889 – Sherman Thacher begins taking students for college preparation tutoring.

1891 – The Ojai newspaper is first published (now the Ojai Valley News).

1893 – The George Thacher Memorial Free Library opens on a lot east of Stewart Creek and 100 feet south of Ojai Avenue.

1893 Postmaster controversy

1893 Mary Gally takes over management of Oak Glen Cottages (Gally Cottages).

1894 – Charles Nordhoff makes his third visit to the valley with his wife and three daughters.

1895 – The Casa de Piedra Ranch School (Thacher School) is destroyed by fire.

1895 – The Nordhoff Grammar School is built on the corner of Ojai Avenue and Montgomery Street.

1895 – William Thacher organizes the Athletic Club and the Tennis Club. A local competition takes place in 1896 with the Ojai Valley Tennis Club challenging the Ventura Tennis Club.

Nordhoff Hotel built in 1874 by Abram Blumberg where Libbey Park is today.


Celebrating Ojai

1898 – The village stages a “Jubilation” to celebrate opening of its new railroad line.  

1897 - Ojai succumbs to its own gold rush

1899 – Tennis tournaments continue to expand yearly and by 1899 a single elimination format with multiple categories and interscholastic matches is held in Nordhoff with spectator attendance of over 500. Some consider this the first "Ojai".

1899 – Golf is first played in the valley, sponsored by Mary Gally at her cottages.

1899 – The King’s Daughters is organized (a women's service auxiliary of the Presbyterian Church).

1900 – The Ojai Improvement Company is formed to construct a luxury hotel.  

1900 –  Dr. Saeger is a faithful family physician.


1900 - Ojai Avenue.  These building fronts were covered by the Ojai Arcade, completed in 1917

1903 – The first Foothills Hotel is constructed (designed by Samuel M. Ilsley).

1904 – The Evelyn Hunter Nordhoff Memorial Fountain is constructed on Ojai Avenue.

1905 Boxing matches are staged inside and outside of Tom Clark’s livery stable.

1905 Agnes Duncan Brown is recognized for her music.

1908 – Edward Thacher is among leaders establishing the Ojai Orange Association.

1908 – The entrance towers at Foster Park are dedicated.

1909Nordhoff High School opens.

1909 – The Charles Pratt house is constructed on Foothill Road (designed by Greene & Greene).

1910 – Free-ranging chickens roost along Main Street (Ojai Avenue).

1910 – The Ojai Orange Association Packing House is constructed. 


The Great Transformation 

1911 – The Edward Libbey house is constructed on Foothill Road (designed by Myron Hunt & Elmer Grey).

1911 - Ojai Valley Woman's Club is built. Begins as a clubhouse for The King's Daughters until 1915.

1911 Nick Peirano supplies his Ventura store with fruit from his Santa Ana Valley ranch.

1912 Sales begin for Wonderland Park

1912 --Mary Day French casts her first vote in a presidential election at age 84.

1914 Candelaria Valenzuela tells of her Chumash people and culture.

1915 – Donald Crisp directs filming of Ramona at Casitas Springs.  

Edward Libbey

1915 Earl Stanley Gardner defends a “confirmed outlaw.”

1916 – Construction begins for the arcade, post office tower and pergola designed by San Diego architects Frank Mead and Richard Requa and financed by Mr. Libbey.

1917 –  The arcade, post office tower and pergola are complete. The occasion is celebrated at the first Ojai Day on April 7, 1917 (a day after the United States enters WWI).

1917 – The village name is changed from Nordhoff to Ojai.

1917 – Fire rages out of Matilija Canyon in June and devastates much of the residential portion of town. Does not damage the new arcade, post office, or pergola.


1917 – A second fire in November burns out the businesses at the west end of the arcade.


1918 The second Foothills Hotel is constructed (designed by Mead & Requa).

1920 – Hotel El Roblar is constructed. Designed by Mead & Requa (now the Oaks at Ojai).

1922 – Jiddu Krishnamurti first visits the valley.

1923 The 1st building of the Ojai Valley School is constructed (designed by Wallace Neff).

1923 – The clubhouse at the Ojai Valley Country Club is built from a design by Pasadena architect Wallace Neff (now the Ojai Valley Inn).


Arts and Spirituality

1924 – The library and music room at the Krotona Institute of Theosophy are constructed.

1924 – The Villanova Preparatory School for Boys opens.

1926 – Annie Besant, International President of the Theosophical Society, visits.

1926 - Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge and Frank Frost sponsor a music festival.

1926 – The Ojai Valley Garden Club is founded.  

1928 - Crystal Pennant wins the richest race in the world.

1928 Ojai responds to the St. Francis Dam disaster.

1928 – The Foster Bowl at Foster Park is constructed (designed by Roy Wilson).

1929 – The William Ford house is constructed (designed by Paul Williams).

1929Nordhoff Union High School moves into its new buildings.

1932 Adolfo Camarillo hosts a barbecue at the Wren’s Nest.

1933 Construction of the Maricopa Highway is completed.

1933 – Civil Conservation Corps workers first arrive in the valley.


Snowy Topa Topa, circa 1935

1939 – Dr. Charles Butler leads in founding the Ojai Community Art Center and raising the building funds.


The Second World War

1942 – The 134th Infantry takes over the country club as a combat training camp.

1942 – The Monica Ros School and California Preparatory School open.

1943 – The 17th Infantry from New Jersey replaces the 134th Infantry (from Nebraska).

1944 – The Seabees Acorn Assembly & Training Detachment replaces the 17th Infantry.

1945 - Bob Hope and Bing Crosby are here to raise funds for the Navy Relief Welfare Fund. 


A Reach for World Renown

1946 - Aldous Huxley is among the directors of the new Happy Valley School.

1946 – The Chekhov Players open the High Valley Theater.

1946 – The Clarence Wylie house is constructed (designed by Harwell Hamilton Harris).

1947 – The country club reopens after the war with a new name: Ojai Valley Inn.

1947 – The first concerts of the Ojai Music Festival are performed.

1948 Beatrice Wood establishes her pottery studio in the east valley.

1951 – The first “spill over” occurs at the Matilija Dam. 

The Spirit of the Valley Continues 

1952 The James Moore house is constructed designed by Richard Neutra.

1952 - Pat and Mike is filmed at the Inn with Katharine Hepburn & Spencer Tracey.

1955 – Igor Stravinsky conducts at the Ojai Music Festival.  

Igor Stravinsky  Aaron Copeland

1955 – Camp Ramah opens at the site of the former California Preparatory School (formerly the Foothills Hotel).

1955 – The last train runs on the Ventura-Ojai rail line.

1956 – Avatar Meher Baba visits Meher Mount atop Sulphur Mountain.

1957 – Aaron Copeland conducts at the Ojai Music Festival.

1958 – The Casitas Dam and reservoir are constructed (Lake Casitas). 


Getting through the Sixties   

Pierre Boulez and Michael Tilson Thomas



Right:  Pierre Boulez, 2003    Daly Road Graphics

1968 – Florence Garrigue leads in establishing Meditation Mount.

1969 – The Krishnamurti Foundation opens the Oak Grove School.

1971 – The pergola and memorial fountain are removed by the City of Ojai.

1978 – The first “spill over” occurs at the Casitas Dam (Lake Casitas).

1979 – Ravi Shankar first performs at the Ojai Music Festival.

1979 – The Ojai Foundation is established in the upper valley.

1983 – An International Regatta is staged at Lake Casitas.

1984 Olympic canoe, kayak and scull races are conducted at Lake Casitas.


The Century’s End 

1993 – The Ojai Institute opens (now the Ojai Retreat.)

1998 – Beatrice Wood dies a week after celebrating her 105th birthday.

1999 – The pergola and memorial fountain are reconstructed.

2000 – The 100th anniversary of the Ojai Tennis Tournament is celebrated.

Ojai Tennis Tourney    Photo: Daly Road Graphics

Time Marches On

2001 - Ojai holds a memorial at Libbey Park for victims of the “9/11” disaster in New York City.

2002 - The new Cluff Vista Park is dedicated.

2003 - The City of Ojai passes Ordinance #765 creating the Public Art Program.

2004 - The first Lemire Grand Prix introduces professional bicycling races to Ojai.

2005 - The new Rotary Community Park is dedicated.

2006 - The Oaks at Ojai (originally El Roblar Hotel) undergoes major renovation.

2009 - Nordhoff High School celebrates its 100th year.