First Formed to Farm: Lakewood Village (June 11, 2003)

Posted: September 13, 2010 in Lakewood Village

In 1897, the Bixby Family sold about 7,000 acres of farmland to William Clark of Montana for $350,000, and in 1904, the Clark family formed the Montana Land Company to manage the land.  Clark Bonner, Montana Land manager, witnessed the growth of both Long Beach and Signal Hill in the 1920s and he encouraged the company to develop a community on their land.

In 1928, just prior to the Great Depression of 1929, the company began planning for housing on Lakewood Village’s 2,000-acre site and Bonner commenced construction of the Lakewood Golf Course as a sales tool.  In 1933, the course was completed, as well as Lakewood’s oldest public building, the course’s clubhouse, was part of the development.  The name Lakewood was chosen either from Bouton Lake (Edwin Bouton was a developer in Long Beach), which was drilled on the golf course site in search of water in the late 1890s, or from the resort city, Lakewood, New Jersey.

Long Beach City College, founded in 1927, was first located at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach.  After the earthquake of 1933 destroyed much of Wilson High, the college moved to its present Liberal Arts Campus at Clark St. and Carson St. in 1935.

Potential homebuyers were invited to the original sales site of Lakewood Village at Carson St. and Cerritos Ave., most likely, the current Norse Way (a 1934 map shows that this was projected as the originating point for the El Cerritos Diagonal that was designed to mirror and intersect the Los Coyotes Diagonal at Spring St. – a design that was never implemented), in September 1934 with lots being marketed as “semi-sustaining,” that the continuation of these lots as small farms would be encouraged.

The promise of self-sufficiency was promoted heavily during these early years of the Great Depression.  “Under this new deal in city development, it would be possible for a Lakewood Village resident…to produce on his land enough fruits, vegetables, poultry and rabbits to care for his family almost exclusively on a year-round basis.  With the city convenience of Long Beach just a few minutes away and industrial centers in close range, a family man can work part-time for cash income and devote part-time to food cultivation,” said promoters of the new development.

Lots on half-acre sites and a two bedroom home sold for payments of about $20 to $30 a month, or less “than rent for a small city home,” according to the developer.  These early marketing efforts were not particularly successful, and in the mid-1930s, the area boasted around 100 residents.  Douglas Aircraft and World War II changed all of that.  The Douglas plant was erected just north of the Long Beach Airport in 1940 and the Great Depression ended with the war effort in the early 1940s.

In 1949, Montana Land sold about 3,500 of its acres to Lakewood Park Corporation for nine million dollars and the construction of about 17,000 homes in 33 months commenced.  In 1951, Time magazine reported that about 30,000 people “stampeded one day last week to purchase homes in Lakewood Park.”  With a sales price of between $7,500 and $9,500 and mortgage payments of under $50 a month, returning GI’s and blue collar workers in the nearby Douglas and other defense and industrial plants took advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own their own home.

Lakewood Village was annexed by Long Beach in late August 1953, which forced the formation of the City Of Lakewood in 1954 to avoid having the whole area gobbled up by the bigger city to the south.  Instead of allowing neighborhood-by-neighborhood annexation, the strategy of opposing annexation by petition even before the annexation election was announced, and Lakewood Village became Long Beach’s last stand in their planned annexation of the entire area.

In March 1954, Lakewood, with 71,000 residents, voted to incorporate, making it the 16th largest city in California and the state’s first “contract city,” meaning that services such as police, fire and animal control were provided by Los Angeles County, a model for many other California cities during the intervening 50 years.

  1. Tom Sponheim says:

    Thanks for your great blog. Would you be able to find out information about the Stratford Square housing development near Bellflower and Spring? I have always wanted to see what the land I grew up on looked like before the houses were built. Do you know of any old photos taken from where Community Hospital is now looking East?

  2. Bob King says:

    Did DeWitt Lee and George Walker (Walker & Lee) have anything to do with the development of Lakewood? I seem to recall DeWitt Lee dropping into my dad’s bakery in Seal Beach in 1947 or so and urging my dad to buy a lot in “Lakewood”.

    While I was “working” (not a real “job”, mind you) as Membership Director at the Pacific Coast Club (why that building was demolished, I’ll never know), DeWitt Lee was a resident there. Nice guy…..we had a number of “medicinal” elixirs at the bar.

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