Ventura is Rich with History

History of Ventura California

Celebrating 150 years of rich culture, the City of Ventura reveals humble beginnings and continual evolution to come. How did this exciting town of uncrowded beaches and parks come to life? It all started with a mission.

City of San Buenaventura

Adventuring along the Pacific coast, European explorers encountered a Chumash Naive American village called Shisholop, meaning “port on the coast.” Finding the natives friendly and excellent traders, the settlers colonized the area in 1782. Saint Serra, originally Friar Junipero, who was a philosophy professor grasped this great opportunity to spread his ninth mission before his death in 1784. Missions are known for being named after Roman Catholic Church saints, so Saint Serra chose to name his new mission after the Italian saint, San Buenaventura or Saint Bonaventure. The name, however, was too long to write, and therefore shortened to the modern-day, Ventura, meaning “city of good fortune.”

Bilingual Roots

The town matured quietly around the mission and was incorporated in 1866. Years later, in 1873, it developed its first Ventura County Courthouse. While still early in development, the first mayor, Walter Chaffee, held council meetings above a liquor store called Spears Saloon modern day, Capriccio’s Restaurant. Interestingly, the first minutes of the city council meeting were written in Spanish. This is because half of the members spoke Spanish as their first language while the other half spoke English.

The Great Boom

Regarded as the Father of Ventura, Thomas R. Bard, traveled to the area after his employer, Thomas S. Scott, acquired some of the land after the Civil War. Bard took advantage and became the Union Oil Company president in 1890. This led to a trifecta of events coming together. Opening oil fields, better roads to Los Angeles, and affordable automobiles brought with it a tremendous boom in real estate, making this quiet, rural town into the thriving Southern California Beach town it is today.

Developing through 150 years isn’t easy. But the City of Ventura makes it appear simple. By starting off as a mission and expanding around that foundation, the town increased organically. Culture guided the way and an oil boom exploded the once rural town. Visiting the past is an enlightening tale that forecasts its bright future.