The History of Our Bluff Heights Neighborhood
Bluff Heights is a section of the Alamitos Beach Townsite which was originally planned by John W. Bixby in 1886 and annexed to the city of Long Beach in 1905. The neighborhood has recorded tract surveys dating back to 1903. The land was then subdivided into all, or portions of, the Tichenor Tract, Cedar Rapids Tract, Graves Tract, Alamitos Tract and Ocean Villa Tract.
There was a substantial growth of building by 1914. The Ocean Villa Tract was advertised as having lots “60ft. x 150ft. and ranging in price from $150.00 up.” Financing was available with $25.00 cash and $10.00 per month. The Tichenor Tract offered “50ft. lots fronting on the electric railway” for $400.00. The Pacific Electric Railway was originally located where Broadway now is, along the neighborhood’s southern boundary.The Horace Mann Elementary School was built in 1914 to provide education for the children in the growing neighborhood.
Charles S. McNary was a pioneer resident of the Coronado Avenue district and one of the very first to build a home there in 1913. In fact he built three right next to each other. They are still standing and the home he and his family occupied is at 3318 Vista.
During this time of early 20th Century boosterism in Southern California, bold marketing tactics were utilized by real estate brokers and entrepreneurs to promote the sale of these sunny California lots to Mid-westerners seeking a warmer climate. Long Beach experienced an inordinate amount of new residents from the state of Iowa, resulting in the city’s oft heard moniker of “Iowa by the Sea.”
One advertising campaign employed by J. H. Munholland for the Cedar Rapids Tract marketed the tract with the slogan “See-Der Rabbit.” According to an early 1900s Daily Telegram article headline “No Shooting Signs Go up Tomorrow on Famed See-Der Rabbits Tract.” The article goes on to state that “In a Few Days ten foot rabbits will be noticed in different sections of the city, but hunters are warned that this is the closed season on this kind of game. The only way you can beat it is to buy a lot in the tract tomorrow. The article also states views of the ocean are obtained from every lot. Prices will be $350.00 to $600.00 on easy terms.” In those days it was possible to see the ocean from that distance, as there were few buildings to obstruct the view and the breakwater had not yet been constructed.
Today, the Bluff Heights Historic District continues to represent a vibrant older residential neighborhood in Long Beach with many Craftsman and Spanish Colonial Revival single-family structures. Although the area is predominantly Craftsman Bungalow, in the early twenties, Spanish Colonial Revival and Prairie Style single-family and multi-family residences began to appear. In the later twenties and thirties Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, and Art Deco structures were built. During the late thirties, forties, and early fifties Neo-Traditional homes and apartment buildings began to appear. It was not until the sixties, seventies, and early eighties that large-scale multi-family structures were built. In the early to mid-eighties developers came into Long Beach, tearing down these older homes and building in their place 8 or 9 unit apartment buildings better known as “cracker boxes.” Before local residents realized what was happening, many neighborhoods were destroyed or on their way,having lost the wonderfully charming historic homes.
The Bluff Heights neighborhood was saved, for the most part, by a group of residents who fought for “down zoning,” resulting in stopping further destruction of historic properties. By doing this over 600 contributing structures were saved, allowing the creation of the Bluff Heights Historic District in 2004. These two actions have saved the neighborhood and will continue to protect its historical integrity.
The development of our neighborhood and similar neighborhoods here in Long beach made it possible, for the first time, for people of modest means to purchase a home and therefore realize the fulfillment of the American Dream. These homes are continuing to provide that dream here in Bluff Heights.