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10.05.2006 - 22 comments 

Last week my wife and I were out in Southern California and got to visit several really cool places. One of those was Ventura. We stayed at the Pierpont Inn there which is actually on the Nation Registry of Historic buildings. It is a really beautiful old hotel complete with the view you see here. It was a overcast morning with the sun trying to peak through the coastal fog, but it had a lot of trouble making in out for the day. The little town of Ventura was very quaint.

Downtown Ventura is home to the Mission San Buenaventura, museums, galleries, dining and shopping. Primary areas of activity include California Street and Main Street between Ventura Avenue and Fir Street. Also located in downtown is the historic Ortega adobe, home to the Ortega family now famous for their chile products. Numerous thrift stores contrast with high-end shops and restaurants. We actually ate in a 50's diner there called "Busy Bee Diner". It was really cute and the food was enough to fill anyone's stomach. The Apple Dumpling was just an awesome dessert to top of an already full stomach.

Father Junípero Serra founded Mission San Buenaventura in 1782, forming the basis of what would become the city of Ventura. On July 6, 1841, Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado granted the 48,611 acre (19,672 ha) Rancho San Miguel to Felipe Lorenzana and Raimundo Olivas, whose Olivas Adobe on the banks of the Santa Clara River was the most magnificent hacienda south of Monterey.After the American Civil War, settlers came to the area either as property owners, buying land from the Mexicans, or simply as squatters. Vast holdings were later acquired by Easterners, including the railroad magnate, Thomas Scott. He was impressed by one of the young employees, Thomas R. Bard, who had been in charge of train supplies to Union troops, and Bard was sent west to handle Scott's property.

Bard is often regarded as the Father of Ventura and his descendants have been prominently identified with the growth of Ventura County. The Union Oil Company was organized with Bard as President in 1890, and has offices in Santa Paula. The main Ventura oil field was drilled in 1914 and at its peak produced 90,000 barrels a day. The city is located between the Ventura River and the Santa Clara River, leading to soil so fertile that citrus grew better here than anywhere else in the state.

The citrus farmers formed Sunkist Growers, Incorporated, the world's largest organization of citrus production.Not easily accessible, Ventura was not a target of immigrants, and as such, remained quiet and rural. For most of the century which followed the incorporation of Ventura in 1866, it remained isolated from the rest of the state.From the south, travel by auto was slow and hazardous, until the completion of a four-lane expressway (US Highway 101) over the Conejo Grade in 1959.

This route, now further widened and improved by 1969, is known as the Ventura Freeway, which directly links Ventura with the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Another route, US Highway 101 ALT (now the Pacific Coast Highway which you can see in this photo) traveled along the coast from Santa Monica via Oxnard, but was not heavily used. From the north, entrance was by way of a single road along the beach and stagecoach passengers either had to wait until low tide when the horses could cross on the exposed wet sand, or go up the Ventura River Valley and then cross over the mountains to Santa Barbara via Casitas Pass, a long and difficult trip.

Inland, Ventura was hemmed in by (what is now) the Los Padres National Forest, composed of mountainous country and deep canyons. This route became passable with the completion of the Maricopa Highway in the 1920s.Since then, Ventura has grown steadily. In 1920 there were 4,156 people. In 1930 the population had increased to 11,603, and by 1950 the population reached 16,643. In the last two decades it has quadrupled to approximately 102,000.Ventura is also an excellent location for surfing. One great surf spot is Surfer's Point.In Plaza Park (Chestnut and Santa Clara Streets, downtown) one of the nations largest Morton Bay Fig Trees is marked with an historic plaque. Across the street is the main post office which houses WPA murals on its interior walls.

The Ventura Harbor is home to a thriving fishing industry, seafood restaurants and a shopping village at Ventura Harbor Village. The Channel Islands National Park Headquarters are also located in the harbor, and the boats to the national park depart from the harbor daily. We ate at "The Greek" which is a nice Greek Restaurant with both inside and outside dining. The place came complete with Belly dancers. The food was VERY good, which was also a plus.The Olivas Adobe, one of the early California Rancho homes is operated today as a museum and performing arts venue.

Located adjacent to the Olivas Park Golf Course, the home is one of the most visited historic sites on the central coast. Living history reinactments, demonstrations of Rancho life and wonderful ghost stories abound. A summer music series of performances held in the old home's courtyard feature an eclectic assortment of artists from blues to jazz to country.Both the Pierpont Inn and the town of Ventura are both worth a stop if you are ever traveling down the Southern California coast.

" the open road is a beckoning, a strangeness, a place where a man can lose himself." -William Least Heat Moon (William Trogdon) Posted by Picasa