City History

    In the 1870s, Playa Del Rey was born as the location of the first attempt of a dredged harbor in Santa Monica Bay for shipping to Asia. However, due to extensive flooding, the beginnings of the dredged harbor became the Playa Del Rey Lagoon, now a regional public park. Surrounding land became Playa del Rey, originally named Palisades del Rey, in 1921 as a neighborhood land development by Dickinson & Gillespie Co. This area of sand dunes was the last developed stretch of coastal land in the city of Los Angeles. All of the houses were custom built, many owned by Hollywood actors and producers, including Cecil B. Demille, Charles Bickford, and others. Construction in Playa del Rey surged in 1928 with the development of the Del Rey Hills neighborhood in the Eastern part of the community, and the move of Loyola University to the adjacent community of Westchester. The southern portion of the original Playa del Rey development, known as "Surfridge," is now vacant. The expensive homes that were so coveted, now were either moved to new locations or were demolished to facilitate the expansion of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Interestingly enough, in order to address concerns about the noise of increasing jet plane traffic, The City of Los Angeles condemned the southern section of Playa del Rey. The city also went one step further,purchased all of the homes, and currently barbed-wire fences now protect the vacant land and old street. A sign now shows that this once heavily inhabited area is now a protected habitat of the endangered El Segundo blue butterfly.

Surf History

Playa del Rey in the 1950s and early 1960s was known as a great Los Angeles area "surfing spot". The beach at the northernmost end of Playa del Rey is still known as "Toes Over Beach", a name derived from the toes over surfing maneuver.

Native History

There is proof of humans in the area of Playa del Rey since about 8,000 B.C. These Native Americans considered local to the westside were named the Gabrielino Indians because of their proximity to San Gabriel Mission. The Gabrielinos were social, peaceful people who lived in villages, some nearby, in Los Angeles and Playa del Rey. The Gabrielinos lived as family, less organized than tribes, in huts called jacals or wicki-ups. These dome-shaped structures were quite large, framed in willows, and thatched with tules or grasses, which could be found along Ballona Creek. La Ballona Valley offered water, safety and an abundance of food. Although the Gabrielinos consumed a variety of foods, acorns would probably be considered the consistent food staple. The community at large gathered and stored the acorns. After cracking and shelling them, the Gabrielinos made acorn mush, by pounding them and then leaching the bitter acid from them in hot water. Fish was also normal part of the Gabrielino diet. Small schools of fish were caught in nets. La Ballona Creek, lagoons (at Playa del Rey) was a ready source of small fish.

To learn more about Gabrielinos, there are a variety of sources nearby. First, Culver City hall at 9770 Culver Blvd., has a public art installation by May Sun which honors the Gabrielinos. Visit the Page Museum and La Brea Tar Pits on Wilshire Boulevard for detailed information. The Southwest Museum is a wonderful resource about our Native American culture. For a real hands-on approach, look to the Gabrielino/Tongva Foundation, which is restoring University Springs (at University High School). They offer programs for school children and celebrations, open to the public.