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The Many Colors of Long Beach Street Names

By Jonathan Murrietta

Ever wonder what’s in a Long Beach street name? Like what’s a Woodruff? And what’s the story behind the street no one can spell, or pronounce, for that matter -- is it Ximeno as in X-Zimeno or Hee-may-no Avenue? While not an exhaustive list, here’s what’s behind some of the colorful, creative, wacky, absurd and downright confusing street names you will encounter driving through Long Beach.

¿Qué paso? Long Beach’s Spanish Street Names

The year was 1784. A magical year, at least for what was to be the future of Long Beach. A Spanish soldier named Manuel Nieto was given the land between the Santa Ana and San Gabriel rivers from the foothills to the sea. His sprawling rancho there was subdivided by his successors into five separate ranchos. Two of them, Los Cerritos and Los Alamitos became the foundation of what would later become the City of Long Beach. Nieto Avenue today is not a particularly busy street – it connects the Colorado Lagoon area with Broadway and reappears as a one-way southbound street in Belmont Shore – but residents living here can take pride in the fact that their street is named after the original Long Beach’s Founding Father.

Later down the road {pun intended} developer John Bixby laid out Long Beach’s Alamitos Beach Townsite in 1886, naming his north-south avenues, in order of the alphabet, Alamitos, spanish for “little cottonwoods,” Bonito, spanish for “pretty,” Cerritos, spanish for “little hills,” and subsequently, in order, Descanso, Esperanza, Falcon, Gaviota, Hermosa, Independencia, Junipero, Kawahea, Lindero, Modjeska, Naranja, Ojai, Paloma, Quito, Redondo, Sobrante, and Termino, spanish for “terminus” or “end.” But the Termino Street of back then isn’t the same as the Termino in existence today. The “former” Termino Street was later changed to Euclid Avenue, three blocks west of the current Termino.


Junipero is pronounced hoo-nee-pero and translates as juniper, as in the juniper tree. But the thick, bushy tree isn’t the nexus of the street name. It was actually named for Father Junipero Serra, who was born in Mallorca and spearheaded the building of California’s missions in the 18th Century.

The aforementioned Descanso, Independencia and Sobrante streets were renamed to Orange, Cherry and Loma Avenues, respectively. Modjeska is now the current Molino Avenue off of Anaheim Street, and is spanish for “mill.” Kawahea, meanwhile, became Kennebec Avenue. Orizaba used to be called Ojai and Quito was changed to Coronado.

Naranja Street was changed to Temple Avenue, named after an early settler named Juan Temple, who took the “Don” title and became a Mexican Citizen in order to own land. He was originally from New England, settling in Long Beach in 1830.

Los Coyotes Diagonal

Los Coyotes Diagonal has historical significance as the name of one of the original early Spanish ranchos, northeast of Ranchos Los Cerritos and Los Alamitos. The diagonal roadway extending from the traffic circle to Carson Street was given the name in 1931 -- and not primarily because of the prevalence of coyotes, although that could’ve been part of it.

Vuelta Grande

Another Spanish Avenue, named Vuelta Grande, is one of Los Altos’ most curvy thoroughfares. “Vuelta Grande” literally means “large turn” in Spanish.

Park Estates Streets

And why are there so many Spanish street names in Park Estates like Oleta and El Cedral? Here’s why. Alfred Reinerston, an executive employed by Lloyd Whaley, was married to a woman who had a ranch in Mexico. She was a Spanish teacher and suggested that a plethora of Spanish names for Park Estates would fit the bill nicely.


Mariquita Street, located in Bluff Heights north of Broadway Boulevard, has a “little” tale behind its name. The tract was subdivided in 1901 by Mrs. Mary Greble and Captain Brewster Kenyon, one of Long Beach’s original firefighters. They wanted to give Spanish names to the new roads of Bluff Heights. The story goes that Cpt. Kenyon suggested to Mrs. Greble that her name be given to the second street north of Railway Street (now named East Broadway). When Mrs. Greble was a little girl, she used to be called “Little Mary” by relatives and friends, as she had an aunt known as “Big Mary.” At once, the thought came to Cpt. Kenyon – Why not name this tiny street Mariquita, or “Little Mary?” And so he did.


Monlaco may seem like a Spanish word, yet East Monlaco Road, said East Long Beach resident Janie Williams, who grew up on that street and whose parents were original homeowners there, is actually an acronym for the Montana Land Company, which owned that land there before houses were even built. The Montana Land Company grew beans and sugar beets at that site before housing developments ever took place.


And then there is Long Beach’s most mispronounced and misspelled street name -- Ximeno Avenue. Ximeno is named after Ximena, the wife of Spain’s legendary hero of the Middle Ages, El Cid, “spanish for Lord.” Born in 1043, El Cid’s real name was Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar. He is celebrated today in many epics and ballads. The correct pronunciation of Ximena’s namesake avenue is “Hee-may-no,” not “eczema,” not “X-Zimeno,” not “ex-emy-no.” Well, who isn’t to say any of those pronunciations aren’t acceptable in this day in age?

Be that as it may, the story told in Long Beach folklore is of a rookie policeman who, when driving down Ximeno Avenue one day, spotted a dead horse in the middle of the street. Taking out his pencil and report book, the policeman was about ready to take down the incident. He began to write... “Spotted a dead horse on “Xzyimo Street.” Wait, that’s not right. He tried again. “Saw a dead carcass of a horse on “Zxmno.” Nope, not right either. He tried a third time, scratching out the previous two misspellings and wrote, “Cyxmno.”

Sigh. Knowing that he couldn’t possibly spell this street name correctly, and unmotivated to go back to the corner and read the street sign, the rookie policeman tied the dead horse to the rear bumper of his car, dragged the beast of burden several blocks away from Ximeno, stopped, and then confidently wrote on his report. “Discovered a dead horse in the middle of Pine Avenue and 10th Street.”

Naples and the Rodeo Drive of Long Beach

You probably didn’t know that Naples’ famed 2nd Street used to be called Gabriella Canal -- because it wasn’t a street at all in the early 1900s, it was a waterway!

“It was named after the San Gabriel River, which was dumped out at the Eastern end of it,” said Naples historian Stan Poe, who has written books on the history of Naples. “Eventually it was filled in due to poor water circulation. And as 2nd Street Canal was filled in and development of the Shore began, streets were then designated drives.”

Of course 2nd Street is now arguably the most happening street in Long Beach – the Rodeo Drive of Naples – with all the shops and restaurants. But in 1903, Naples was merely a mud flat. Enter developer Arthur M. Parsons, who came to the area one day that year to shoot ducks. He looked over the site and had an epiphany. He whipped out an envelope and made a rough water-color drawing of his dream reality -- a city mimicking the old-world romantic setting of Italia. Parsons established a company and developed the subdivision known today as Naples. At that time there were no roads leading to it; thus, all the gravel and cement for the sidewalks had to be transported on barges across Alamitos Bay. In its street names, Naples carries out that European flavor and color – with names such as Angelo, Campo, Giralda, Ravenna, Tivoli and Sorrento – all places in Italy and Europe. •908•



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