Willmore, Huntington, Drake, Nieto, Bixby —names you see and hear around Long Beach – the second largest city in the county. So, let’s explore the reasons behind some of the neighborhood names in Long Beach.
Neighborhood map available for sale at welovelb.com
One of the more unique communities in Southern California, Belmont Shore’s major development began in 1920, although the area had been a part of the Naples tract that was purchased in 1903 by Henry Huntington. Its official designation was West Naples and included an interesting feature in the form of a large natural canal that paralleled Ocean Boulevard on the north side of the current alley. It extended from Alamitos Bay on the east to the land rise near Termino Avenue, and was created by the formation of a sand bar much like that of the Peninsula. Huntington’s vision included dredging a similar canal to the north and returning to Alamitos Bay with waterfront lots lining it. Two large circular plazas were planned between the canals as well.
Unfortunately, that plan never came to fruition.
The Belmont Shore project languished until 1920 when Huntington was approached by developers McGrath & Selover with the intent to develop Belmont Shore as a premier recreational and residential area that would be affordable to young families. The biggest problem was the fact that it was under water to varying degrees depending on the tides.
There were also various obstacles through the swamp that hindered development. Mr. Huntington doubted the developers could support their plan. His concerns were expressed in a letter to which Selover responded: “We will be able to finance our project, and you, Mr. Huntington, have a lot of nerve questioning us when most of what you are selling us is under water more than half of the time!”
Originally, The Toledo was to have been the main street next to the canal. Due to the fact that the Pacific Electric tracks were located on Livingston Drive, Second Street became the primary commercial street. Pacific Electric tracks were laid down the center of the street, which continued to Naples and Seal Beach. Most of the streets in Belmont Shore were named after inland communities with hopes of luring buyers from those areas. The 320 acres that comprised Belmont Shore received a great deal of “fill” and extensive grading to raise it above high tide. Long Beach was eager to provide support for the area, although it was not annexed to the city until 1926.
With oil being discovered on Signal Hill in 1921, there came an astounding demand for inexpensive housing. Most houses in Belmont Shore were Spanish style bungalows - with just enough arches to deserve the designation - and built on 30’ x 80’ lots which were more generous than most seaside developments. There has actually been little redevelopment in Belmont Shore compared to other seaside communities.
One of the most significant concepts was that the homes were built first and the commercial lots were vacant until the community decided which types of businesses they really needed and would support.
“Belmont” is Italian for “beautiful mountain” and seemed a fitting name due to the neighborhood’s proximity to the bluff.