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The history of the Ojai Valley

Read a brief history of the Ojai Valley.

​There are lots and lots of articles about a wide variety of subjects for you to read on our affiliate website,  

View our detailed timeline at the end of this page to get a sense of when and how the valley developed. 

The Ojai Valley: An Illustrated History is the definite book on local history. In 2017 Elise DePuydt and Craig Walker revised and updated Patricia L Fry's original book. Errors have arisen in the book and will likely continue to do since historical research is ongoing and corrections are being submitted. Corrections to the Museum Edition can be found here. 

We celebrated a Jubilee Year from Ojai Day 2016 through Ojai Day 2017. It represented the museum's 50th anniversary and the centennial of the E.D. Libbey-led transformation of dusty Nordhoff into beautiful Spanish-style village of Ojai. Each week a photograph was highlighted in the Ojai Valley News and on our website, as From the Archives: Jubilee Photo of the Week.  These are the photographs we highlighted. 

Ojai Valley Timeline
1782 – Mission San Buenaventura is founded by Father Junipero Serra
1821 – Mexico wins its independence from Spain
1833 – The Mexican Congress ratifies a law for the secularization of the California missions
1837 – Gov. Juan Alvarado grants the 17,716.83-acre Rancho Ojai to Fernando Tico and the 21,522.04-acre Rancho Santa Ana to Crisogono Ayala and Cosme Vanegas
1839 – Raphael Lopez builds an adobe home at the mouth of Matilija Canyon
1846 – The U.S. military takes possession of California from Mexico
1848 – The Mexican-American War is formerly concluded with the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo and the United States acquires the New Mexico and Texas territories, and California – Gold is discovered by James Marshall at Sutter’s Mill near Coloma, California
1850 – California enters the union as the 31st state (as a free state)
1853 – Fernando Tico sells Rancho Ojai
1861 – George Gilbert extracts and refines oil near Rancho Arnaz
1864 – Thomas A. Scott, a Pennsylvania oil and railroad tycoon, buys Rancho Ojai (and other California lands) and forms the California Petroleum Company
1865 – Thomas Bard takes charge of Thomas Scott’s land interests in California and begins drilling for oil on Rancho Ojai
1866 – Olive Mann Isbell, known as America’s first teacher in California, and her husband Dr. Isaac Isbell move into Fernando Tico’s abandoned adobe in the lower Ojai Valley
1867 – Thomas Bard strikes oil at the California Petroleum Company’s Well No. 6 in Upper Ojai – California’s first oil gusher
1868 – Thomas Scott directs Bard to begin selling the surface rights to Rancho Ojai land. This was the first subdivided land within Rancho Ojai
1869 – A small school opens at the foot of the Upper Ojai grade called the Sagebrush Academy and the Ojai School District is formed
1871 – J.W. Wilcox discovers hot springs in Matilija Canyon that later would become the first Matilija Hot Springs resort
1873 – Charles Nordhoff’s California for Health, Pleasure and Residence was first published in book form – William McKee opens Oak Glen Cottages in the East End – The first hot springs resort opens in Matilija Canyon called San Buenaventura Springs (later called Matilija Hot Springs) – F.S.S. Buckman plants the first orange grove in the valley – Ventura County is formed (previously was part of Santa Barbara County)
1874 – Royce Surdam founds the town of Nordhoff (now the City of Ojai) – Abram Blumberg opens Nordhoff’s first hotel (located where Libbey Park is today) – Lafayette Herbert opens Nordhoff’s first general store – John Montgomery buys 1,300 acres of Surdam’s land
1875 – The first Ojai Valley Grange is organized –The Sagebrush Academy closes and a new school is built in the Upper Valley on land donated by Henry Dennison – The Nordhoff School District is formed to build a school in the town center
1876 – The Nordhoff Grammar School opens on East Matilija Street – John Meiners of Wisconsin acquires a large ranch northwest of the village of Nordhoff in exchange for an unpaid debt
1877 – Presbyterians organize the first church in the valley with services taking place in the grammar school – C.P. Wiggins purchases the Nordhoff town site, including the Nordhoff Hotel – Dr. W.H. French is Nordhoff’s first doctor
1878 – The Casitas Pass stagecoach road opens – John Montgomery deeds the land to the people of Ojai for the cemetery that had been unofficially established several years earlier (the Nordhoff Cemetery at Del Norte and Cuyama Roads)
1881 – Charles Nordhoff makes his first visit to the valley, escorted by William Hollister
1882 – Charles Nordhoff publishes the second edition of California for Health, Pleasure and Residence, in which he mentions the Ojai Valley
1883 – Benjamin and Mary Gally begin purchasing the Oak Glen Cottages – A new Upper Valley School is built on land donated by Captain Robinson and Joseph Hobart
1884 – Presbyterians build the first church in Nordhoff at Ojai Avenue and Fairway Lane
1887 – Railroad services between Ventura, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles begins – Abram Blumberg opens the Ojai Hot Springs in Matilija Canyon (later called Matilija Hot Springs-the first Matilija Hot Springs was flooded out in 1884) – The San Antonio School District is formed
1888 – Lyons Springs resort (Cliff Glen) opens in Matilija Canyon – The first Congregational Church meetings are held (their church was located on the southeast corner of Ojai Avenue and Ventura Street)
1889 – Sherman Thacher begins tutoring students for college preparation
1891 – Leverett Mesick starts The Ojai newspaper (now the Ojai Valley News) – Wheeler Blumberg opens Wheeler Hot Springs – 300 people are living in the town of Nordhoff – Dr. Saeger opens the first drug store in Nordhoff
1892 – The Ojai Club was formed to improve the valley – Ernest and Josephine Pierpont open the Pierpont Cottages
1893 – The George Thacher Memorial Library opens on South Montgomery Street – Mary Gally takes over management of Oak Glen Cottages (Gally Cottages) after her husband dies – The Fortnightly Club literary group was formed
1894 – Charles Nordhoff makes his third visit to the valley with his wife and three daughters – Sherman Thacher promotes the founding of the Ojai Athletic Club – a telephone line is established between Nordhoff and Ventura – The first Ojai Band is formed
1895 – The Casa de Piedra School (Thacher School) is destroyed by fire – The Nordhoff Grammar school moves to a new two-story schoolhouse on Ojai Avenue and North Montgomery – William Thacher organizes the Ojai Valley Tennis Club (the tennis club absorbs the Ojai Athletic Club the following year)
1896 – The Ojai Tennis Club initiates a valley-wide tournament, and then challenges the Ventura Tennis Club (considered by the Ojai Tennis Club to be the first “Ojai”)
1897 – Ojai succumbs to its own gold rush – Nordhoff citizens present a petition to the Ventura County Board of Supervisors against allowing a saloon permit in Nordhoff
1898 – The Ventura and Ojai Valley Railroad’s Nordhoff spur is completed – a train depot is erected just east of Fox Street – President William McKinley establishes the Pine Mountain and Zaca Lake Forest Reserve (later to become the Santa Barbara Forest Reserve)
1899 – The Southern Pacific Railroad takes over the Nordhoff spur – The foundation for the Ojai Tennis Tournament is laid (some consider this the first “Ojai”; the Ojai Tennis Club dates the first “Ojai” as 1896) – Golf is first played in the valley at Mary Gally’s cottages – The King’s Daughters group is organized
1900 – The Ojai Improvement Company is formed to construct a luxury hotel – The Congregational and Presbyterian Churches merge and both church buildings are moved to the south side of East Ojai Avenue just east of Montgomery Street
1901 – The Ojai Olive Oil Association forms and builds an olive mill
1903 – The Ojai Improvement Company’s Foothills Hotel opens (designed by Samuel M. Ilsley) – The Committee of Fifteen is formed to enforce law and order – The Boyd Club opens – President Theodore Roosevelt’s Proclamation 512 establishes the Santa Barbara Forest Reserve – George Bald becomes the head forest ranger of the Ojai Ranger District of the newly formed Santa Barbara Forest Reserve and serves for 19 years
1904 – The Evelyn Nordhoff Memorial Fountain is constructed on Ojai Avenue – The first fire department in Nordhoff is organized (located just west of the Nordhoff Hotel) – Ventura County acquires the Camp Comfort land on Creek Road for a park
1905 – The system of Federal Forest Reserves under the Department of the Interior is transferred to the Department of Agriculture, creating the United States Forest Service
1906 – There were four automobiles in the valley – Joe and Inez Berry open the Berry Villa on South Signal (where post office parking lot is today)
1907 – The Ojai State Bank opens in J.J. Burke’s real estate office – Abram and Helen Hobson buy a bungalow on Santa Ana Street and begin renovating it – The Santa Barbara Forest Reserve becomes the Santa Barbara National Forest
1908 – Edward Thacher is a leader in establishing the Ojai Orange Association – Edward Drummond Libbey and his wife Florence begin wintering at the Foothills Hotel - The entrance towers at Foster Park are dedicated
1909 – Nordhoff High School opens in the grammar school – The Charles Pratt house is constructed on Foothill Road (designed by Greene & Greene) – Edna Baker and Clara Smith start the Shakespeare Club – The Ojai Orange Association packing house opens on Bryant Street in February
1910 – A craftsman-style high school is built on Paseo Road – A stately Bank of Ojai building opens east of the Ojai Inn (formerly Blumberg’s Nordhoff Hotel), designed by Silas R. Burns
1911 – The Edward Libbey house is constructed on Foothill Road (designed by Myron Hunt & Elmer Grey) – Mrs. Pierpont Ginn builds the Ojai Valley Woman’s Club (first used by the King’s Daughters) – The Summit School District is formed
1912 – The Bristol School is founded
1913 – Ojai has electric lighting for the first time
1914 – Heavy winter rains cause flooding, knock down telephone and telegraph poles, and wash out the railroad tracks – J.J. Burke builds the Isis movie theater – The Ojai Valley Men’s League is formed – Mr. Libbey introduces his town improvement ideas at a special town meeting in April - Candelaria Valenzuela collaborates with anthropologists to share her knowledge of the Chumash language and culture
1915 – Donald Crisp directs the filming of Ramona at Bob Clark’s ranch in Casitas Springs
1916 – Construction is begun on the arcade, post office and pergola (designed by Richard Requa)
1917 – The first Ojai Day is celebrated in April (a day after the United States enters WWI) – The village name is changed from Nordhoff to Ojai – Fire rages out of Matilija Canyon in June, devastating the residential portion of town – A stove explodes in November burning the west half the arcade stores – A Parent Teacher Association (P.T.A.) is formed
1919 – The second Foothills Hotel is built (designed by Mead & Requa) – The second St. Thomas Aquinas Church is completed (designed by Mead & Requa)
1920 – The El Roblar Hotel is constructed, designed by Mead & Requa (now the Oaks at Ojai)
1921 – City of Ojai is incorporated – The first Ojai Board of Trustees is formed – There are 500 people living in the City of Ojai – Work on the new Dennison Grade road begins – Libbey hires architect George Washington Smith to design three spec houses in the Arbolada – Bill Baker buys the Gerstenmeyer bakery on East Ojai Avenue
1922 – Jiddu Krishnamurti visits the valley for the first time – Bob Clark is elected sheriff – Libbey constructs the Arbolada Development Company office at 121 West Ojai Avenue
1923 – The first building of the Ojai Valley School is constructed (designed by Wallace Neff) – The clubhouse at the Ojai Valley Country Club designed by Wallace Neff is constructed (now the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa – A new firehouse is built just east of the Boyd Club
1924 – The Krotona Institute of Theosophy in Hollywood moves to Ojai - Villanova Preparatory School for Boys opens – John Meiners’ heirs begin selling land parcels in Meiners Oaks – The Ojai Tennis Tournament is canceled due to a hoof and mouth outbreak
1925 – Mr. Libbey dies of pneumonia – Pop Soper opens a training camp for boxers at the mouth of Matilija Canyon - The Hobsons complete the Spanish-style conversion of their home – A new Summit School is built – The Ojai Valley Community Chorus is formed
1926 – Annie Besant, International President of the Theosophical Society, purchases land in Upper Ojai she calls Happy Valley – Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge and Frank Frost sponsor a music festival at the Foothills Hotel – The Ojai Valley Garden Club is founded
1927 – The arcade is extended 100 feet to the east with 7 new stores added – The Ojai Valley Men’s League becomes the Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce – The Ojai State Bank becomes the Bank of Italy – Annie Besant buys The Ojai newspaper and hires Frank Kilbourne to manage it – a new San Antonio school is built (designed by Roy Wilson) – The Masonic Lodge is built (on what is now Mallory Way) – The Lions Club is formed – Bill Baker builds a new Spanish-style bakery (designed by Roy Wilson)
1928 – the new Ojai Library opens on East Ojai Avenue (designed by Carleton Monroe Winslow) – Grace Hobson Smith and her husband Fred Smith complete a home next to their parents they call the “little house” – 1500 people attend the first Star Camp in Meiners Oaks to hear Krishnamurti speak – Ojai responds to the St. Francis Dam disaster – The Foster Bowl at Foster Park is constructed (designed by Roy Wilson)
1929 – Nordhoff Grammar School moves into its new Spanish-style buildings on Ojai Avenue – Madeleine Baird builds Acacia Lodge in Meiners Oaks (the Baird Mansion) – Krishnamurti severs his ties to the Theosophical Society – The Liberal Catholic Church is built in Meiners Oaks (designed by John Roine) – The Ojai jail, built in Libbey Park, begins operation – John Burnham builds the Cottages Among the Flowers (designed by Harold Burket) – Pacific Bell Telephone builds a facility at Ojai Avenue and North Blanche Street (now AT&T)
1930 – Presbyterians build a new church on Aliso Street and Foothill Road (designed by Carleton Monroe Winslow) – Fred and Lida Hart begin showing  “talkies” at the Ojai Theater – Edward and Rhoda Martin build a home in the Siete Robles tract called The Pleiades (known as the Taj Mahal) – The Bank of Italy becomes the Bank of America
1931 – Local horseback riders form the Ojai Trails Association to build and maintain trails – Forest Ranger Jacinto Reyes retires after serving 31 years in the Cuyama Ranger District
1933 – Construction of the Maricopa Highway is completed – Seven Civil Conservation Corps camps are located in the Ojai backcountry – Bill Swanson becomes manager of the Ojai Theater – Anthony Sarzotti deeds 10 acres to the city for a park (on Park Road)
1936 – The new fire station is built on South Montgomery (a WPA project) – The Santa Barbara National Forest becomes the Los Padres National Forest
1937 – Nazarenes move the former Presbyterian Church building to the corner of Aliso and Montgomery Streets – Harold Clausen, owner of the Clausen Funeral Home, purchases the first ambulance in the valley
1938 – The meeting hall at Camp Comfort is built – members of the American Legion begins meeting in the high school
1939 – The Ojai Community Art Center opens – Louis Boyle opens the Orchid Town Western village on Fairview Road – The Ventura County Sheriff’s department opens the Honor Farm on Baldwin Road
1942 – The 134th Infantry from Nebraska takes over the country club as a combat training camp – The Monica Ros School opens – The California Preparatory School for Boys opens in the former Foothills Hotel
1943 – The 17th Infantry from New Jersey replaces the 134th Infantry – The Ojai Tennis Tournament is canceled for four years – The Upper Valley School closes and becomes part of the Summit School District
1944 – The Seabees Acorn Assembly & Training Detachment replaces the 17th Infantry
1945 – Bob Hope and Bing Crosby raise funds for the Navy Relief Welfare Fund here – Don Henderson’s private airstrip at Highways 33 and Baldwin Road goes public
1946 – Aldous Huxley is among the directors of the new Happy Valley School – The Chekhov Players opened the High Valley Theater in Upper Ojai – Ojai Avenue is roped off for the statewide Folk Dance Festival
1947 – Don Burger reopens the country club as the Ojai Valley Inn and Country Club – John Bauer organizes the first Ojai Music Festival using the high school auditorium as the main venue – The Ojai Tennis Tournament, cancelled during World War II, resumes – Ethel Percy Andrus founds the National Retired Teachers Association (NRTA) – John Rains (of Ventura) begins building the Valley Outpost Lodge (Mallory Way Cottages)
1948 – The Matilija Dam is completed – Beatrice Wood establishes her pottery studio in the east valley – A Rotary Club group is formed in the valley
1949 – 3-4 inches of snow falls on the valley floor in January – Bob Andrews and Kenneth Prairie start the Ojai Valley News in competition with The Ojai – The Liberal Catholic church is moved to a site on the former Gally Cottages property – The Flesher family extends the Ojai Theater by 16 feet on South Signal Street –The Meiners Oaks Elementary School opens on Lomita Avenue
1950 – There are 2,519 people living in the city – The Ojai Valley Grange moves into a Quonset hut brought into Meiners Oaks
1951 – A new Summit School is built
1952 – The first “spill over” occurs at the Matilija Dam – Pat and Mike, starring Katharine Hepburn & Spencer Tracey, is filmed at the Ojai Valley Inn – The Fleshers put in a crying room at the Ojai Theater
1954 – Ojai Festivals (Ojai Music Festival) builds a stage in Civic Center Park (Libbey Park) – Oaks Hotel owner, Frank Keenan, commissions the first of two Jesse Arms Botke murals – Ethel Percy Andrus opens the Grey Gables home for retired teachers – Fire Station #22 is built in Meiners Oaks – The American Legion builds a new hall at 960 East Ojai Avenue (Firebird Paza)
1955 – Igor Stravinsky conducts at the Ojai Music Festival – Camp Ramah opens at the former California Preparatory School – The Southern California Railway Club makes its last train excursion into Ojai on the Southern Pacific’s final steam engine run – St. Thomas Aquinas Church builds a parochial school and convent on Canada Street – First Baptist Church holds its first nativity pageant using three live camels and a white donkey
1956 – Alan and Helen Hooker open the Ranch House Restaurant in Meiners Oaks – Avatar Meher Baba visits Meher Mount atop Sulphur Mountain – Mira Monte Elementary School opens
1957 – Ojai Festivals builds the Libbey Bowl shell (designed by Austen Pierpont and Roy Wilson) – Aaron Copeland conducts at the Ojai Music Festival – Oaks Hotel owner, Frank Keenan, is convicted of federal income tax evasion – Zaidee Soule donates her family land to the county for a park – The Boyd Club is moved to Sarzotti Park – The Bank of America builds a new bank on the former Boyd Club property – Topa Topa Elementary School opens on Mountain View Drive
1958 – Ethel Percy Andrus founds the American Association of Retired Person (AARP) – The Ojai and Ojai Valley News newspapers merge – Ojai Search and Rescue is formed – Telephone service reaches 1,391 people in Ojai – The new post office building is completed (the post office tower was not altered)
1959 – The Casitas Dam and reservoir are completed – Matilija Junior High School is built on Maricopa Highway– St. Joseph’s Convalescent Hospital opens in the East End
1960 – The stately old bank building east of Libbey Park is demolished – The Ojai Terrace Shopping Center opens at the “Y” on Maricopa Highway – Topa Lanes bowling alley opens on East Ojai Avenue – Lynn Rains, and his son Alan, buy Hickey Brothers Hardware and change the name of the store to Rains – A group of over 100 people, calling themselves the Voice of the Valley, pitch in to buy and run The Ojai Press, (a competitor to the Ojai Valley News), which becomes the Press Sentinel in 1961 – The Ojai Valley Community Hospital opens on Maricopa Highway
1961 – The city establishes the Ojai Parks and Recreation Commission
1962 – Ruth Melhorn organizes the first Ojai Independence Day Parade – the 18-hole, county-owned Soule Park Golf Course is completed – Fred Volz purchases The Ojai Valley News, and the Voice of the Valley, happy with this transition, close down the Press Sentinel
1963 – The Steward Canyon debris basin and channelization project is completed – St. Thomas Aquinas parish builds a new church on Maricopa Highway – The City of Ojai takes over ownership of the Nordhoff Cemetery – The Los Robles movie theater opens on Maricopa Highway near the “Y” (now a bank) – There are 18,000 people living in the valley.0
1964 – An Optimist Club is formed – Richard Bartindale opens Bart’s Books on West Matilija and Canada Streets
1965 – Spearheaded by Rodney Walker, Jerald Peterson and Keith Lloyd, a group of 250 local investors purchase the Oaks Hotel
1966 – The city population closes in on 6000 – The Ojai Valley Historical Museum & Historical Society is founded – The Ojai Unified School District is formed – Nordhoff High and Matilija Junior High trade schools – City Hall moves to the former Baptist Church site on Ventura and Matilija Streets – Wayne Glasgow buys the Ojai Theater and renovates it with a Scottish motif.
1967 – Pierre Boulez is the music director for the Ojai Music Festival – Three hippie love-ins take place in Libbey Park – Tensions break out into violence between hippies and non-hippies during the summer; county sheriffs and CHP are called in to help quell the crowds – There is an explosion at the west pergola arch on December 30 – Land is purchased adjacent to the Krotona Institute to build the Taormina housing community – The city enters into a franchise agreement with Golden State Water Company to supply Ojai’s water – The first Mexican Fiesta takes place in Libbey Park – The East Ojai Valley Associates and a new group called the Committee to Preserve the Ojai (later called the Citizens to Preserve the Ojai) oppose a scenic highway (freeway) through Ojai
1968 – Florence Garrigue arrives in the valley to establish Meditation Mount – HELP of Ojai is founded – The Altrusa Club donates the chimes for the post office bell tower – A second explosion takes place on the west pergola arch in October – The Orange Empire Trolley Museum sponsors a special, final passenger train trip into Ojai
1969 – Happy Valley School (now Besant Hill) moves from Meiners Oaks to Happy Valley in Upper Ojai – The police station moves next to city hall on North Ventura Street – 40 inches of rain falls in a two-week period causing severe flooding and washing out the railroad tracks –– Southern Pacific Railroad abandons the tracks from near Canada Larga to Ojai – The U.S. Forest Service Ojai Ranger District office moves from 731 East Ojai Avenue to 1190 East Ojai Avenue
1970 – The Ojai Valley Museum moves to the former city hall at 338 East Ojai Avenue
1971 – The Ojai Civic Association deeds over Civic Center Park (Libbey Park) to the City of Ojai – The city demolishes the historic pergola and memorial fountain – The buildings at Meditation Mountain are completed (designed by Zelma Wilson)
1973 – The Citizens to Preserve the Ojai begin a campaign to prevent U.S. Gypsum from operating a phosphate strip mine near Pine Mountain
1974 - Beatrice Wood moves her studio to Happy Valley – A Montessori School opens on Baldwin Road – The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation starts buying land in the Ventura River watershed surrounding Lake Casitas to create the 3,500-acre Teague Memorial Watershed, banning development around the lake.
1975 – Krishnamurti founds the Oak Grove School in Meiners Oaks
1976 – City hall moves to the Hobson-Smith homes on Santa Ana Street, donated to the city by Fred Smith (remodeled by Zelma Wilson) – Drs. Benito and Dominga Reyes move the World University they founded in 1974 to the former city hall site on North Ventura Street – The historic Foothills Hotel is demolished
1977 – Sheila Cluff purchases the Oaks Hotel and opens the Oaks at Ojai health spa
1978 – The first “spill over” occurs at the Casitas Dam (Lake Casitas) – Construction of a new police station begins on Santa Ana Street east of city hall – Friends of the Ojai Library group is founded and they help raise funds for the new library wing and for book acquisition
1979 – Ravi Shankar performs at the Ojai Music Festival – The Ojai Foundation is established in Upper Ojai – Ojai Fire Station #21 is built at East Ojai Avenue and Oak Glen – the Ojai Valley Museum moves to the old fire station on South Montgomery – St. Thomas Aquinas College builds a school on the Ojai-Santa Paula Road
1980 – Ojai Police Department becomes a unit of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department – the county acquires the upper part of the old railroad grade to construct the Ojai Valley Trail (now a segment of the Ventura River Parkway Trail) – The population in the city tops 7,000
1981 – The new wing of the Ojai Library is dedicated – The first play of the Ojai Shakespeare Festival takes place in Libbey Bowl
1982 – The Ventura County Humane Society opens an animal shelter on Bryant Street – HELP of Ojai opens the 2nd Helping Thrift Store on Fox Street
1983 – An International Regatta is staged at Lake Casitas – Khaled Al-Awar buys the Glasgow Playhouse movie theater and renames it the Ojai Playhouse
1984 – Lake Casitas is the venue for the Los Angeles Summer Olympics' canoe, kayak and scull events – Ojai Studio Artists is formed – The Rotary Club of Ojai, West is chartered – Phil Harvey starts the Ojai Camera Club (now the Ojai Photography Club) and reinstitutes the Ojai Community Chorus
1986 – Jiddu Krishnamurti dies in his Pine Cottage home in Ojai at age 90
1987 – The Ojai Valley Land Conservancy is founded – TV and movie star Larry Hagman, and his wife Maj, begin building their home “Heaven” atop Sulphur Mountain
1988 – Zelma Wilson designs a plaza behind the arcade stores – The Keep the Sespe Wild group is founded – The Ojai Film Society is formed – The county-owned Matilija Hot Springs is closed to the public
1990 – The city establishes the Ojai Historical Preservation Commission
1991 – The seismic renovation of the arcade is completed – Craig Walker initiates the return of Ojai Day that had ended in 1928 – The Los Angeles Archdiocese orders the closing of the St. Thomas Aquinas Parochial School – Julie DelPozzo launches the Nordhoff Cemetery Adopt-A-Grave program – The C.R.E.W. youth leadership and employment organization is founded
1992 – The Ojai Historic Preservation Commission saves the Ojai jail from demolition
1993 – Sanford Drucker launches the Living Treasures program – The Bank of America moves into the old Security Bank building on Ojai Avenue and South Blanche Street – The city buys the former St. Thomas Aquinas church – The Coalition to Stop Weldon Canyon Dump is formed – The Ojai Education Foundation is founded to support public school programs outside of the OUSD budget – The Ojai Institute opens (now the Ojai Retreat)
1995 – The Ojai Valley Library Foundation is founded – Southern Pacific Railroad abandons the tracks from Ventura to near Canada Larga – The Maricopa Highway (SR 33) is designated the Jacinto Reyes National Scenic Byway
1996 – The Ojai Valley Museum moves into the former St. Thomas Aquinas church – The former Bank of America building east of Libbey Park is renovated into shops and galleries (designed by Marc Whitman) – The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation was founded by Wilma Melville – The first concert in the new Libbey Park bandstand takes place – The Ojai Valley Library Foundation and the Ojai Library set up a SchoolLinks Homework Center – The Taconic Resources county-wide March ballot, Measure T, which put construction of the Weldon Canyon dump before voters, was defeated – Theater 150, a professional theater company, begins productions in the former Clausen funeral home on East Matilija Street.
1997 – The Ojai Valley Inn and Spa completes the first phase of its expansion and renovation project, which includes the luxury spa (designed by Bill Mahan and David Bury) – Weil Tennis Academy opens – A city Youth Master Plan is completed and the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation is formed – Oprah Winfrey films the TV movie, Before Women Had Wings, in Ojai – Wheeler Hot Springs closes to the public
1998 – Beatrice Wood dies a week after celebrating her 105th birthday – The Ojai Playwrights Conference is founded
1999 – David Mason and Joan Kemper spearhead the reconstruction of the pergola and memorial fountain (designed by David Bury from the 1916 Mead & Requa plans) – The Friends of the Ojai Library and the Ojai Valley Library Foundation merge into the Ojai Valley Library Friends & Foundation – The Ojai Valley Land Conservancy purchases the meadow adjacent to Nordhoff High School on Maricopa Highway for a preserve
2000 – The 100th anniversary of the Ojai Tennis Tournament is celebrated – The Ojai Valley Community Hospital Foundation is formed to purchase the Ojai hospital and establish it as a nonprofit – The first Ojai Film Festival takes place in the fall – The Ojai Raptor Center is founded by Kimberly Stroud – Brian Bemel, of Performances to Grow On, founds the Ojai Storytelling Festival
2001 – Ojai holds a memorial at Libbey Park for victims of the “9/11” New York City disaster – Ojai Valley ranchers Tony Thacher, Jim Churchill, Mike Shore and Bob Davis found the Ojai Pixie Growers’ Association – Alexis Ells opens the Equine Sanctuary for rescued performance horses
2002 – Cluff Vista Park is dedicated – The Arcade Plaza redevelopment is completed – Food for Thought is founded to work with the school district on food issues in the schools – The Ojai Valley Toastmasters Club is chartered – The Ojai Valley Land Conservancy acquires funds to purchase a nearly 1600-acre parcel on the Ventura River in Meiners Oaks, part of which was once slated for a golf course – The Valley Oak Charter School is founded to serve the educational needs of the valley’s homeschooled students – Michael McFerrin renovates the first Presbyterian church building on Aliso and Montgomery Streets.
2003 – The city establishes the Ojai Arts Commission – The City of Ojai adopts a public art ordinance – The Honor Farm on Baldwin Road closes – Ojai Valley Bank merges into Mid-State Bank & Trust – The Ojai Valley Library Friends & Foundation purchases the 1922 Libbey Land Office building just east of the library and open the Twice-Sold Tales bookstore
2004 – The first Lemire Grand Prix introduces professional bicycling races to Ojai – The Los Arboles Condominium project on South Montgomery is completed (designed by Marc Whitman) – The Los Padres Forest Watch organization is founded – Susan McRae and Sandy Messori organize the first Ojai Lavender Festival in Libbey Park
2005 – Rotary Community Park is dedicated – The Camp Comfort renovation project is completed – The Ojai Valley Community Hospital merges with the Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura – Ojai Community Bank opens in the former Bank of A. Levy building at Ojai Avenue and Rincon Street – Julie Grove opens Reins of Hope, a horse therapy center with programs for veterans, women and children
2006 – The Oaks at Ojai (originally the El Roblar Hotel) undergoes a major renovation – The Ojai Valley Inn and Spa completes the second phase of its renovation project – HELP of Ojai leases the former Honor Farm property on Baldwin Road to run some of their programs
2007 – The City of Ojai adopts an ordinance regulating chain stores – The E-Bello Plaza opens, replacing the popular Ojai Frostie hamburger stand – The Ojai Valley Business Park on Bryant Circle is built (designed by David Bury) – The Stop the Trucks Coalition launches a campaign to reduce gravel trucks on Highway 33 – The Ojai Trees organization is formed to foster the growth of Ojai’s community forest – The Living Peace in Ojai group is formed to celebrate the annual International Day of Peace each year in September – The Ojai FLOW group is formed to gain local control of the city’s water supply
2008 – The Ojai Valley Woman’s Club is renovated – The Ojai Valley Green Coalition is formed
2009 – Nordhoff High School celebrates its 100th year – Ojai is named the second best Tennis Town in America in a contest sponsored by the U.S. Tennis Association – World-renowned potter Otto Heino dies at age 94 – The Ojai Valley Defense Fund is founded – California Fish & Game wardens tranquilize, and later euthanize, a bear sitting in an East Aliso Street tree, sparking citizen outrage and the formation of the Ojai Wildlife League – Francisca Beach opens the Senga Classic Stage Company at the Ojai Valley Grange
2010 – The population in the city is 7,461 – The Ojai Skate Park is constructed
2011 – The new Libbey Bowl is completed (designed by David Bury) – the first Ojai WordFest is organized – Ojai becomes a Tree City USA – Brian Bemel and John Zeretzke organize the first World Music Festival at Libbey Bowl
2012 – TV and movie star Larry Hagman dies at age 81 – The Ojai Youth Entertainers Studio (OYES) opens at the former Theater 150 venue on East Matilija Street
2013 – The City of Ojai adopts an exterior lighting ordinance
2014 – Ojai Valley Community Hospital renovation is completed – A Golden State Water Company water main breaks on Ojai Avenue destroying the inside of the Ojai Playhouse movie theater – Ojai residents vote to adopt a mayor and city council form of government to begin in late 2016 (previously the council members chose the mayor) – An Affordable Housing Committee is formed to work towards the development of more low-income housing in Ojai
2015 – The population in the city is 8,202 – The valley-wide population is nearly 30,000 – A new playground is constructed by volunteers in Libbey Park – Ojai local Bob Daddi buys the Ojai Valley News – Ojai is proclaimed an International City of Peace – A group of concerned citizens, including Chumash tribal elders, Julie Tumamait-Stenslie and Patrick Tumamait, are instrumental in getting the city to adopt a cultural resources resolution – The city grapples with the issue of short-term vacation rentals – The Ojai Valley Grange is reinvigorated with a revival week of old-school homesteading workshops
This was Meiners Ranch. Today it's the community of Meiners Oaks. Learn about George Meiner's ranch, and how he acquired it for an unpaid debt, in a short article over on Ojai History. com. ​

Political controversy? In Ojai (like everywhere we suppose) it goes way back. At least as far as 1893. Read about the controversy over George Mallory, Nordhoff's postmaster, on our affiliate website, It's an interesting read; you won't be disappointed. Then you'll know a lot more about the man behind Mallory Way.  

Hot weather has us dreaming of the beach. Do you remember a surf shop in the valley? Beatched was located in Oak View at 584 N. Ventura Ave (aka Highway 33). It was in business from 1995 - 2002. Read more about the store in a 2001 Ojai Valley Neighbors article on 

​This building, with a pretty blue awning outside and delicious food inside, is on Ojai Ave between the public library and the movie theater. But in the 1950s and 1960s it was home of the Topa Topa Cafe. Read a delightful article written,  "Winn's love prompted meat loaf generosity", written in 1989 right here. You're going to love this look back in time. 

This is a portrait of Judge James McKay. He was the Ojai Valley's justice of the peace from 1887 to 1904. We didn't have a courthouse so he often held court in his home. When the weather was warm, he heard cases outside under a big oak tree in his yard. Read more about him here on Ojai ​

Forest Mashburn is standing at Rotary Park, next to the Ojai Valley Trail. Before the trail was built there was a lumberyard in this location. But initially it was a railroad passenger pick up station known as Grant Station. Read about how the railroad came to the valley, and the  celebration held when the first passenger train arrived in Ojai in 1898. You'll find it right here on 

​Every time you walk under the pergola in front of Libbey Park, you pass a water fountain. Did you know it's named for Evelyn Nordhoff? America's first female bookbinder and printmaker, she was the daughter of Charles Nordhoff for whom our community was originally named. Read more about this fascinating woman here, and then go have a drink of water in her honor.  

​When driving into the Ojai Valley from Ventura this sign in Casitas Springs proudly proclaims it as the former home of musical legend Johnny Cash. But long ago the area was known by another name: Stony Flat. Read an interesting short article about cattle drives from days gone by here. It's an article by Howard Bald that appeared in the Ojai Valley News in 1973. 

​This property on Ventura Ave in Mira Monte was Perl's Nursery, then later Clapp's Nursery. But if you go way back to the early 1900s the property was used to a wood camp where wood was stored that had been cut from a large area bordered by Villanova school, to the camp, through Mira Monte and over to Rice Road. The firewood was undoubtedly shipped to market on the railroad. Rad more about it, and local wine, here on It's another short article  written in the 1970s by Howard Bald.

This was the Valley Market. Today it is Ace Hardware in Meiners Oaks. Read a short, interesting article about the owner and his business methods here. 

​With fires ranging in California, we are reminded of the brave men who fought forest fires in the back country in years gone by. Read about some of them in a brief article by Howard Bald  on our affiliate website, here.  

This structure on Signal Street might have been the first US Forest Service Ranger station in Ojai. 

This photograph shows the Bank of America and the Cattywampus Craft / Beacon Coffee buildings. These lots, on Ojai Ave at Blanche Street, were the location of  Constable Andy  Van Curren's home and Ojai's first jail. Read more about early "hoodlums" and "smart alecs" in an article Howard Bald wrote in 1972. Find it right here. 

This is the Woman's Club building located at 441 E. Ojai Ave. The Woman's Club has a long history of working to improve our community. Read more about the club and their long record of service to the valley on 

Did you know Fox Canyon along Shelf Road was a shooting range in the 1970s? Read about it on

Did you know that Ojai Valley Men's League changed their name to the Chamber of Commerce in 1927? Read about their founding, the Committee of Fifteen, and other early civic organizations on Ojai History . com. 

​El Toro Road runs through the Arbolada neighborhood from Foothill road to Del Norte. 

Have you ever wondered how it got it's name? El Toro is Spanish for The Bull road. This road used to lead to a slaughterhouse  located on the west side of the Arbolada, not far from Foothill Road. Read more about it here in a first hand account of early life in Ojai written by Howard Bald. 

Oak trees were planted on both sides of W. Ojai Ave by the Ojai Valley Garden Club. The first trees were planted to honor the unknown soldier killed during World War I. Later various Ojai people were honored by the club with a tree. Read more about the Garden Club here. ​

On May 11, 1946 downtown Ojai was full of people dancing in the street. What was it all about? A folk dancing festival!  Read about it on

Water is an important issue in the valley. The Gridley Mutual Water Company installed this water line from the Gridley Ranch water- tunnel to several homes on Foothill Road, including Charles Pratt's and Edward D. Libbey's residences. Read about it and other water projects from a 1946 article on our affiliate website,

​This is Lake Matilija. Located in Matilija Canyon, it is accessed a few miles out of the Ojai Valley off of Highway 33 in Los Padres National Forest.  Read more about the lake and other Recreational Facilities from a 1958 article on the Ojai History . com website. The Ojai Tennis Tournament and more, are included.  

​Here is a photograph of Cliff Runte (left) and Ojai Ranger John Parkingson (right) taken inside the nOrdhoff Lookout Tower in 1961. The tower was on top of Nordhoff Peak, northward of the Ojai Valley. Read more about the forest in 1961 from an article that ran in the local paper that year. It's right here, on our affiliate website. 

What was famous surfer Duke Paoa Kahanamoku doing in Ojai in 1922? Not surfing. The Olympian gave Sherman Day Thacher and his students at The Thacher School a free style swimming lesson. You won't believe where the lesson was taught though - you better jump over here to read about it on the Ojai site. ​

 Who is this handsome guy? And what is his connection with the Ojai Valley?

It's Thornton B. Wilder. He attended The Thacher School before going on to become a celebrated playwright and novelist. He won three Pulitzer Prizes, including one for the play Our Town. Read more about his alma mater, and view images, from a short article on The Thacher School, published in a 1946 book called The Story of the Ojai Valley. Just go here to find it on Ojai ​

Reyes Peak and the Jacinto Reyes National Scenic Byway were named in honor of Jacinto Damien Reyes. A long time forest ranger and explorer, he helped extinguish the terrible Matilija-Wheeler Canyon fire of 1917. Read more about him, and others important to the valley in a short illustrated article entitled The Spanish Settlers here.

​Do you know the significance of the Topa Topa Ranch to local history? The Ojai valley's orange industry got its start there! Find out more when you read a short article, Singular Characters, on the Ojai website.

​This is a photo of the first Ojai Day, April 7, 1917. It was the day the community celebrated the transformation from dusty old Nordhoff into the newly renovated community of Ojai. The name change had just approved by the government, and the Arcade, Pergola and Post Office tower were newly built. Read about The Meaning of Ojai Day here

​Where was this photograph taken and where does the walkway lead? You recognize it.

​This archway leads from Ojai Ave to the rear of the arcade. Beautiful today, for decades the area behind the arcade was not very attractive. Read about the transformation with a clickety click. 

​Do you recognize this building? It's one of the most frequented buildings in the valley. It started out as Nordhoff Union High School, but today it's the Matilija Junior High gymnasium.  Read about it here, in a short article entitled Public Secondary. 

People are always curious about Matilija Hot Springs which has been closed to the public for many years. This is the road 
 that went to the springs and dam. Read about Matilija Hot Springs' colorful history here. 

​This is Deepcat Lake. When this photograph was taken it was the second largest lake in Ventura County. Never heard of it? Read more here.  It's a vintage article from a local publication c1953 entitled El Rancho Cola.

​If you've never heard of Good Will Day, you'll want to read about it the little-known holiday that used to be celebrated in the Ojai Valley. Go here for a short article about the early public school and its emphasis on world fellowship and peace. 

​This was The George Thacher Memorial Free Library, Ojai's first library. Read about how the library was the center of the community here, in an article written by Mr. Ojai, David Mason.  You'll learn it's original location, why it was moved, and when the city's current library was built.

Orchid Town was an Ojai Valley attraction in the 1940s and 1950s. A western town was built as a backdrop for beds of orchids. The business sold orchids all over the country and beyond. See images and read all about it here. 

​This is a ringtail cat (or is it the skinniest racoon you ever saw?). Read more about these elusive creatures in a short, interesting and funny article here. They were called "miner's cats" because early prospectors used them as mousers. 

​Bill Baker certainly fit his name. He baked for locals, and celebrities including United States Presidents. Read all about him, lima bean bread and his bakery here, on our website. His bakery was located at 457 E. Ojai Ave, currently the location of AZU Restaurant. 

​The man in the middle of this c1910 photograph built the Topa Topa, Ocean View and Pratt trails. He is George Bald for whom Bald street in Ojai is named.  Read more about this interesting person who impacted the Ojai Valley here, on our website. 

​Water means life, especially for agriculture. This antique water-well drilling machine was probably used onteh Friend homestead on Grand Avenue near San Antonio School. Murky Water is a very interesting read about water and wells, drought and farms.  

 This bent sycamore tree lives on the western side of Libbey Bowl. It is suspected that Native Americans bent the tree when it was young and pliable to note a location of importance. You can read more about the trees in Libbey Park here. 

The name of this plant is Juncus Rush. The Chumash used it to make baskets. The complicated task of basket weaving began with harvesting the plants. Read all about it here. The article is called Tis the Season for Making Chumash Baskets. 

​This is Edward D. Libbey, a glass manufacturer (Libbey Glass) from Toledo, Ohio. He built a home on Foothill road and a barn at the upper end of Del Norte Road. Through his efforts, Ojai was transformed. Read all about it here.

​Effie May Skelton was a force of nature. She was a founding member of the Ojai Valley Museum and manned the museum for 20 years as a volunteer! Click here to read more about this dynamic lady who started from small beginnings (she only weighed 1 1/2 pounds at birth!) and really made a difference by saving and sharing the history of the Ojai Valley. 
Don Fernando Tico was gifted the entire Ojai Valley of over 17,000 acres by the Mexican government after Mexico superseded Spanish control of Alta California. Read more about Tico and land in the Ojai Valley  here. ​

​​After laying out the town, Royce Gaylord Surdam wanted to name it Topa Topa. But he yielded to the request of hotel owner Mrs. Blumberg, who suggested Nordhoff. 
Can you guess how much an acre of land in the new town cost? You'll probably be shocked. Find out the cost, along with more about Surdam and the town's formation in a short article just by clicking here. 

​This is Robert Ayers. He, his wife and their seven children were the first American family to settle in the Ojai Valley. Read more about the Ayers when there were no roads in Ojai here.  One of Robert's son, Frank Ayers, built a house that still stands on Grand Ave. 

Наконец он поднял голову: - ТРАНСТЕКСТ наткнулся на нечто непостижимое.  - Он опять замолчал. Сьюзан ждала продолжения, но его не последовало. - Больше трех часов. Стратмор кивнул.

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