History of Carmel

Date:  3/29/2011
Category:  Press Release

Spanish explorer, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, first sighted the white-sand beach and pine forest of Carmel 50 years after Columbus discovered America. In 1602, another venturesome Spaniard, Sebastian Vizcaino, and three Carmelite friars found a river valley that they named "El Rio Carmelo." On June 3, 1771, Father Junipero Serra founded the second California mission, which still stands on the edge of present day Carmel-by-the-Sea. The mission was secularized in 1833 and the City of Carmel incorporated on October 31, 1916.

The small village of Carmel-by-the-Sea represents a microcosm of everything that has contributed to the California dream -- independence, creativity and tireless spirit. Carmel's early residents, which included authors George Sterling and Jack London and poet Robinson Jeffers, settled in Carmel in tents, built smoky fires in the woods, picnicked on the beach and cooked abalone stew in the fireplace.

These early inhabitants were determined to create an intellectual oasis on the inspiring, sparsely populated Central Coast of California. Further prompted by the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906, members of the city's cultural community decided to make Carmel their permanent home. Their migration firmly established Carmel as the progressive artistic and cultural hub in Northern California.

Intent on promoting an environment conducive to creativity, Carmel's founders fought to ensure the proliferation and appreciation of art, drama and literature. By 1915, the Outdoor Forest Theater was presenting celebrated performances and the theater became a central part of Carmel life.

The Carmel library boasted almost 3,000 volumes -- proof that the village maintained a special appreciation for history and the arts. Additionally, every issue of the local paper, the Carmel Pine Cone, featured original poetry, and local theater productions often commanded the lead story on page one.

By the time Carmel-by-the-Sea became a city in 1916, the population had grown to almost 450. The village was composed of luminaries such as authors Sinclair Lewis, Mary Austin and Lincoln Steffens. At one point, local writers Grace Sartwell Mason, Frederick Becholdt and Harry Leon Wilson all appeared in the same week's edition of the Saturday Evening Post. And, legend has it that Robert Louis Stevenson received his inspiration for Treasure Island while walking on the beach near Point Lobos.

The natural environment was also of primary concern to the residents of Carmel, who were dedicated to the preservation of the sparkling blue seas and majestic Monterey pine trees. To that end, in 1917, Ordinance No. 7 was adopted, which made it a misdemeanor to "cut down, remove, injure or mutilate any tree, shrub or bush growing or standing on any of the streets, squares, parks or public places." The law is still on the books and is strictly enforced. Their efforts have resulted in a legacy of external harmony where the ocean, land and native creatures have remained relatively untouched.

During the 1920s, Carmel-by-the-Sea, like the rest of the nation, flourished in an economy run rampant. But as the Great Depression took hold, real estate prices tumbled for the first time. Some locals bemoaned the fact that grocers no longer offered personal credit to Carmel's starving writer class. Said one wag, "Time was when the Carmel grocer was big brother to many a writer and artist struggling toward fame and a check that would pay for ham and eggs." The economic situation improved when Roosevelt took over the Presidency, and 50 local writers found jobs with the Federal Writing Project, whose office occupied a small cubby next to the village post office.

Having weathered its way through World War II, during the 1960s, Carmel-by-the-Sea continued on the forefront of creativity. Lucky tourists could watch Donald Teague demonstrate the development of his illustration for Sergeant Houck, a story in Colliers. Or for those who preferred photography, Edward Weston's work was displayed at the New Group Gallery's first photographic exhibition. Isaac Stern thrilled music lovers with a program for the Carmel Music Society.

During the 1960s and '70s, Carmel strengthened and grew, with an increasing amount of business activity taking place downtown. Artists continued to reside in the village, quite often transcending modern changes in the city. The list of creative residents was endless: impressionist artist William Ritschel, noted psychologist Dr. Eric Berne and Leon Uris, author of Exodus.

Carmel was introduced into the international spotlight during the mid-1980's, when motion-picture star, Clint Eastwood, served a two-year stint as mayor. Through the years, Carmel’s small-town charm and appreciation of art and culture has remained intact. Today, there is a new breed of artist who may be more private, but the feeling of those who create from the unknown still abounds. Carmel-by-the-Sea continues to provide visitors with a taste of history, past and present, and a glimpse toward tomorrow.

The Carmel Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Information Center represents the city's eclectic shops, galleries, restaurants, businesses and professional services. The Carmel Chamber of Commerce is located on San Carlos between 5th and 6th Streets. The mailing address is P.O. Box 4444, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California 93291. For further information or to receive a guide to Carmel-by-the-Sea, call (831) 624-2522 or toll-free at (800) 550-4333. The website is www.carmelcalifornia.org.

Nowadays, Carmel is known for its beautiful ocean views, luxury real estate, white sand beaches, quaint downtown area with art galleries, fabulous dining, shopping, small town politics and of course we can't leave out the 100 year old Carmel cottages that a spread throughout the town.  People from all over the world flock to the village to experience all this town has to offer.  

If you are interested in Carmel, CA Real Estate, be sure to check out our Carmel Real Estate Page.