The History of Pacific Palisades


Pastoral scene on the mesas that are today Pacific Palisades

From its first modest plat on the flatland, Pacific Palisades has grown rapidly in all directions-literally from the mountains to the sea-until it encompassed a challenging range of subdivisions and building sites, appealing to the tastes of conservative homeowners as well as to those adventuresome souls who preferred the more hazardous pleasures of canyons, bluffs, hillsides, and ridges.

Easter Sunrise Services on Peace Hill in 1922

As late as 1921, the land was divided into a few large plots within the boundaries of two Mexican land grants-the Rancho Boca de Santa Monicaand the Rancho San Vicente y Santa Monica. Whether owned by descendants of the grantees or by enterprising Yankees, the mesas were still planted in crops, the mountains were wilderness, and the few dirt roads were used by the horses and carts of the ranchers.

The Pascual Marquez Bath House, a favorite spot for vacationing beachhoers - 1887

Most of the canyons had names dating from Spanish and Indian days-Sentimiento, Santa YnezLos Liones, Los PulgasTemescalPotrero, and Santa MonicaSullivan and Mandeville canyons carried the names of early settlers, and Rustic bore its romantic name as early as the 1880's.

 Pacific Palisades in 1927, five years after its founding

A single road, the present-day Entrada, led from the city of Santa Monica down into Santa Monica Canyon where the Marquez family still lived on parcels of land inherited from Francisco Marquez, one of the original grantees of the Rancho Boca de Santa Monica. A second dirt track, named Marquez Road, continued up the western mesa as Chautauqua Boulevard does today, then turned west along the approximate line of Sunset Boulevard. Below the bluffs and along the shoreline, a narrow track called Malibu Roadled from Santa Monica to Topanga Canyon. All else was virgin territory.

Canyon School as it appeared on October 29,1894

Dr. Merle Smith of the First Methodist Church of Pasadena is credited with proposing a name for the new community when he stood with his committee on the bluff, looked out over the ocean, and exclaimed, "This is indeed Pacific Palisades." The idea was not entirely an original one, the Palisades Tract having been developed in Santa Monica by Robert C. Gillis fifteen years earlier.

Pacific Palisades Today

Today, with a population of 23,000 residents and 630 businesses, including retail shops, restaurants, and professional services, the "village" atmosphere still persists. Personal concern over the quality of the community remains high, bolstered by support from homeowners associations and numerous philanthropic and community organizations.

Sharon Schammel & John Wild
Sharon Schammel & John Wild
Previews Property Specialist