This month, Manhattan Beach celebrates its centennial. Known for its lively seaside promenade, the Strand, and for its associations with surf culture, the city has its origins as a coastal resort built atop shifting sand dunes of the South Bay.
Though 2012 marks 100 years since Manhattan Beach's municipal incorporation, the city's history stretches back thousands of years. For millennia, foragers from the nearby Tongva village of Chowig-na passed through present-day Manhattan Beach, searching for shellfish and other food supplies. After the arrival of Europeans, the area became home to the large cattle and sheep ranches of Mexican California. The 1888 arrival of the Santa Fe Railway -- engineered by the Redondo Land Company, which owned much of the land in the area -- provided a reliable transportation link between the South Bay shore and the booming city of Los Angeles.
Some of the railroad's first passengers were entrepreneurs who envisioned a community, as well as fortunes, built atop the coastal sand dunes. One group of early investors from Pasadena organized in 1897 as the Potencia Townsite Company with the intention of creating a seaside resort. The development's name, Potencia, reflected the founders' enthusiasm for an early hydroelectric plant that briefly -- and unreliably -- harnessed the power of crashing waves to light a seaside boardwalk.