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History and Overview

History and Overview

Martinez is a moderate-sized city with an area of 13.1 square miles and a population of approximately 36,700. The city’s colorful history began with Don Ygnacio Martinez, an early nineteenth century commandant of the Presidio of San Francisco. Martinez was first lured to the Alhambra Valley when he received land grants from the Mexican government, one of which being the area of land where present-day Martinez can be found.

In 1849, the city was named after Martinez. Between that time, when Martinez was little more than a trading post, and 1876, when the city was incorporated, the gold rush played an integral role in the city’s economic standing. In 1850, Martinez was declared the seat of Contra Costa County, followed by the advent of a local Martinez newspaper in 1858, railroads in 1877 and the implementation of the local Sunset Telephone Company (later known as Pacific Bell) in 1881.

The gold rush wasn’t the only boon in Martinez’s history, however. Those that did not strike it rich mining gold often purchased farmland, leading to the foundations of several well-known California vineyards.

Today, Martinez’s past is never far from the minds of its people. The city continues to pave the way to high quality-of-life standards, safe neighborhoods and the irrefutable perks of California living, like proximity to hiking, fishing, boating and the people of Martinez’s favorite pastime, bocce ball.

The Martini is Born

In the midst of Martinez’s colorful history lies the invention of one of the most famous cocktails of all time, the Martini. As the story goes, a thirsty miner wanted to celebrate his 1874 gold mining success, so he entered a local saloon and handed over a handful of gold nuggets in exchange for a bottle of champagne. Because the saloon had no champagne, the bartender, Julio Richilieu, instead offered to fix the miner a “Martinez Special.” The drink was two-thirds gin, one-third vermouth and a dash of orange bitters poured over ice and an olive. Over time, the “z” in Martinez Special was dropped for fear that the name would be too difficult to pronounce under the influence of the cocktail. The corner of Masonic Street and Alhambra Avenue commemorate the birthplace of the Martini with a plaque.

Did you know?

1 | For more than 150 years, Martinez has served as the county seat for Contra Costa County.

2 | Martinez is the bocce ball capital of the United States, home to the largest bocce federation in the country.

3 | Martinez is the birthplace of Joe DiMaggio, famous New York Yankee slugger. You can see his boat, “Joltin’ Joe,” at the Marina.

4 | Martinez is the home of the martini – this famous cocktail was first invented and poured here in 1874 to a thirsty gold miner.

5 | Martinez has a vibrant cultural scene with a 1,000-seat Marina Amphitheater, a 500-seat indoor theater, Martinez Opera, Armandos live music and the Magic Dinner Theater.

6 | Forty-two trains a day pull into our Amtrak Intermodal Station, connecting Martinez to other regions.

7 | Selected as a “Tree City USA,” Martinez was honored for its extensive planting and care of trees.

8 | You can visit John Muir’s Home right here in Martinez. It’s a National Historic Site.

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