HISTORY OF WALNUT CREEK
The first known inhabitants of the Walnut Creek area were the Bolbones Indians. Following them, the first Spanish explorers came to the region in March 1772. California later became a possession of Mexico following the Mexican Revolution in 1821.
Mexico created four large land grants in the Walnut Creek area to encourage settlement in the newly-acquired territory. A grant of nearly 18,000 acres, which stretched from downtown Walnut Creek to Clayton, was made to Dona Juana Sanchez de Pacheco, whose husband Miguel had been a war hero for Mexico. She deeded her property to two grandsons, Ygnacio and Ysidro Sibrian.
In about 1850, Ygnacio Sibrian built the first roofed residence in the valley that was later named for him. Following the Mexican-American War, California became a United States territory and subsequently the 31st state in 1850.
A “CROSSROADS” BECOMES A CITY
Walnut Creek was first known as “The Corners,” where the roads leading from Pacheco and Lafayette converged. Today those “corners” are at the intersection of Mt. Diablo Boulevard and North Main Street. The area’s first settler was a squatter named William Slusher. In 1849, Slusher built the first roofed abode on the bank of what was then known as “Nuts Creek” (in the area of the Broadway Plaza parking garage).
By 1855, Milo Hough of Lafayette began developing the Corners and built a hotel called the “Walnut Creek House.” A blacksmith shop and a store were soon built nearby. A year later, Hiram Penniman laid out the first town site and realigned what is now Main Street. Penniman later built the ranch house that is now the Shadelands Ranch Historical Museum.
Continued growth led to the establishment of a U.S. Post Office in December 1862, and the community was renamed “Walnut Creek.” The downtown street patterns laid out by pioneer Homer Shuey in 1871-72 can still be found today. On October 21, 1914 the original town and surrounding area (comprising 500 acres) were incorporated as the eighth city in Contra Costa County.
Growth in Walnut Creek accelerated with the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1891. Walnut Creek became a link in the transcontinental railroad line, making it more easily accessible from other East Bay cities. By March 1913, regular passenger and freight service was operating between Walnut Creek and Oakland.
The popularity of train travel waned with the emergence of the automobile and the completion of the Bay Bridge and Caldecott Tunnel in 1937. As a result, regular commuter railroad service ended in 1941.
Walnut Creek entered its modern era of growth in 1951 with the opening of the Broadway Shopping Center, the first major retail center in Contra Costa County. Taxable sales skyrocketed from $9 million in 1950 to $20 million in 1955. The city’s population also experienced a boom – from 2,460 in 1950 to 9,903 in 1960. Today the estimated population is 64,007 and retail sales exceed $2 billion.
With the approval of Bay Area voters in 1962, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART) returned train travel to Walnut Creek. A BART station was established at Ygnacio Valley Road and Interstate 680 in 1973. The block of 146 small, post-World War II houses to the north of the BART station was gradually converted to mid-rise office buildings and became known as the “Golden Triangle.” By 1985, one million square feet of new office space had been constructed in this area.