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From the time of the first Native American inhabitants to today, Walnut Creek has been an area rich in history. Today’s Walnut Creek reflects the influences of those first Native Americans as well as Spanish explorers and the first Mexican and the first American settlers.

With more than 165 years of history as a community, Walnut Creek has much to celebrate about its past and much to remember as we set a path for the future.

The First Inhabitants Spanish explorers meeting with local Native Americans

People have been living in the Walnut Creek area for thousands of years. When Spanish explorers first sighted Mt. Diablo in 1772, the area was home to the “Volvons,” a tribe of the Bay Miwok. By the early 1800s, most Native Americans had been driven from their lands by the Spanish settlers and were living at either Mission San Francisco de Asis (Mission Dolores) or Mission San Jose.

Following the Mexican Revolution in 1821, Mexico acquired the California territory. To protect its new territories to the north, the Mexican government made large grants of former mission lands to encourage settlement, including four in the Walnut Creek area. Among these was a grant of nearly 18,000 acres to Doņa Juana Sanchez de Pacheco in recognition of the military service of her husband, Miguel. In his memory, she renamed her land Rancho San Miguel. Principally used for cattle grazing, the rancho included the present-day Ygnacio Valley and parts west of Shell Ridge near downtown. Eventually, she deeded her property to two grandsons, Ysidro and Ygnacio Sibrian, the namesake of the Valley and the Road.

In 1849, the first American settler, William Slusher, established what would become Walnut Creek when he built a cabin on the west bank of Arroyo de las Nueces (also called Nuts Creek). The cabin stood near the intersection of present-day Main Street and Mt. Diablo Boulevard and near Liberty Bell Plaza.

The Gold Rush and California’s statehood in 1850 accelerated the new community’s growth. Commerce arrived in 1855 when Milo Hough built a hotel called the Walnut Creek House near the intersection of Main Street and Civic Drive. A blacksmith shop and a store were soon built nearby.

By the early 1900s, Walnut Creek was well on its way to becoming a city. With the opening of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in 1936 and the Caldecott Tunnel in 1937, Walnut Creek residents could travel by car or bus to San Francisco in less than an hour. This and the return of veterans from World War II ushered in the modern era of tremendous growth in Walnut Creek.

From 1950 to 1960, the City’s population quadrupled from 2,240 to 9,903 and then it again quadrupled from 1960 to 1970, reaching 39,844. During these 20 years, Walnut Creek was the fastest-growing community in California.
On Oct. 4, 1990, Walnut Creek made the “international map” when renowned entertainers Bob Hope, Joel Grey, Vic Damone, and Diahann Carroll took the stage for the opening of the City’s new Regional Center for the Arts.

In 2014, Walnut Creek celebrated its Centennial – its 100th year since incorporation. The year-long celebration culminated with a community-wide Birthday Festival in October.