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Historical Timeline of Walnut Creek

The 1800s

  • 1849

    First settler William Slusher builds house on Nuts Creek.
  • 1850

    California becomes the 31st state.
  • 1852

    Population of The Corners:  7
  • 1855

    Milo Hough builds first hotel and store called The Walnut Creek House, first known use of the English for Arroyo de las Nueces, the name first given the creek by the Spanish.
  • 1856

    Hiram Penniman lays out first town site and realigns what is to become Main Street.
  • 1860

    Central School District established.
  • 1862

    Corners is renamed Walnut Creek when U.S. Post Office is established.
  • 1867

    The Walnut Creek House burns down; it is later rebuilt.
  • 1869

    Methodist Church is established.
    Voters reject two ballot measures to establish a school.
  • 1870

    Population: 94
  • 1871

    Albert Sherburne takes over former Peel store after Lawrence Peel dies.
    First grammar school, Walnut Creek Central School, built at end of School (Locust) Street.
  • 1872

    Oldest-known photograph of Walnut Creek taken of Sherburne store on Main Street.
    After filing subdivision map in 1871, Homer Shuey lays out larger subdivision, establishing street pattern for present-day downtown Walnut Creek.

    Walnut Creek Methodist Church built.

  • 1878

    Presbyterian Church established.
  • 1879

    Sherburne store burns down.
    W.B. Rogers builds Rogers Hotel at corner of Main and Walker (now Duncan) Streets.
  • 1880

    Population: 300
    Sherburne store rebuilt and survives to be oldest commercial building on Main Street.
  • 1881

    Concord telephone exchange established.
  • 1882

    Walnut Creek Independent newspaper established.
  • 1884

    St. Mary’s Catholic Church and Walnut Creek Presbyterian Church built.
  • 1889

    St. Paul’s Episcopal Church opens.
  • 1890

    Population: 447
  • 1891

    Southern Pacific inaugurates train service to Walnut Creek.
  • 1894

    Walnut Creek Sentinel newspaper begins, lasts 4 months.
  • 1897

    Population: 450
    First city baseball team organized to play teams from nearby towns.
  • 1898

    Walnut Creek Red Cross chapter founded by Eva Leech.
  • 1899

    Telephone exchange has six subscribers.
    Francisco “Frank” Borges buys 700-acre cattle ranch in hills south of Ygnacio Valley.


  • 1902

    Hiram Penniman begins building home on Shadelands Ranch.
  • 1903

    Old Broadway Tunnel opens, connecting Contra Costa and Alameda counties.
    Joseph Silveira opens Valley Mercantile on Main Street, offering first banking services.
  • 1907

    San Ramon Valley bank becomes first financial institution.
  • 1910

    First electric power lines installed.
    Stow Building constructed on Main Street, becoming first building in town to be wired for electricity.
    Oakland, Antioch & Eastern Electric Railway Bay Point to Walnut Creek line completed.
    Lawrence brothers take over Walnut Creek Meat Market.
  • 1911

    Contra Costa Courier Journal, town’s third newspaper, launched.
    Womens’s Improvement Club (town’s first service group) organized.
    Central School District renamed Walnut Creek School District.
    Grape Carnival held.
  • 1912

    New Walnut Creek School built on site of Central Grammar School.
    The Businessmen’s Association organized, the town’s second service organization.
  • 1913

    First National Bank opened.


  • 1914

    Population: 500.
    Incorporation approved by Walnut Creek voters; village becomes 8th city of Contra Costa County.
    Harry Spencer elected first president (mayor) of Board of Trustees.
  • 1916

    Carnegie Library opens at Main and East (now Giammona) Streets on land donated by Robert Noble Burgess with a grant from the Carnegie Library Foundation.
  • 1918

    First sewer installed on Main Street.
    First water meters installed as city moves away from reliance on wells.
  • 1920

    Population: 538
    First movie theater, the Ramona, opens.
    Standard Oil opens town’s first service station.

    Walnut Growers Association opens 26,000-square-foot walnut processing plant on Walnut Avenue (Civic Drive) next to railroad tracks.

  • 1921

    Town Council authorizes establishment of volunteer fire department.
    Main Street is paved.
  • 1924

    Illuminated Walnut Creek sign installed across Main Street.
    Rogers Hotel is sold and renamed Ala Costa Inn.
  • 1925

    Veterans Memorial building dedicated at Locust and Lafayette streets (now Mt. Diablo Boulevard).
    Walnut Creek Cannery opens on Main Street (current site of Target store).
    City limits expanded.
  • 1926

    Population: 800
    Chamber of Commerce formed.
    County forms Central Fire Protection District and opens first fire station on Bonanza Street.
  • 1927

    Stop signs installed at all intersections along Main and Bonanza Streets.
  • 1928

    Theodore Berling hired as first police chief.
    City buys water plant.
    Board of Trustees becomes Town Council.
  • 1929

    Town Council becomes City Council.

1930s and 1940s

  • 1930

    Population: 1,014
    Ramona Theater shows its first “talking” picture.
  • 1931

    The Walnut Kernel, town’s fourth newspaper, launched.
    Eva Leech, wife of Dr. Claude Leech, becomes first woman to serve on City Council.
  • 1933

    Professional & Business Women’s Club formed.
  • 1934

    Ramona Theater changes owners and is renamed Walnut Creek Theater.
  • 1936

    First Walnut Festival and parade held on Locust Street.
  • 1937

    Women’s Club clubhouse built on Lincoln Avenue.
    El Rey Theater opens.
    Water and sewer systems modernized.
  • 1939

    Acalanes High School opens.
    Lommel’s Creamery opens at Main Street and Ygnacio Ave. (Civic Dr.)
    St. Mary’s Church on Mt. Diablo Blvd. opens.
  • 1940

    Population: 1,578
    Dial telephone service replaces operator-assisted service.
  • 1941

    Newell home at corner of South Main Street and Newell Avenue is converted to Art and Garden Center, town’s first cultural destination.
    Passenger service ends on Sacramento Northern electric railway.
  • 1944

    St. Paul’s Episcopal Mission becomes a parish church.
    Greyhound Bus Lines puts bus stop at Lommel’s Creamery.
  • 1945

    Liquor store owner Chet Arthur remodels old Sherburne building.
  • 1946

    Central Contra Costa Sanitary District forms to provide modern sewer services.
    First city half-cent sales tax implemented.
  • 1947

    Population: 2,201
    Post Office moves to East Street.
    Dean Lesher buys the Courier-Journal.
    First parking meters installed downtown.
  • 1948

    El Curtola Hotel (Rogers Hotel) changes name to Las Palmas Hotel.
    Walnut Creek officially changes from a “town” to a “city.”
    House-to-house postal service begins.
    First traffic lights installed on Main Street.
  • 1949

    29 street names changed in city.

    Buena Vista and Parkmead schools open.

    City Park (now Civic Park) – the City’s first – opens on the grounds of the old sewer farm.

1950s and 1960s

  • 1950

    Population: 2,240
    Suburban bus line started by local merchants.
    Elks Lodge organized.
    St. Paul’s Episcopal church moves to Trinity Avenue.
  • 1951

    Broadway Shopping Center opens with 38 stores and 1,500 parking spaces.
    Post Office moves to Locust Street.
    New City Hall opens.
    Soroptimists of Walnut Creek is formed.
    Las Lomas High School and Walnut Heights Elementary School open.
    Walnut Festival Association opens teen center in Civic Park (now Clay Arts Studio).
    American Red Cross is first to occupy building that later becomes Park Place.
  • 1952

    Courier-Journal renamed Contra Costa Times.
    Former Hiram Penniman house opens as Shadelands School for cerebral palsied children.
  • 1953

    Kaiser Foundation Hospital opens at South Main and Newell.
  • 1955

    Walnut Creek Intermediate School opens.
    Downtown flooded by severe winter storms.
    Eichler Company begins first major residential subdivision in Ygnacio Valley on former orchard tract.
  • 1956

    City hires Ira Gunn, first city manager.
    City annexes Larkey area.
    Walnut Acres and Murwood schools open.
  • 1957

    Work begins on I-680 freeway.
    To ease traffic congestion, Broadway is built with extensions of Cypress and Mt. Diablo Blvd. connecting it to the rest of downtown.
    Walnut Creek Grammar School closed and demolished.
  • 1958

    Downtown flooded.
    Indian Valley School opens.
  • 1959

    Las Palmas (Rogers) Hotel razed.
    Del Valle High School opens.
    New fire station built on Ygnacio Avenue (now Civic Drive) to replace original firehouse.
  • 1960

    Population: 9,903
    I-680/Highway 24 interchange opens, and Main Street no longer serves as a highway.
  • 1961

    Walnut Creek Library opens at 1644 N. Broadway.
  • 1962

    Diablo Junior Museum renamed for the late Alexander Lindsay, a Walnut Creek Schools trustee.
    Ygnacio Valley Road widened to four lanes.
  • 1963

    Civic Arts Department established.
  • 1964

    Rossmoor Leisure World sells 111 units on its first day.
    Last train travels on Sacramento Northern line.
  • 1965

    Alexander Lindsay Jr. Museum moves to EBMUD pump house in Larkey Park.
    John Muir Memorial Hospital opens on 10-acre site across from Heather Farm.
    City acquires abandoned Walnut Growers Association walnut warehouse and converts it to Civic Arts Theatre and Gallery.
  • 1966

    Valley Verde School opens.
  • 1967

    Walnut Creek Historical society holds first meeting.
    City finances construction of California Boulevard along abandoned railroad right of way.
  • 1968

    Bancroft School opens.
  • 1969

    Boundary Oak Golf Course opens.
    Post Office moves to North Broadway.
    Festival Cinema, first multiplex movie house, opens.

1970s and 1980s

  • 1970

    Population: 39,844
    City opens Heather Farm Park.
    Howe Homestead Park established.
  • 1972

    Clarke Memorial Swim Center opens in Heather Farm Park.
    Walnut Creek Historical Society opens Hiram Penniman’s 1903 family home as the Shadelands Ranch Historical Museum on property deeded to the City.

    Southern Pacific railroad station moved 100 feet south on Broadway and converted to restaurant.

  • 1973

    BART arrives in Walnut Creek.
  • 1974

    Voters approve $6.75 million open space bond.
    Northgate High School opens.
    Greyhound Bus Lines closes bus stop when Lommel’s Creamery closes.
  • 1975

    Ygnacio Valley (Thurman G. Casey Memorial) Library opens.
  • 1976

    President Ford visits Walnut Creek and dedicates Liberty Bell Plaza as a war memorial to commemorate nation’s bicentennial.
  • 1980

    Population: 54,410
    First of several high-rise office buildings to become known as The Golden Triangle constructed across from BART station.
  • 1981

    Old Borges Ranch listed on National Register of Historic Places.
    New City Hall opens on Main Street, replacing the original 1951 building on Civic Drive.
  • 1985

    Macerich Company acquires the 34-year-old Broadway Shopping Center, renames it Broadway Plaza, and gives it a multimillion-dollar makeover.
    Hiram Penniman House listed on National Register of Historic Places.
    In response to rapid commercial development and traffic congestion, voters approve Measures A and H, two growth-control measures to limit building heights and large commercial development.
  • 1987

    Civic Park gazebo built.
    City forms Sister City ties with Noceto, Italy.
    Demonstration gardens open at Heather Farm Garden Center, built in 1983.
  • 1988

    Civic Arts Theatre (Nuthouse) razed to build new performing and visual arts center.
  • 1989

    Caltrans begins work to rebuild I-680.


  • 1990

    Population: 60,743
    Regional (Lesher) Center for the Arts opens.
    Siofok, Hungary, becomes Walnut Creek’s second sister city.
  • 1992

    Lawrence Way bypass opens to divert freeway-bound traffic off North Main Street.
    Arbolado Park opens.
  • 1993

    New Lindsay Wildlife Museum opens.
  • 1994

    City pays $6 million for 221 acres of open space along Lime Ridge.
    South Locust Street garage is built.
  • 1995

    The South Broadway extension, a one-mile roadway that eases congestion at South Main Street and Newell Avenue, opens.
  • 1996

    Walden Park opens.
  • 1998

    Broadway Pointe, a new retail center in the heart of downtown, opens at the old Bank of America site, revitalizing an economically dormant block and the historic retail district north of Mt. Diablo Boulevard.
    Liberty Bell Plaza is redesigned to include a new fountain and trees.
    The Iron Horse Trail overcrossing of Ygnacio Valley Road opens.
    Tice Valley Gym opens.
  • 1999

    Construction of updated I-680/24 interchange completed.
  • 2000

    Population: 64,296
    Tice Valley sports field opens.
  • 2001

    New sports fields at Heather Farm Park open.
    Civic Arts Education – the largest such program in northern California – moves to Shadelands Arts Campus, the former Contra Costa Realtors offices in the Shadelands Business Park.
  • 2002

    City Hall expansion completed.
    Plaza Escuela retail center opens on site of original Walnut Creek grammar school.
  • 2003

    Alma Park opens.
    Two downtown retail centers open: Olympia Place, with Century 14 theaters, and The Corners.
  • 2004

    On Memorial Day, the City dedicates Veterans Memorial Plaza next to City Hall, a park-like monument to the sacrifices of local veterans.
    Final payment made on original $6.75 million bond, approved by voters in 1974, which funded city’s open space lands.
  • 2005

    City opens Skate Park in Heather Farm Park.
    Walnut Creek on Ice, seasonal ice rink, debuts in Civic Park.
    Central Concrete Supply Company on North Main Street – city’s last industrial enterprise – closes.
  • 2006

    In partnership with County Connection, City creates the Free Ride Trolley, which carries riders between the BART station through downtown and to Broadway Plaza.
    Old Veterans Memorial building on Locust Street razed to be replaced by new building in Lafayette that serves veterans from both cities.
  • 2007

    City opens off-leash Dog Park in Heather Farm Park.
    Lar Rieu Four Winds Park dedicated.
    Inaugural Chevron Family Theatre Festival held at Lesher Center for the Arts.
  • 2008

    After more than 45 years, Walnut Creek Library razed to construct new library.
  • 2009

    Voters approve Measure I – with a 72{af0148502216e0c653b80019e0f24e302afb7566027c2e8652900f94d085210f} “yes” – which allows Broadway Plaza to expand to add a Neiman Marcus department store.
  • 2010

    Population: 64,173
    New Walnut Creek Library opens.
    Lesher Center for the Arts celebrates its 20th Birthday.
  • 2011

    Open space expanded to include 22-acre Acalanes Ridge, in partnership with City of Lafayette, EB Regional Park District, and Muir Heritage Land Trust.
    City sponsors first Community Service Day, drawing more than 1,000 volunteers to help 42 different community projects.
    John Muir Medical Center-Walnut Creek celebrates the opening of its new facilities.
    New Creek Walk in Civic Park opens.
  • 2012

    Walnut Creek Rotary celebrates 75th Anniversary.
    BART and developers receive approvals for Walnut Creek Transit Village, a mixed-use community planned at the Walnut Creek BART station.
  • 2013

    Robert Stanley Dollar House (Rossmoor) listed on National Register of Historic Places.
  • 2014

    Community celebrates the city’s Centennial year with more than 150 community-sponsored events and activities.
    City opens all-abilities playground at Heather Farm Park with funding collaboration from Contra Costa County, East Bay Regional Park District, and Walnut Creek Civic Pride Foundation.
    Broadway Plaza begins multi-year renovation project.
    Centennial Grove dedicated at Heather Farm Park.
    To protect the environment, City adopts more stringent smoking regulations and single-use plastic bag and Styrofoam restrictions.
  • 2015

    Lesher Center for the Arts celebrates 25th Anniversary.