Anaheim, now the tenth largest city in California, began in 1857 as a colony of German farmers and vintners. Founding member George Hansen surveyed the original 200 acres which now comprises the city's downtown area, bounded by North, South, East and West streets. The city's name is a composition of "Ana" from the nearby Santa Ana river and "heim," German for home. Those early pioneers considered this location their "home by the river."
Farming was their occupation and lifestyle. Among the crops for the first few decades were grapes grown for wine. But a plague in the 1870's wiped out the vineyards and in their place, groves of citrus trees were planted. The first commercially oranges in Orange County were grown in Anaheim, where the growers attributed their success to the local hills which protected the fruit against the cold winds coming down from the mountains. Other crops included walnuts and chili peppers.
These first settlers were farmers, but they were also writers, artists and musicians. The first public buildings were not administrative facilities, but a school and an opera house.
The city was incorporated in 1876 with a population of 881. The little rural community grew slowly, but steadily for the next several decades. By 1920, the population had risen to 5,526, an agricultural community as tightly-knit as small towns can be. In 1887, the construction of the Santa Fe depot linked Anaheim's citrus growers with the East, providing vital markets for their golden crops.
The beginning of a local tradition began in 1924 with the first Anaheim Halloween Parade. Billed as the "Greatest Night Pageant West of Mardi Gras," the annual event drew some 150,000 spectators at the height of its popularity. Visitors lined the downtown streets and thousands more viewed the pageant from the La Palma Park grandstand.
Anaheim's small town lifestyle continued through the first half of the 20th century. Center Street was the hub of community activity, where people gathered to celebrate local events and festivities and to mark such national and international events as the end of both World Wars, the assassination of President John Kennedy and humanity's first step on the soil of the moon. In 1950, the town's population had grown to 14,556. But the sleepy little community would soon be propelled into the modern era.