THE EARLY YEARS
Known as the Hub City, the City of Compton is one of the oldest cities in the Los Angeles county and the seventh to incorporate. The territory was settled in 1867 by 30 pioneering families led by Griffith Dickenson Compton.
Compton’s early settlers faced severe hardship. The weather was cold and wet, and gathering firewood required a three day-trip to the Pasadena mountains. Also, in the early years there were only two general stores miles away in the area: one in the pueblo of Los Angeles, the other in Wilmington. In 1868, the settlers built the first schoolhouse, which served as a church and community center.
Despite hardships, by the end of began to look to the future. They built the settlement which became known as Compton in 1869. Originally named Gibsonville, the town was later called Comptonville. Later, the name was shortened to Compton.
In January 1888, Thomas R. Dowles, William H. Carpenter, James J. Harsman, George H. Palmer and Randolph Sherer filed a petition with Los Angeles County for the incorporation of Compton. The City of Compton was officially incorporated on May 11, 1888. The new city, with a population of 500 people, held its first City Council meeting on May 14, 1888 in the home of William H. Carpenter.
THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
Voters approved adoption of a new municipal charter, which provided for the city manager form of government. Citizens celebrated opening of the Compton Airport. Compton Junior College was established. City administration moved to a new City Hall located at 600 N. Alameda Street.
On March 10, 1933, a devastating earthquake took lives, toppled schools and caused major damage to the main business district. The city began to shed the effects of the Great Depression of 1929, and the population increased.
Like Americans everywhere, the Compton residents participated in civilian and military efforts during World War II.
The first African American families moved to the area. Centennial High School was built to accommodate a growing student population.
Voters elected Douglas Dollarhide, the City’s first African American mayor. Two African Americans and one Mexican American were elected to the school board.
1970s - 1990s
Under the direction of the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), the City transformed over 1500 acres of unused and underutilized land into Walnut Industrial Park. This industrial and commercial complex houses some of the largest national and international corporations, including 3-M, Datsun, Ralphs and Xerox.
With routing of the Blue Line through the City, Compton constructed the MLK Jr. Transit Center. The center serves as a central resting point for bus transit carriers, with emphasis on interfacing with the Long Beach/Los Angeles Metro Blue Line System, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), Greyhound Bus Lines and the Compton Renaissance Transit.
Other construction projects of this time period included construction of a new City Hall at 205 South Willowbrook Avenue, construction of the Crystal Park Hotel and Casino (formerly Ramada Hotel and Convention Center), rebuilding of the downtown district, and construction of several hundred single-family homes, town homes and condominiums.
THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
2000s - Present
Compton greeted the 21st century as a multiracial, multicultural community of nearly 100,000 residents. The 2000 census recorded 56.8% of the population as Hispanic or Latino; 40.3 percent, Black or African American; 1.1%, Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, 0.7% Native American or Alaskan Native, and the balance Asian, White or other race.
Compton’s easy accessibility to and from five freeways and the affordability of its housing (median home price was $407,000 in December 2006) has drawn additional residents and sparked the interest of developers. In the first few years of the century, developers constructed over 100 new homes and built a new Rite Aide, Wells Fargo Bank, two Starbucks, and a number of retail/commercial centers. The burgeoning student population required the Compton Unified School District to construct William F. Jefferson Elementary School, the first new school in the district in 35 years.
In February 2007, construction began on the Gateway Towne Center, a 51-acre mixed-use commercial/residential project on Alameda Boulevard that will include a Target, Staples, 24-Hour Fitness, Marshalls, Home Depot, and Chili’s, among others. The center is expected to open in October 2007. Construction has also begun on 136 condominium units in a gated, mixed use complex on Tamarind Avenue.