City of Lompoc
Lompoc, California - City of Flowers
Lompoc (pronounced Lom-poke) was originally settled by the Chumash Indians who recognized the majesty of this region and made it the heart of their society. Lompoc is a Chumash word which has had several interpretations over the years. "Where the Water Breaks Through" and "Land of Many Lakes" are two of the earliest translations. Known today as the Valley of Flowers, this rich valley is the nation’s most prolific flower seed producing region. Cool ocean breezes give Lompoc a wonderful year-round climate, producing a lush environment for the production of vegetables.
The Chumash and their predecessors lived in the Lompoc Valley for nearly 10,000 years prior to European contact. The establishment of La Purisima Concepcion de Maria Santisima Mission (the eleventh in the chain of 21 Alta California Missions) in 1787 marked the earliest European settlement in the Lompoc Valley. The original mission was destroyed by an earthquake in 1812. Remnants of the mission can be seen at this site at the end of South F Street, which has been preserved as a State Historical Landmark. The mission was rebuilt over several years beginning in 1813 at its current location on the north side of the Valley. In the 1930's, the Civilian Conservation Corps completely restored La Purisima Mission resulting in the most complete and most authentically restored in the mission system. La Purisima Mission is now an historic State Park.
The Lompoc Land Company was formed and incorporated in August of 1874 for the purpose of purchasing almost 43,000 acres to establish a temperance colony. A land rush ensued with fierce bidding forcing land prices to skyrocket in just one day. The temperance colony flourished, despite being located on the stage line midway between the "wicked" cities of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. Liquor inevitably found its way into the town via passing stagecoaches. Local druggists were also known to stock alcohol "for medicinal purposes." The City of Lompoc was incorporated on August 13, 1888. At that time the courts ruled that the temperance clause included in all deeds to that time was unenforceable, since there was no reversion clause. The lands could not revert to the Lompoc Valley Land Colony, since it had disbanded years earlier. Temperance, therefore, ended with the incorporation of the City.
A number of wharves were constructed along the coast during the early days of the colony, serving as shipping points for incoming supplies and outgoing agricultural produce until the turn of the century when the railroad replaced shipping as the primary means of commercial transportation.
The completion of the coastal railroad between San Francisco and Los Angeles in 1901, and the subsequent extension of a spur into Lompoc, provided the impetus for growth in the Valley. Fields were cleared and leveled for agricultural production of specialized crops including flower seeds. The flower seed industry so dominated agricultural production that the area was dubbed The Valley of Flowers. The Johns-Manville Corporation and others began the mining of diatomaceous earth in the southern hills. The mining industry continues to be a major employer.
The Lompoc Valley responded to the Shuttle disaster by focusing on tourism as a means of fighting it way through the recession. By focusing on the natural beauty of the Valley, its flower industry, the pristine Central Coast, and by developing a successful downtown mural program, the City of Lompoc has built an excellent tourism industry that is to this day a primary component of the Lompoc economy. Today, the City of Lompoc is dubbed The City of Arts and Flowers.
In 1941, Camp Cooke was established as an Army training base. It later became Cooke Air Force Base and was renamed Vandenberg Air Force Base in 1958. The Base was the first missile base of the United States Air Force. The Space Shuttle program was slated to begin launches in the late 1980's. However, the when the Challenger exploded during take-off in 1986, the West Coast Shuttle Program was terminated, leaving Lompoc in a severe recession.
The Bank Dick
The controversy often arises over whether or not the W.C. Fields movie, "The Bank Dick" was filmed in Lompoc. While Fields most certainly visited the area, the movie was not actually filmed in Lompoc. Fields was attracted to unique names, hence the name of the writer of the film, "Mahatma Kane Jeeves," (My Hat, My Cane, Jeeves) a nom de plume for Fields himself. He found "Lompoc" interesting by mispronouncing it as "lom-pock." His fascination may have begun through his close friendship with Hollywood actor Morgan Wallace, who was born in Lompoc. The movie did not sit well with local residents because of Field's mispronunciation. Over the years, however, it has attracted visitors to town searching for the Black Pussy Cat Cafe and the New Old Lompoc House.
We have scrutinized the DVD version of the movie in slow motion and by pausing the picture. None of the background shots are of Lompoc. The streets in the movie are dirt. By 1940, when this film was made, Lompoc's streets were paved. The middle of town as portrayed in the movie was small and picturesque with what appears to be a convergence of several streets. Lompoc's main intersection is the convergence of two streets, both 100 feet wide. In addition, Lompoc's residential streets and downtown were not as quaint or midwestern in appearance as was shown in the movie. Many of our longtime residents also corroborate the fact that the film was not filmed in Lompoc. Some years ago we went to Universal Studios in Southern California. During the tram ride of the back lot, the guide stated, "This is the set where W.C. Fields', "The Bank Dick" was filmed."
The Lompoc Museum
Lompoc's old Carnegie building, one of seven Classic Revival Carnegies designed by William Weeks in the "temple style," is now an historical and archaeological museum. It was designated Lompoc Historical Landmark No. 1 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.
The women of the community were instrumental in negotiations for Carnegie funding. A small library had been provided in a storefront on North H Street until the sum of $10,000 was received from the Andrew Carnegie Corporation. During his lifetime, Andrew Carnegie built 2,811 free libraries in all. Of these, 1,946 were located in the United States – at least one in every state except Rhode Island -- 660 in Britain and Ireland, 156 in Canada. A handful of libraries were also scattered in places like New Zealand, the West Indies and even Fiji. A.D. Burke constructed Lompoc's library building which opened in 1911. The women of the Civic Club raised funds to provide books for the new library.
In 1969 a new library facility was constructed and the Carnegie building became the Lompoc museum, housing the Clarence Ruth collection of Native American Artifacts on the main floor, as well as the Historical Society Gallery and Centeno Gallery at the basement level.
Visit our LOMPOC MUSEUM page.