3 Historical Facts You Didn't Know About Playa del Rey

  • Bill Ruane
  • 02/23/21

Playa del Rey—which, roughly translated, means "the King's beach" in Spanish—is widely regarded as one of Southern California's best beach towns. Located in the far western reaches of Los Angeles County, Playa del Rey has a long and colorful history.

Despite a flood of development, which has reshaped the community's boundaries for better and worse, the little burg of Playa del Rey has persevered. It remains one of L.A.'s best-kept secrets for residents and visitors alike.

Here are three historical facts you didn't know about Playa del Rey.

A Very Different Landscape

Playa del Rey once cast a very different silhouette than the one we know and love today. Once a sprawling expanse of fresh and saltwater wetlands, the area played host to European settlers and grazing cattle throughout the early 1800s. It was part-plain, part-swamp, and all-natural.

Later, and into the early 1900s, constant flooding reshaped the land, forming a lagoon adjacent to Ballona Creek. The immediate area became the center of life in Playa del Rey. The beautiful and upscale Hotel del Rey would stand here from the turn of the century until a fire brought it down in the 1920s.

The landscape would change again with Marina del Rey's dredging to the north in the 1950s and 1960s and the ongoing expansion of LAX to the south, squeezing PDR into its current footprint. But the community's distinct surf side personality hasn't been completely lost.

Call Me Playa for Short

As is the case for many cities, Playa del Rey's original moniker was born from land development. In 1921, developers Dickinson & Gillespie Co. advertised coastal, custom-built homes along a parcel of land called Palisades del Rey.

No longer the "last set of undeveloped sand dunes in L.A." as the company advertised, development accelerated. Ballona Creek was channeled in the 1930s, and the land was swallowed up by more and more housing. Eventually, the name was shortened, and the community christened Playa del Rey.

A Place to Play for Industry Players

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, at the height of California's beach scene, just off the coast of Playa del Rey's once-celebrated Surfridge neighborhood. The area was one of L.A.'s hottest surf spots and helped define the culture that gave us The Beach Boys.

Although the prolific surf scene has declined due to erosion prevention measures, Playa del Rey remains an idyllic oceanside draw for L.A.'s celebrity elite. During its early development, titans of Hollywood's Golden Age, including Charles Bickford and Cecil B, Demille, and Mel Blanc, owned beach houses here.

As the new development persisted, a cross-section of modern-day celebrities, including movie and television stars, and athletes would call the area home. Some recent residents include Sam Elliot, former Lakers head coach Phil Jackson, and singer Dawn Robinson.

Are you interested in buying or selling a home in Playa del Rey? Perhaps you're seeking more information on El Segundo homes for sale or Marina Del Rey real estate? Contact Bill Ruane today and allow his years of experience and expertise to help you navigate the process.

 

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