Ojai, California

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Ojai (pronounced /ˈoʊhaɪ/ "oh-high") is a city in Ventura County, California, USA. It is situated in the Ojai Valley (10 miles long by 3 miles wide, approximately, or 16 kilometers by 5 kilometers), surrounded by hills and mountains. The population was 7,862 at the 2000 census. The April 2010, California Department of Finance estimates the population at 8,226,[1] making it the least populous incorporated city in the county.

Contents

History

Chumash Indians were the early inhabitants of the valley. They called it Ojai, which means "Valley of the Moon." The area became part of the Rancho Ojai Mexican land grant made to Fernando Tico in 1837, and he established a cattle ranch. Tico sold it in 1853 to prospectors searching for oil, without much success. By 1864, the area was settled.

The town was laid out in 1874 by real estate developer R.G. Surdam and named Nordhoff, California, in honor of the writer Charles Nordhoff. Leading up to and during World War I, American sentiment became increasingly anti-German. Across the United States, German and German-sounding place names were changed. As part of this trend, Nordhoff was renamed Ojai in 1917.[2][3]

The public high school in Ojai is still named Nordhoff High School. The public junior high school, named "Matilija," formerly served as Nordhoff Union High School and still features large tiles with the initials "NUHS" on the steps of the athletic field.

The main turning point in the development of the city was the coming of Edward Libbey, early owner of the Libbey Glass Company. He saw the valley and fell in love, thinking up many plans for expansion and beautification of the existing rustic town.

After fire destroyed much of the original western-style Nordhoff/Ojai in 1917, Libbey helped design, finance and build a new downtown more in line with the contemporary taste for Colonial-Revival architecture, including a Spanish-style arcade, a bell-tower reminiscent of the famous campanile in Havana, and a pergola opposite the arcade. These buildings still stand, and have come to serve as symbols of the city and the surrounding valley. To thank Libbey for his gifts to the town, the citizens proposed a celebration to take place on March 2 of each year. Libbey declined their offer to call it "Libbey Day," and instead suggested "Ojai Day." The celebration still takes place, each year in October.

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