Anaheim is now the 10th largest city in California, but its history dates back to 1857 to 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."
Anaheim is, in fact, made up of three different areas. Anaheim is made up primarily of residential housing, entertainment complexes, restaurants and hotels. It includes Disneyland and the Convention Center. It is generally considered to be the area west of the 57 Freeway. East Anaheim is an area that includes a mix of residential neighborhoods and manufacturing as well as Anaheim Stadium and The Pond. It is the area located between the 55 and 57 freeways. Anaheim Hills is primarily a residential community located in the foothills east of the 55 Freeway and South of the 91 Freeway. All told, the city is approximately 48 square miles.
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.
Anaheim's small town lifestyle continued through the first half of the 20th century. In 1950, the town's population had grown to 14,556. But the sleepy little community would soon be propelled into the modern era. With a schematic of the park drawn by his studio artists and a $10,000 construction budget, a man named Walt Disney presented a plan for a new kind of amusement park to the city of Burbank. To his stunned dismay, city officials, concerned that the project would become a permanent carnival, denied his request.
Taking a break from work one day, Walt jumped in his car and headed south in the freshly paved asphalt of the two-lane Santa Ana Freeway. As he drove out from downtown Los Angeles, the brownish haze of the sky dissipated into a deep blue, white clouds poked out from beneath the blanket of smog and homes and businesses grew farther and farther apart. When he finally entered Orange County, it was like being transported back to the Midwest. Miles of open farmland scented with the fragrant perfume of orange blossoms stretched out before him, interrupted only occasionally by a modest farmhouse. Walt had found his location. A short time later, he struck a deal with a fledgling television network called ABC for financing.
Only seven weeks after opening in 1956, Disneyland's one-millionth guest passed through the turnstiles, into the tunnel and onto Main Street. Disneyland was here to stay. And Anaheim would be changed forever.
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