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Anaheim History

German settlers first arrived in Anaheim in the 1857, successfully establishing vineyards on the verdant rolling hills. For a brief period at the end of the 1870s, famed Polish actress Helena Modjeska attempted to start a utopian artists’ colony on a ranch in Anaheim, but the artists didn’t take to hard labor. In the late-19th century, the thriving wine business collapsed when insects destroyed the crops.

Eventually, the citrus industry took over. In the 1920s, Rudolph Boysen experimented with crossing raspberries, blackberries and loganberries, but it never caught on. Then, during the Depression, an enterprising farmer named Walter Knott rescued several of the languishing hybrid vines, named the berry Boysenberry, and began selling the crop. His wife made jams. In 1934, she began serving fried chicken dinners, as well, and they became so popular that Knott built a ghost town to entertain guests while they waited—and so was born Knott’s Berry Farm amusement park.

By World War II, Anaheim had re-created itself as a prosperous agricultural community. However, when Disneyland opened in 1955, the area forever became synonymous with the theme park. Built on 160 acres surrounded by orange and walnut groves, Walt Disney’s imaginative theme park drew visitors from around the country, and Anaheim’s tourism industry began to overshadow agriculture.

As the area grew, new attractions began to spring up. Anaheim Stadium, now called Angel Stadium of Anaheim, opened its gates in 1966, luring baseball fans. In 1967, the city opened the Anaheim Convention Center, drawing business travelers to this up-and-coming city. Later, the Walt Disney Company founded The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, named after the studio’s popular 1992 film about hockey, and the team became the first tenant of what is now the Honda Center. To keep the area viable and continue attracting new throngs of tourists, Disney added Disney’s California Adventure and Downtown Disney District to the mix in 2001. Today, Disneyland remains one of the most-visited parks in the world.