Livermore (formerly Livermores, Livermore Ranch, and Nottingham) is a city in Alameda County, California. Its estimated 2013 population was 85,156. Livermore is located on the eastern edge of California's San Francisco Bay Area.
Livermore was founded by William Mendenhall and named after Robert Livermore, his friend and a local rancher who settled in the area in the 1840s. Livermore is the home of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, for which the chemical element livermorium is named (and thus, placing the city's name in the periodic table). Livermore is also the California site of Sandia National Laboratories, which is headquartered in Alburquerque, NM. Its south side is home to local vineyards. The city has also redeveloped its downtown district. The city is considered part of the Tri-Valley area, including Amador, Livermore and San Ramon Valleys.
History and Culture
Before its incorporation in 1796 under the Franciscan Mission San Jose, located in what is now the southern part of Fremont, California, the Livermore area was home to some of the Ohlone (or Costanoan) native people. Each mission had two to three friars and a contingent of up to five soldiers to help keep order in the Mission and to help control the Indians. Like most Indians in California, the Indians in the vicinity of Mission San Jose were mostly coerced into joining the Mission San José (California) where they were taught Spanish, the Catholic religion, singing, construction, agricultural trades and herding—the Native Californian Indians originally had no agriculture and no domestic animals except dogs. Other Indian tribes were coerced into other adjacent Missions. The Mission Indians were restricted to the Mission grounds where they lived in sexually segregated "barracks" that they built themselves with Padre instruction. The population of all California Missions plunged steeply as new diseases ravaged the Mission Indian populations—they had almost no immunities to these "new to them" diseases and death rates over 50% were not uncommon. The Livermore-Amador Valley after 1800 to about 1837 was primarily used as grazing land for some of the Mission San Jose's growing herds of mission cattle, sheep and horses. The herds grew wild with no fences and were culled about once a year for cow hides and tallow—essentially the only money making products produced in California then. The dead animals were left to rot or feed the California grizzly bears which then roamed California. The secularization and closure of the California missions, as demanded by the government of Mexico, from 1834 to 1837 transferred the land and property the Missions claimed on the California coast (about per mission) to about 600 extensive Ranchos of California. After the Missions were dissolved, most of the surviving Indians went to work on the new ranchos raising crops and herding animals where they were given room and board, a few clothes and usually no pay for the work they did—the same as they had had while working in the Missions. Some Indians joined or re-joined some of the few surviving tribes.
The about Rancho Las Positas grant, which includes most of Livermore, was made to rancher Robert Livermore and Jose Noriega in 1839. Most land grants were given with little or no cost to the recipients. Robert Livermore (1799-1858) was a British citizen who had jumped from a British merchant sailing ship stopping in Monterey, California, in 1822. He became a naturalized Mexican citizen who had converted to Catholicism in 1823 as was required for citizenship and legal residence. After working for a number of years as a majordomo (ranch foreman), Robert Livermore married on 5 May 1838 the widow Maria Josefa de Jesus Higuera (1815–1879), daughter of Jose Loreto Higuera grantee of Rancho Los Tularcitos, at the Mission San José. (The Livermore chapter of the Daughter's of the American Revolution is named the Josefa Higuera Livermore Chapter.). Robert Livermore. after he got his rancho in 1839, was as interested in viticulture and horticulture as he was in cattle and horses despite the fact that about the only source of income was the sale of cow hides and tallow. (Read: Two Years Before the Mast for a first hand description of California in the 1840s.) In the early 1840s he moved his family to the Livermore valley to his new rancho as the second non-Indian family to settle in the Livermore valley area and after building a home he was the first in the area in 1846 to direct the planting of vineyards and orchards of pears and olives. Typical of most early rancho dwellings the first building on his ranch was an adobe on Las Positas Creek near the western end of today's Las Positas Road. After the Americans took control of California in 1847 and gold was discovered in 1848 he started making money by selling California longhorn cattle to the thousands of hungry California gold rush miners who soon arrived. The non-Indian population exploded and cattle were suddenly worth much more than the $1.00-$3.00 their hides could bring. With his new wealth and with goods flooding into newly rich California, in 1849 Livermore bought a two-story "Around the Horn" disassembled house that had been shipped about on a sailing ship around Cape Horn from the east coast. Its believed to be the first wooden building in the Livermore tri-valley.
During the California Gold Rush, Livermore's ranch became a popular "first day" stopping point for prospectors and businessmen leaving San Francisco or San Jose and headed for Sacramento, California, and the Mother Lode gold country. Most horse traffic went by way of Altamont Pass just east of Livermore. Robert Livermore was a very accommodating host and welcomed nearly all that stopped by with lodging and meals.
Robert Livermore died in 1858 and was buried at Mission San Jose before the establishment of the town that bears his name. His ranch included much of the present-day city. The city of Livermore, named in honor of Robert Livermore, was established in 1869 by William Mendenhall, who had first met Robert Livermore while marching through the valley with John C. Fremont's California Battalion in 1846 as they were recruited to occupy the surrendering Californio towns captured by the U.S. Navy's Pacific Squadron.
California became the 31st state in 1850 when California's non-Indian population jumped from about 8,000 in 1846 to about 120,000 in 1850 as shown in a corrected 1850 U.S. California Census. California had enough population and enough wealth in 1850 that they by-passed the territorial status of most other states and were allowed to more or less choose their own (large) boundaries.
The Livermore Ranch post office, in Robert Livermore's home, operated from 1851 to 1853. The first significant settlement of Livermore was Laddsville, on what's now Junction Avenue, which grew up around the hotel established by Alphonso Ladd in 1864. The official U.S. post office in Livermore opened in 1869. The original Western Pacific Railroad Company in 1869 built its railroad connection from Oakland, California, to Sacramento, California, over the nearby Altamont Pass in the east and Niles Canyon on the west with a stop in Livermore on land donated by William M. Mendenhall. This made Livermore a "railroad" town and greatly accelerated town growth. The population of Livermore in 1869, before the railroad arrived, is thought to have been about 75 By 1870 the Western Pacific had been absorbed by the Central Pacific Railroad as part of the first transcontinental railroad. Central Pacific was later acquired by the Southern Pacific Railroad and then the Union Pacific Railroad which owns the tracks through town today, although these are primarily the tracks of the "second" Western Pacific Railroad that was founded in 1903 and absorbed into the UP in 1983.
Private grade schools were operating in Livermore from the 1860s on. The Livermore Collegiate Institute was founded in 1870 and the Union high school (later called Livermore High) in 1896 graduated its first class of students. Petroleum was discovered near Livermore and become a valuable asset. Extensive coal deposits were mined near Corral Hollow by the Livermore Coal Company. In September 1871 Laddsville mostly burned down and the people rebuilt their homes and businesses nearer the railroad in what is now downtown Livermore. Until 1875 the townspeople enjoyed bull fights in a small bullring on many Sundays and on other occasions a captured grizzly bear might be pitted against a longhorn bull. Apparently, roping a grizzly was thought then to be a great sport. As the town grew there were a fire company, churches, a bank and a library that were formed by 1876. Livermore was officially incorporated by the state as a city on April 15, 1876. During Livermore's early years, it was also quite well known for large hotels that graced the downtown street corners, before new buildings replaced them. Livermore after the 1880s is also notable for the Wente Vineyards, Concannon Vineyard, Cresta Blanca Winery and Livermore's many other wineries. Since it has a Mediterranean climate, gravely soil, warm days and cool nights it was a good location to grow wine grapes. By 1880 the extensive winter wheat and hay crop lands were being replaced by vineyards. Extensive chromite deposits were found and exploited for a time. In 1885 the Remillard Brick Company was producing an extensive line of bricks and employing over 100 men. A telephone line connected Livermore to Arroyo Valley by 1886 and electric lights were introduced by 1889. By 1890 Livermore had over of streets. Livermore originally had a Boot Hill called the Old Knoll Cemetery.
In 1909 the Livermore Carnegie Library and Park opened after taking advantage of a Carnegie Library grant donated by Andrew Carnegie. As the city grew and larger libraries were needed other libraries were built and the original site was converted into a historic center and park.
In 1942, the U. S. government bought of ranch land, bounded by Vasco and Greenville roads and East Avenue, and built the Livermore Naval Air Station. The primary mission of the base was to train Navy pilots. This facility operated until it was decommissioned in 1946 after the end of World War II. On 5 January 1951, the Bureau of Yards and Docks, U.S. Navy, formally transferred the former NAS Livermore in its entirety to the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) for use by the University of California's Radiation Laboratory. In 1952, the government established Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), named after famous physicist Ernest O. Lawrence, as the site of a second laboratory for the study of nuclear energy like the research being done at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The laboratory was run by the University of California. Edward Teller was a co-founder of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and was both its director and associate director for many years. In 1956, the California campus of Sandia National Laboratories opened up across East Avenue from LLNL. Both LLNL and Sandia are technically on U.S. government property just outside the city's jurisdiction limits but with employment at LLNL at about 6,800 and Sandia/California at about 1,150 they are Livermore's largest employers.
For pictures of early Livermore, check the Livermore Heritage Guild photo site
Livermore's culture retains some vestiges of the farming, wine growing and ranching traditions that have existed in the valley since the time of Robert Livermore, but now largely reflects a suburban population. Since 1918, Livermore has each June hosted the Livermore Rodeo, called the "World's Fastest Rodeo," that claims it has more riders per hour than any other event of its type. There are several wine tasting tours of the many Livermore area wineries that occur periodically throughout the summer. This culture was documented in the photoessay Suburbia in 1973 by then native photographer Bill Owens, with the photos shown in numerous exhibits.
Livermore has a strong blue-collar element, as well as many professionals who work at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and other work sites in the high tech industries within the Bay Area. Recent housing development has included the addition of hundreds of million dollar homes set among the southside's vineyards, as well as a multi-million dollar renovation of the downtown area. Renovations included office buildings, the Livermore Cinemas, the Bankhead Theatre, and a multistory parking structure. The Livermore Civic Center includes a state-of-the-art library that opened in 2004, with a front mosaic by Maria Alquilar.
Livermore has several golf courses located near the city: Las Positas municipal golf course, Springtown 9 hole golf course, and the 18 hole Poppy Ridge and Wente Vineyards courses. Livermore Municipal Airport (LVK) is accessible to business jets, serving the entire Tri-Valley area. The city is home to Bay Area Rosal, a professional indoor soccer team. Each summer Livermore has a farmer's market which bring farm fresh produce directly to the consumer.
In 2010, proposed projects included extension of BART high-speed rail system to Livermore with an underground downtown station and a regional performing arts center between Livermore Avenue and L Street.
Arts organizations supported by the city include the Livermore-Amador Symphony, Del Valle Fine Arts, producer of classical music events, and in the valley at large, the Valley Concert Chorale, Livermore Valley Opera, the Valley Dance Theatre, a classical ballet company and the Livermore Art Association, many world class artists are represented.
There are over fifty different places of worship in Livermore.
Camp Wonder opened its first summer camp for children with special medical needs in Livermore in 2001.
One of the largest districts in Livermore is Springtown, the northeast area of the city north of Interstate 580. Originally conceived as a retirement community in the early 1960s, Springtown has many of the city's hotels and a public golf course.
The downtown area or central district has two movie theaters, a community theater, and space for open air concerts. The North Livermore district is north of the Union Pacific Railroad that cuts through downtown. The South Livermore district, including areas of unincorporated land, has over 40 wineries.