Monrovia is a city located in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains in the San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles County, California, United States. The population was 36,590 at the 2010 census, down from 36,929 at the 2000 census. Monrovia has been used for filming TV shows, movies and commercials.
Monrovia is the fourth oldest general law city in Los Angeles County and the L.A. Basin (after Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and Pasadena). Incorporated in 1887, Monrovia has grown from a sparse community of orange ranches to a residential community of 37,000.
Around 500 BC, a band of Shoshonean-speaking Indians established settlements in what is now the San Gabriel Valley. They were called the Gabrieliño Indians by early Spanish explorers, and are now referred to as the Tongva. The Tongva were not farmers; they gathered wild seeds, berries, and plants along rivers and in marshlands. Abundant oaks in the Valley, such as Coast Live Oak and Interior Live Oak provided a staple of the Tongva diet: acorn mush made of boiled acorn flour.
In 1769, when all California was claimed by the King of Spain, Europeans first visited the San Gabriel Valley, including Monrovia. An expedition from San Diego passed through en route to Monterey Bay, commanded by Don Gaspar Portola. Accompanying Portola were a Franciscan Father from Father Junipero Serra's Franciscan order of Mexico, and Juan Crespí, the expedition's diarist. Much of what is known of early California is known only from Crespi's detailed descriptions.
In 1771, the Franciscans established the Mission San Gabriel Arcangel in the San Gabriel Valley. The mission was a resting point for early California travelers and gathered most of the native Tongva into an agricultural lifestyle. Following the Mexican Revolution in 1839, the mission lands were nationalized.
In 1841, California Governor Juan Alvarado gave Rancho Azusa de Duarte to Andres Duarte, a Mexican soldier, and he gave Rancho Santa Anita to Hugo Reid, a naturalized Mexican citizen of Scottish birth. Monrovia is made of parts of these two ranchos.
In the mid-19th century, most of Rancho Azusa de Duarte was subdivided and sold by Duarte to settle his debts. Some of those parcels became part of the ranch of William N. Monroe, Monrovia's namesake.
Rancho Santa Anita changed hands several times before the multimillionaire, silver baron and rancher, E.J. "Lucky" Baldwin acquired it in 1875. That same year his Los Angeles Investment Company began subdividing and selling parcels from many of his ranchos. In 1883, 240 acres (970,000 m²) of Rancho Santa Anita were sold to Monroe for $30,000. Additional parcels of Rancho Santa Anita were sold to Edward F. Spence, John D. Bicknell, James F. Crank, and J.F. Falvey.
The completion of the Santa Fe (which would run through Monrovia) and Southern Pacific railroads to Southern California would bring new people looking for homes and investment opportunities. With this in mind, Monroe, Spence, Bicknell, Crank, and Falvey combined their land under the business name of the Monrovia Land and Water Company in 1886. The combined lots formed the Town of Monrovia Subdivision. The original borders of the Town of Monrovia Subdivision were Canyon Boulevard to the east, Walnut Avenue to the south, Magnolia Avenue to the west, and Lime Avenue to the north. The subdivision was subdivided into 600 by lots and sold.
The town was incorporated in 1887 under the leadership of prohibitionists who wished to control the arrival of an unwelcome saloon. The first order of business for the newly formed government was to pass a tippler's law, prohibiting the sale of alcohol.
In 1903 the Monrovia News was established. In the same year, the Pacific Electric was opened providing transportation to and from Los Angeles, making it possible for Monrovian homeowners to work in Los Angeles.
In 1905 Carnegie funds became available and with the help of the Board of Trade (forerunner to the Chamber of Commerce), and the Monrovia Women's Club, a bond issue was passed to purchase the Granite Bank Building to be used as a City Hall, and to acquire property for a public park. The Granite Building serves as the city hall, fire and police department facilities in 1961 and the fire department in 1974. In 1956, the old Carnegie library building was torn down and a new library was constructed. In March 2007, a new library was voted on by the people of Monrovia. It won with 70% yes votes. The library now has 190,000 books, a heritage room for historical documents, and areas for children, teens, and adults.
A city council-manager type government was instituted in 1923.
Monrovia was the home to the precursor to McDonald's. In 1937, Patrick McDonald opened a food stand on Huntington Drive (Route 66) near the old Monrovia Airport called "The Airdrome" (hamburgers were ten cents, and all-you-can-drink orange juice was five cents); it remained there until 1940, when he and his two sons, Maurice and Richard, moved the building east to San Bernardino to the corner of West 14th Street and 1398 North E Street, renaming it "McDonald's". (The oldest McDonald's restaurant still in operation is in Downey, California, which opened in 1953.)