Norwalk is a suburban city in Los Angeles County, California, United States. The population was 105,549 at the 2010 census, up from 103,298 at the 2000 census, making it the 58th most populous city in California and the 255th nationally.
Norwalk operates under a Council/Manager form of government, established by the Charter of the City of Norwalk which was drafted in 1957. The five-member City Council acts as the city's chief policy-making body. Every two years, Council members are elected by the citizens of Norwalk to serve four-year, overlapping terms. Council members are not limited to the number of terms they may serve. The Mayor is selected by the Council and serves a one-year term.
In the late 1760s, settlers and missions flourished under Spanish rule with the famous El Camino Real trail traversing the area. Manuel Nieto, a Spanish soldier, received a Spanish land grant (Rancho Los Nietos) in 1784 that included Norwalk.
After the Mexican-American War in 1848, the Rancho and mining days ended. Portions of the land were subdivided and made available for sale when California was admitted into the union of the United States. Word of this land development reached the Sproul Brothers in Oregon. They recalled the fertile land and huge sycamore trees they saw during an earlier visit to the Southern California area. In 1869, Atwood Sproul, on behalf of his brother, Gilbert, purchased of land at $11 an acre ($2700/km²) in an area known as Corazon de los Valles, or “Heart of the Valleys”.
By 1873, railroads were being built in the area and the Sprouls deeded 23 acres (93,000 m²) stipulating a "passenger stop" clause in the deed. Three days after the Anaheim Branch Railroad crossed the "North-walk" for the first time, Gilbert Sproul surveyed a town site. In 1874, the name was recorded officially as Norwalk. While a majority of the Norwalk countryside remained undeveloped during the 1880s, the Norwalk Station allowed potential residents the opportunity to visit the "country" from across the nation.
What are known as the "first families" to Norwalk (including the Sprouls, the Dewitts, the Settles, and the Orrs) settled in the area in the years before 1900. D.D. Johnston pioneered the first school system in Norwalk in 1880. Johnston was also responsible for the first real industry in town, a cheese factory, by furnishing Tom Lumbard with the money in 1882. Norwalk's prosperity was evident in the 1890s with the construction of a number of fine homes that were located in the middle of orchards, farms and dairies. Headstones for these families can be found at Little Lake Cemetery, which was founded in 1843 on the border between Norwalk and Santa Fe Springs at Lakeland Road.
At the turn of the 19th century, Norwalk had become established as a dairy center. Of the 50 local families reported in the 1900 census, most were associated with farming or with the dairy industry. Norwalk was also the home of some of the largest sugar beet farms in all of Southern California during this era. Many of the dairy farmers who settled in Norwalk during the early part of the 20th century were Dutch.
After the 1950s, the Hispanic population in Norwalk grew significantly as the area became increasingly residential.
In February 1958, two military aircraft, a Douglas C-118 A military transport and a U.S. Navy P2V-5F Neptune patrol bomber, collided over Norwalk at night. 47 servicemen were killed as well as a civilian 23-year-old woman on the ground who was hit by falling debris. A plaque commemorating the disaster erected by the American Legion in 1961 marks the spot of the accident, today a mini-mall at the corner of Firestone Boulevard and Pioneer Boulevard.
The Hargitt House
Built in 1891 by the D.D. Johnston family, the Hargitt House was built in the architectural style of Victorian Eastlake. The Hargitt House Museum, located at 12426 Mapledale, was donated to the people of Norwalk by Charles ("Chun") and Ida Hargitt. The museum is open on the first and third Saturday of the month from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.