Malibu History

For nearly 4,000 years Malibu was inhabited by Chumash Indians.

They named the stretch of beach at the mouth of Malibu Creek "Humaliwo" or "the surf sounds loudly."

It was here in 1542 that Spanish explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo may have stopped to get fresh water on his journey north. Cabrillo saw a large Indian village at the foot of the canyon, where the Malibu city offices stand today. The Cabrillo expedition observed that the Chumash had bustling towns of considerable prosperity and sophistication. Stories of the Indians portray them as a handsome, intelligent and flourishing people.

While the Spanish mission period in the 1700's marked the end of their civilization, the first legal claim to land in Malibu was made in 1802 by Spanish Settler Jose Bartoleme Tapia. Tapia, given grazing rights by the King of Spain, established a ranch and built a large adobe in Malibu Canyon. These property holdings became known as the "Rancho Topanga Malibu Simi Sequit."

Passed down through family inheritance, the rancho was eventually sold by Henry Keller to Frederick Hastings Rindge in 1891 for the reputed figure of $300,000. As one of the last Spanish Land Grants to remain intact, it served as the ideal country home for the Rindge family. This cultured and wealthy New England family fiercely guarded their private domain. In fact, Rhoda May Rindge, Frederick's widow, spent her fortune in court costs to keep the Southern Pacific Railroad, the State and neighboring homesteaders from encroaching. The stories of May and her cowhands, rifles at the ready, facing down the representatives of the County of Los Angeles, are part of Malibu's folklore. After 17 years of litigation, the State of California was victorious and the Roosevelt Highway (now Pacific Coast Highway) was open for through traffic to the public between Santa Moncia and Oxnard in June 1929, ushering in a new era.

This final court battle forced May Rindge to begin leasing, then selling property north of the mouth of Malibu Creek. The first lots were offered for lease to movie celebrities along a strand of beach known as the Malibu Colony. Beautiful homes were built as lots were made available for sale in the 1930's.

During that time, May's daughter Rhoda Agatha, married Merritt Huntley Adamson. They built their summer home on Vaquero Hill by the sea and another home in Serra Retreat. In order to provide tiles for the two homes, May Rindge brought in the finest craftsmen and established the Malibu Tile Works.

The Adamson House, located in Malibu Lagoon State Park overlooks the Malibu Pier and Surfrider Beach. It is a true showplace of Malibu historical artifacts, featuring the collection of hand-made Mediterranean-style tiles used in their two Malibu homes as well as many buildings throughout Southern California.


A California State Parks project on restoration of the Malibu Pier and buildings is headed by John W. Foster, senior archeologist for State Parks, and former resident of Palos Verdes. Foster, a marine archeologist and diver, with a team from Indiana University, began underwater inspections on the historic pier which served as base for Alice's restaurants and other historic buildings. Conditions of the pilings and wood deck , tower and wall structures as well as the buildings are being assessed.

The original historic Malibu pier, once a narrow structure built by the Frederick Rindge family for a yacht dockage, dates back to the turn of the century, when the beauty of the golden sand beaches, a peaceful lagoon , mountains and magnificent vistas caused the area to be called the Riviera of America. Malibu pier, at the northern edge of Santa Monica Bay extends to 780 feet, was acquired by the California State parks in 1980, then closed from storm and erosion damage for a few years. Now it's the long looked for subject of a major face lift. A team of archeology experts, recently back from a unique Dominican Republic marine site, is headed by Prof. Charles Beeker of Indiana University. It is investigating the conditions of pilings on the Malibu pier. Some 200 of the underwater supports are probed, measured and recorded for the restoration project.

For the most part, according to Beeker, the pilings are found to be in fairly good condition. The project of restoration just began with two man teams of divers going down . At a depth of only 15-20 feet the surging waters at the famous Surf Riders Beach can produce tricky conditions. "You can feel yourself slapped around a bit," said diver Deke Hager. His partner , Rob Richardson, dive master, was on the other side of each piling, as they carefully assessed the conditions. Others on the team include an Italian diver Ivan Orlandinio, from Venice, Italy. He has made dives for the sunken steam vessel, the Pomona, at Fort Ross State Park... A graduate student/diving expert and anthropologist, Harley Meier, is the only woman member of the marine team.

"The Malibu pier is regarded as historically significant and one of the great piers of California," according to Foster, who is familiar with the history of the Malibu area. Here the Chumash Indians rode their own sea highway in tomolo canoes. They lived as fine a life as today's residents, including the Malibu Colony celebrities. All appreciate the 24 miles of spectacular, circling coastline. once a Spanish land grant.

The famous "Alice's" restaurant, with stained glass door and enclosed view of the bay and lagoon, once graced the land end of the pier. It was part of two structures built in 1945 as restaurant and food preparation buildings. Now in decay it is thought that they could be restored to their original blue and white glory. This land end of the pier includes two of the four historic buildings. The seaward end includes a second twin building and tower. These buildings used to house a bait and tackle shop, restaurant and snack bar.

From the pier you can see the red tiled roof of the Adamson house, Spanish colonial home built by Rhoda Rindge Adamson, descendant of the last owners of the Malibu Spanish land grant.

Chumash called the area "Humaliwo," which means "where the surf sounds loudly." With the restoration of the Malibu pier , one may appreciate more than ever these sights and sounds.

Jul 30, 2004
The Malibu Pier, a historic landmark jutting into the surf in Malibu, Calif., reopened last night to
show its seaside style as an event venue.

The space offers both indoor and outdoor locations and can host up to 400 guests. Preferred vendors are locals Los Angeles Party Designs as decorator, Atlas Party Rentals for rentals, and Bruce’s Catering for catering.

The pier has been closed for nearly a decade as various parties squabbled over its future. When the restoration of the century-old structure is complete, the pier will feature a restaurant, casual café, a surf and beach equipment rental shop, and a bait and tackle shop. Maritime operations including sport fishing and whale watching boats will also be available.

At last night's event, guests dined on ahi sandwich fingers with basil leaves, chicken skewers, mini burgers, and an array of dessert trays.

The above information was gleaned from a Google Search and the Malibu Chamber of Commerce site and also the California State Parks site.

Any questions about the information contained herein should be directed to those sites.

Any additional facts you'd like added here - please contact me

Thank you.