Palmdale

City of Palmdale, California

History and Geography

Palmdale, a town in northern Los Angeles County, is in the US State of California. The city lies in the Antelope Valley, a locality of Southern California. The San Gabriel Mountains on Palmdale’s southern border, separate unincorporated Palmdale from the greater LA Basin.

In 1962 Palmdale became the first of two primary Antelope Valley communities. Years later, in November 2009, voters approved creating it a charter town. Palmdale’s population was 152,750 at the 2010 census, up from 116,670 at the 2000 census. Palmdale is the thirty-fifth most inhabited city in California. Its immediate northern neighbor is the city of Lancaster. The Palmdale/Lancaster geographical region has a predictable population of 513,547, as of 2013.

Native Americans initially populated Palmdale. Before westernization, Palmdale was inhabited by totally different cultures for 11,000 years. The Greater Antelope Valley region was a trade route for Native Americans who regularly trekked from Arizona or New Mexico’s Land of Enchantment to the California coastal communities. 

Los Angeles Mission
Los Angeles Mission

In 1772 the Captain Pedro Fages, a Spanish conquistador, explored the Antelope Valley. Palmdale weather can be very hot. The land travel through the long animus desert was because of Captain Juan Bautista de Anza and Father Francisco Garces, a minister of the Catholic Church, as well as a most exceptional Spanish Catholic Padre. A colonizing expedition of 136 settlers moved across the Mojave from Mexico to the town of Palmdale in 1773. Later in 1776, while exploring the Antelope Valley, Garces, with many Indian guides from the Los Angeles Mission, recorded viewing the colossal expanse of what was the El Tejon Ranch (the Badger Ranch) of the Cuabajoy Indians. When the Shoshone Indians left the Antelope Valley, immigrants from the Nations of Spain and Mexico established giant bovine ranches there. Within the late Eighteen Eighties, the plantations were subdivided into smaller homesteads by farmers from France and the European nations. 

“Palmenthal,” the first European settlement among the bounds of Palmdale, was established as a village in April of 1886, by westward Lutheran travelers from the Midwest geographical region, mainly of German and Swiss descent. In keeping with common lore, the travelers were told they might feel they were near the ocean once they saw palm trees. Ne’er having seen palm trees before, they mistook the native Joshua trees for a sort of palm and named the settlement likewise. Palmenthal is German for Palm Valley. In keeping with David L. Durham, Joshua trees were generally referred to as bush palms at the time, which could be an explanation for the name. The village was formally established upon the arrival of a US Post in 1888.

By the Eighteen Nineties, when the last of the endemic antelopes—the namesake of the Antelope Valley—had died, farming operations migrated to Palmenthal and the neighboring township Harold (which remains in the North Eastern AV region to this day), to grow various kinds of grains and fruit orchards, particularly cherries and apples. Most of the settlers were unfamiliar with farming in desert environments, so once drought set in, most of the families who migrated to Palmdale abandoned their settlements. By 1899, only a single-family was left among the original Palmdale village. The rest of the settlers, as well as the US Postal Service, moved nearer to the Southern Pacific railroad tracks. This newly relocated community was renamed Palmdale and was settled at the very location the Palmdale Civic Center, including the Palmdale City Hall, is to the present day.

A depot of sorts was designed on the tracks in Palmdale’s city center. This railroad, operated by Southern Pacific, traveled between Los Angeles and the City of Palmdale. The Wells Fargo line that ran between the City of Palmdale and the urban center of LA stopped there conjointly. The sole remaining items of proof of the originating settlements of Palmenthal and Harold is the historic Palmdale Pioneer graveyard settled on the northeast corner of Avenue S and twentieth Street East, recently procured and fixed-up by the City of Palmdale as a location of a future historical park. And so, the old school building that resided on the property when Palmdale was settled was moved to nearby McAdam Park, one of Palmdale’s Parks and Recreation many city parks. 

As the population of Palmdale surged after the original relocation and the water became scarce. Water scarcity continued until a day in 1913 when William Mulholland completed the California aqueduct system. Transportation of water from the Owens Valley into LA County began to feed a new agricultural movement with crops of apples, pears, and alfalfa, among other agricultural accomplishments.

In 1915, Palmdale’s first newspaper, the Palmdale Post, was unveiled. The original Palmdale News was located in City limits, these days, it’s referred to as the Antelope Valley Press. From the AV Press Website, “The Antelope Valley Press has been serving the greater Antelope Valley since 1915. Today it serves families in Lancaster, Palmdale, Quartz Hill, Littlerock, Pearblossom, Lake Los Angeles, Rosamond, Lake Hughes, Leona Valley, Green Valley, Antelope Acres, California City, Acton, Crystalaire and Mojave. It also serves Single Copy in Santa Clarita and Tehachapi seven days a week.”

In 1921, the first significant automobile link between Palmdale and LA was completed, Mint Canyon/Lancaster Road, later selected US Route 6. Completion of this road caused the native agricultural trade to flourish and was the first significant step towards process the metropolis that exists these days. Presently this road is named Sierra route.

In 1924, the Littlerock Dam and so the Harold Reservoir–now named Lake Palmdale–were made to assist the agricultural trade and have enough water to serve the growing communities.

Agriculture continued to be the foremost trade for Palmdale and its northern neighbor Lancaster until the eruption of WWII. In 1933, the US government established Muroc base of operations—from a founder’s name, Effie Corum, spelled backward—six miles north of Lancaster in Kern County. Edwards Air Force Base is the new name of the Moroc base of operations. They conjointly bought the Palmdale landing field in 1952 and established a regional development and testing facility referred to as America Air Force Plant 42. 

One year later, in 1953, Lockheed Martin—now located in Palmdale City, but headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland—established a facility at the landing field. From their website: “Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 110,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration, and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products, and services.” At this point, the region trade took over because of the primary native supply of employment. Palmdale City has been informally titled “The Aerospace Capital of America” because of its longstanding heritage as being the birthplace of the variety of the craft utilized by the American military. 

Palmdale’s newest aerospace accomplishment will become the location of the latest branch of the service, the American Space Force. The US Space Force (USSF) is a new branch of the Armed Forces, established on December 20, 2019, by the enactment of the National Defense Authorization. The USSF is a subsidiary of the Department of the Air Force. Therefore, the Secretary of the Air Force has general responsibility for the actions of the USSF. The Space Force will increase the popularity of the City of Palmdale as Edwards Airforce Base and the presence of the Aerospace industries already do. 

A Navy drone without a pilot went rogue while flying over Palmdale in August of 1956. An Air Force interceptor tried to shoot down the drone with unguided rockets. Some of the rogue rockets landed in the city and on the outskirts of town, causing fires and significant damage to property.

Palmdale’s first high school was established in 1957, creating a natural alternative for teens who would otherwise have to commute to Antelope Valley High School in neighboring Lancaster. Palmdale High School is located in historic Palmdale, California, and is part of the Antelope Valley Union High School District. 

In August 1962, the town of Palmdale formally became the City of Palmdale with the incorporation of 2 square miles of land close to the current civic center.

In 1964, the Antelope Valley motorway, the 14 Freeway, was completed as a link between Palmdale and the Los Angeles basin. It had been at this time that mentions of the longer-term Palmdale intercontinental landing field was seen as a result of the future was quickly approaching. By 1965, the new town had annexed an extra twenty square miles of land, and trade was thriving. The longer-term industrial landing field had several investors purchasing enormous quantities of land in and around incorporated Palmdale.

In 1970, the city of LA went forward with a grand purchase of 17,750 acres of land east of the town for its projected intercontinental industrial landing field. However, the American Air Force desired to position the construction of this new facility on hold until the prevailing landing field reached its industrial capability. Los Angeles International Airport, LAX, is still under construction to this day. Thus Palmdale International Airport remains a vision for the future. Regardless of the delays caused by the development at LAX, the LA Department of Airports, (currently referred to as LA World Airports) built a 9,000 square foot terminal on leased land that opened in 1971, making the Palmdale Regional landing field that is there today. 

By 1974, the Antelope Valley motorway construction finished at the southern border of Mojave in Kern County. In 1977, Palmdale designed its original municipal buildings were the Palmdale City Hall exists today as well as the beloved Palmdale City Library. 1977 was the same year that Palmdale’s northern neighbor, Lancaster was, incorporated as a town. Since the Nineteen Twenties, Lancaster had been the more substantial and principal community of the Antelope Valley despite its recent inception.

The Nineteen Eighties and Nineties were the decades that essentially began to outline the two Antelope Valley cities of Palmdale and Lancaster. Cheap housing among the realm caused a dramatic spike in the population. Palmdale became a residential area for those being displaced from LA cities due to gentrification, suburbanization, or relocation, just like its northern neighbor, Lancaster. Relocation to Palmdale is commonplace for Aerospace engineers and other aerospace specialists only due to the number of jobs in the Palmdale aerospace industry. In 1980, Palmdale’s population was sparse of 12,227.

By 1990, it had multiplied to 68,842. This same year, the Antelope Valley Mall, an impressive indoor mall located in West Palmdale on Avenue P (present-day Rancho scene Boulevard) and tenth Street West debuted. By 1991, the Palmdale Automobile Center open nearby. In the early Nineties, the City of Palmdale appropriated the Ritter Ranch and City Ranch (today referred to as Anaverde) properties and developed new communities or boroughs in Southwest Palmdale. By the late Nineties, the developer of Ritter Ranch designed a bridge over a local stream at the corner of Elizabeth Lake Road, where it intersects with the Lazy T. Ranch. In 1997, the land developer of the Ritter Ranch properties filed for bankruptcy, leaving the bridge at Ranch Center Drive incomplete. The local colloquialism became, “The Bridge to Nowhere” until recent times when the bridge became a bridge to somewhere. 

Over the last twenty-five years, Palmdale has systematically been recognized on the list the twenty-five quickest growing cities in the entire US, based on proportional population change. According to the 2010 census, the population of Palmdale City was 152,750, the sixth most inhabited city in Los Angeles County. Comprised of 106 square miles of dirt and dust within its incorporated boundaries, the City of Palmdale is the second largest town in LA County and the sixth-largest city in California. Palmdale is also among the highest of the hundred most significant cities in America based on acreage. That means Palmdale still has a lot of growing to do. Palmdale is to boot one amongst the foremost vital cities among the America that is not presently served by either an interstate motorway or a US Highway—yet. Sierra Highway, which runs the length of the Antelope Valley from North to South, was at only one occasion labeled to be a US route until the state of California cut off the highway at its northern tip in Bishop, California.

A new multimodal transportation center, serving native and commuter bus and train services, opened in 2005. A voter-initiated and voter-approved tax has funded major park and recreation expansions, as well as the Palmdale Amphitheater, which boasts that it is the Antelope Valley’s premier entertainment venue. Palmdale has two new pools as of 2020, multiple alternative recreation buildings, a satellite library, and the Dry Town Water Park. Downtown revivification includes several new senior housing units, a replacement Senior Center, and an expanded open area. A Sherriff station opened in July 2006, the foremost of significance for Los Angeles County. 2 new fire stations were designed, one on the East facet of Palmdale City and one on the West facet of the city.

Palmdale is found in LA County, and so the urban centers of Palmdale and LA Proper are separated by the San Gabriel mountains, nearly forty miles wide. Palmdale is that the second-most inhabited town in the Antelope Valley, and fifth overall among in the Mojave Regions, bested only by the cities of Las Vegas, Henderson, and North Las Vegas in Nevada; and it’s Antelope Valley neighbor, the city of Lancaster. Palmdale participates in a twin-city partnership with its northern neighbor Lancaster and together are the principal cities among the Antelope Valley region and California’s High Desert.

According to the America Bureau of the Census, the entire city, space covers 106.2 square miles. Just under 106 square miles is made up of land, and 0.3 square miles of it is water, including synthetic Lake Palmdale, the foremost visible and scenic of the Palmdale Water district’s municipal water system. Lake Palmdale used to be called the ‘Harold Reservoir,’ after Palmdale’s historic neighboring settlement. It is a humanmade lake built in 1924 and is part of the California State Water Project. Fed by the California Aqueduct, the lake serves as the primary water source for the Palmdale Water District, delivering water to more than 200,000 people who live in the surrounding districts. Palmdale Fin & Feather Club stocks the lake with trout and catfish and provides outdoor recreation in the form of fishing, boating, hunting, and other outdoor sports. Fin and Feather have leased the property through the Palmdale Water District, making it Palmdale’s only local private hunting and fishing club.

The City of Palmdale lies in proximity to the San Andreas Fault and is liable to severe earthquakes. This fault cuts across the Antelope Valley 14 Freeway north of the Avenue S offramp and runs westward on the historic Butterfield Stage Line we call Elizabeth Lake Road and continues into Leona Valley.

Header Image:

Rennett Stowe from USA / CC BY