Cities such as this don’t just appear — yet, comparatively speaking, the history of Manhattan Beach covers a relatively short span. In its earliest days, Manhattan Beach was part of the ten-mile ocean frontage of Rancho Sausal Redondo, which means “Round Clump of Willows.” At one time the area was called “Shore Acres” by George Peck, who owned a section of the north end of town.
In 1901, John Merrill bought the south portion and called his section Manhattan after his old home, New York City. Peck and Merrill, unable to agree on a city name, flipped a coin and Manhattan won.
The first downtown building was built by Merrill around 1901, a small frame building later used for city offices. The official date of incorporation was December 2, 1912. Planks were laid in the sand on Manhattan Avenue for vehicles and along the Strand and side streets for pedestrians.
Two wooden piers were built in 1901, one at Center Street and one at Marine Avenue. The Center Street pier supported a wave motor to generate power for the Strand lighting system. Purportedly, part of the wave motor lies buried in the sands at the shore end of the present pier.
The next pier was built on the same site and extended about 922 feet into the ocean. Engineer A.L. Harris developed the concept of the circular end for less exposure and damage to the pilings by the waves. The pier was completed and dedicated on July 5, 1920.
After World War II a large influx of people came as a result of the desirability of the area for year-round living. Servicemen visiting during the war returned to live here. The development of the defense industry brought many people to the South Bay to reside and work. Much of the land east of Sepulveda was developed to house the influx of people.