History of Malibu, California

"Malibu Coast, Spring" by Granville Redmond, c. 1929

Malibu is a beach town in the Santa Monica Mountains quarter of Los Angeles County, California, located about 48 km (30 miles) west of Downtown Los Angeles. It is recognized for its Mediterranean climate and its 34 km ( 21-mile) strip of the Malibu coast, consolidated in 1991 CE into the City of Malibu.


The area is within the Chumash area, which stretched from the San Joaquin Valley to San Luis Obispo to Malibu and many islands off the southern coast of California. The Native Americans named the town “Humaliwo” or “the surf sounds loud.” The town’s name derives from this, as the “Hu” is not stressed.

The ancient village of Humaliwo was situated next to Malibu Lagoon and was an influential regional center in prehistoric times. The village, which is recognized as CA-LAN-264, was held from around 2500 BCE. It was the second-largest Chumash seaside town by the Santa Monica Mountains, with just Muwu (Point Mugu) being reportedly more populated. Baptismal documents list 118 individuals from Humaliwo. Humaliwo was deemed an essential political center, but there were also further minor settlements in the Malibu region. One village, known as Ta’lopop, was established few miles up Malibu Canyon from Malibu Lagoon. Analysis has shown that Malibu (Humaliwo) had ties to other villages in pre-colonial times, including Lalimanux (by Conejo Grade), Huwam (in Bell Canyon), and Hipuk (in Westlake Village).

Explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo is thought to have stopped at Malibu Lagoon, at the entrance of Malibu Creek, to take fresh water in 1542 CE. The Spanish occupation replaced with the California mission system, and the region was part of Rancho Topanga Malibu Sequit—a 53 km2 (13,000-acre) land grant—in 1802 CE. That ranch moved intact to Frederick Hastings Rindge in 1891 CE. He and his wife, Rhoda May Knight Rindge, were steadfast about defending their land. After his death, Rhoda May guarded their home zealously by hiring guards to evict all trespassers and fighting a lengthy court battle to prevent the development of a Southern Pacific railroad line through the estate.

In 1926 CE, to evade selling land to stave off insolvency, May K. Rindge built a small ceramic tile factory. At its height, Malibu Potteries hired over 100 workers, and created decorative tiles which furnish many Los Angeles-area public buildings and Beverly Hills homes. The factory, located one-half-mile east of the dock, was destroyed by a fire in 1931.

Although the industry partially reopened in 1932 CE, it could not recover from the consequences of the Great Depression and a precipitous downturn in Southern California construction projects. A different hybrid of Moorish and Arts and crafts designs, Malibu tile, is deemed highly collectible.

Malibu Colony

Malibu Colony was one of the first regions with private homes after Malibu was presented to expansion in 1926 CE by May K. Ringe. Her husband, Frederick Hastings Rindge, spent $10 an acre in 1890. As one of Malibu’s most popular districts, it is situated south of Malibu Road and the Pacific Coast Highway, east of Malibu Bluffs Park (formerly a state park), west of Malibu Lagoon State Beach, and across from the Malibu Civic Center. May Rindge enabled notable Hollywood movie stars to construct vacation homes in the Colony as a defensive public relations wedge against the Union Pacific from taking her home under a prominent domain for a coastal train route.

In 1991 CE, most of the Malibu land grant was included as a city to allow the region’s local authority (as towns under California law, they are not subject to the same level of county government oversight).

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