History of Buena Park | Buena Park, CA
Facebook Instagram Youtube Pinterest TikTok Blog Print Email
Getting Here

History of Buena Park, California

John Wayne with boy on log ride at Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, CA
The story of Buena Park dates back to 1783 when California belonged to Spain, and Pedro Fages was the Governor of this part of the country. He was given permission from the King of Spain to make land grants in California, and gave one such piece of land to Manuel Nieto, ex-corporal of the "Leather Jacket" guards of the Portola Expedition. This piece of land extended from the San Gabriel River to the Santa Ana River, and from the ocean to the road, from San Gabriel Mission.

In 1834 Manuel Nieto's land was divided into five ranchos. One of the five ranchos was named Rancho Los Coyotes and totaled 48,806 acres. Buena Park is located near the center of this rancho.

Rancho Los Coyotes is a center of California and American history, for it was here in January 1847, that Commodore Robert S. Stockton and his band of Americans rested in preparation for the battle of the San Gabriel River. The battle was won and the outcome of the Mexican War (1846-48) was settled in this area. The exact location of Stockton's encampment is historically marked near the Los Coyotes Country Club in the Bellehurst area of Buena Park.

In 1885, James A. Whitaker, a wholesale grocer from Chicago, bought 690 acres of the Stearns Rancho, part of what was once the sprawling Rancho Los Coyotes. Whitaker intended to create a cattle ranch, but Santa Fe Railway officials convinced him to use the land for a new town. Whitaker filed his township papers in 1887 in Los Angeles County - Orange County had not been formed - to create the town of Buena Park. The City was not incorporated until 1953.

Buena Park first became known as a dairy center and both the Sante Fe and Southern Pacific railroads built depots. The Lily Creamery started operations in Buena Park in 1889. With the exception of a few wineries, the creamery was the first industry in the city.

In 1920 Walter and Cordelia Knott moved to their 20 acre property located near Highway 39 in Buena Park, California. The young family along with their four kids were determined to be successful farmers and soon enough their crop of rhubarb, asparagus and berries were delicious enough to sell at a roadside stand. Business was booming and Cordelia soon opened a tea room where folks came from miles around to buy her fresh jams and jelly. Their good luck continued when a family friend, Rudolph Boysen and Walter Knott created the boysenberry—a cross between a raspberry, loganberry and blackberry. Highlighting their signature new berry, Cordelia expanded her tea room and began making homemade biscuits, fried chicken dinners and boysenberry pies. As the restaurant grew in popularity so did the long wait times, which led to the creation of Knott’s Berry Farm’s first attraction - Ghost Town. Since 1934, over 20,000,000 guests have eaten at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant and it continues to serve the same famous menu - chicken, biscuits, and boysenberry pie. Over the years, the Knott family continued to develop Knott’s Berry Farm into the one of the most popular amusement parks in America. In December of 1997, after 78 years of ownership by the Knott family, Knott’s Berry Farm was acquired by Cedar Fair, L.P., owners and operators of family-oriented entertainment park brands coast to coast.

Over the years Buena Park has made great strides in creating a diverse entertainment area which offers a wide selection of hotels, restaurants, and themed attractions. Today visitors delight in the magic of spectacular pageantry at Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament. In June of 2000 Buena Park welcomed Knott’s Soak City, a separately gated, 13-acre water park featuring 21 water rides and attractions colorfully themed to California surf towns of the 50’s and 60’s. In late 2005, Pirates Dinner Adventure opened its doors to transport its guests back to the 1800s, when pirates ruled the high seas, for its one-of-a-kind show and dinner experience.

The City of Buena Park has its own local history park located on Beach Boulevard. Travel back in time by touring the city’s Historic District featuring several preserved buildings: The Whitaker-Jaynes House serves as the city’s local history museum; the Bacon House is one the oldest surviving structures in the area; the Tice House, a charming cage and the Stage Stop Hotel, is currently home to the only California Welcome Center in Orange County. At the Whitaker-Jaynes House, visitors can tour an extensive museum displays including items from the Lynx Women’s Softball Team from the 1940’s, a wedding dress display, a pictorial history of Buena Park’s entertainment venues as well at the Dreger Clock and various photos of the famous clock throughout history. To tour the Whitaker-Jaynes House or Bacon House call (714) 562-3570.

Sign up for email updates from Visit Buena Park

Back to
Tickets & Deals