Incorporated in 1866, the city of San Buenaventura (usually referred to as Ventura) is the county seat of Ventura County, California. Ventura has a population of 106,744. Ventura is accessible via U.S. Route 101, State Route 33, and State Route 126.
Father Junípero Serra founded Mission San Buenaventura in 1782, forming the basis of what would become the city. On July 6, 1841, Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado granted the 4,694 acre (1,900 ha) Rancho San Miguel to Felipe Lorenzana and Raimundo Olivas, whose Olivas Adobe on the banks of the Santa Clara River was the most magnificent hacienda south of Monterey.
After the American Civil War, settlers came to the area, buying land from the Mexicans, or simply as squatters. Vast holdings were later acquired by Easterners, including the railroad magnate, Thomas Scott. He was impressed by one of the young employees, Thomas R. Bard, who had been in charge of train supplies to Union troops, and Bard was sent west to handle Scott's property.
Not easily accessible, Ventura was not a target of immigrants, and as such, remained quiet and rural. For most of the century which followed the incorporation of Ventura in 1866, it remained isolated from the rest of the state.
July 4 celebration in Ventura, 1874. Parade Marshall is Thomas R. Bard.Bard is often regarded as the Father of Ventura and his descendants have been prominently identified with the growth of Ventura County. The Union Oil Company was organized with Bard as President in 1890, and has offices in Santa Paula. The main Ventura oil field was drilled in 1914 and at its peak produced 90,000 barrels a day. The city is located between the Ventura River and the Santa Clara River, leading to soil so fertile that citrus grew better here than anywhere else in the state. The citrus farmers formed Sunkist Growers, Incorporated, the world's largest organization of citrus production.
From the south, travel by auto was slow and hazardous, until the completion of a four-lane expressway (US Highway 101) over the Conejo Grade in 1959. This route, now further widened and improved by 1969, is known as the Ventura Freeway, which directly links Ventura with the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Another route, US Highway 101 ALT (now the Pacific Coast Highway) traveled along the coast from Santa Monica via Oxnard, but was not heavily used.
From the north, entrance was by way of a single road along the beach and stagecoach passengers either had to wait until low tide when the horses could cross on the exposed wet sand, or go up the Ventura River Valley and then cross over the mountains to Santa Barbara via Casitas Pass, a long and difficult trip.
Inland, Ventura was hemmed in by (what is now) the Los Padres National Forest, composed of mountainous country and deep canyons. This route became passable with the completion of the Maricopa Highway in the 1920s.
Since then, Ventura has grown steadily. In 1920 there were 4,156 people. In 1930 the population had increased to 11,603, and by 1950 the population reached 16,643. In the last two decades it has quadrupled to approximately 105,000.