The city's heritage began with the discovery of the Southern California coast by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542, sailing under the Spanish flag. The land was occupied by the Puvu Indians.
It wasn't until the 1700s when Russia and Great Britain began to show interest in the California area that Spain took steps to occupy it. The plan was to send soldiers to build Presidios (forts) and secure the land militarily, while Roman Catholic priests would build missions, converting nearby Native Americans to Christianity. In 1769, Father Junipero Serra planted a cross for the first of his string of missions in San Diego.
In 1784, Manuel Perez Nieto, a soldier, was given a large land grant, part of which was Rancho Los Alamitos, named after the abundant cottonwoods. Horse and cattle raising was particularly profitable for the land's successive owners through the Gold Rush days.
In 1878, John Bixby acquired the Rancho and Nieto house, which was badly run-down. Through remarkable business sense and energy, he established great farming and ranching enterprises which, supplemented by the discovery of oil in 1920 and later real estate transactions, has sustained his descendants to this day.
John Bixby dreamed of developing a city, but perhaps Los Alamitos' most direct impetus was the sugar beet bonanza of 1896 to 1925. Former Montana Senator William Clark formed the Los Alamitos Sugar Company. The factory and warehouses were built on Sausalito Avenue, workers' homes along Serpentine Drive, and later, the factory Club House on Los Alamitos Boulevard.
This "Company Town" attracted people from a wide range of countries and background to work in the factory. Many migrants established small businesses and built churches, schools, local government agencies and social organizations. Following the close of the factory in 1924 due to a nematode infection of the soil, railroad problems, and obsolete equipment, the once bustling "city" returned to small town status surrounded by small farms.
The United States Naval Air Station's move from Long Beach to Los Alamitos in 1943 revitalized population growth. The blossoming of housing tracts and consistent economic attractiveness of the area created a city of modern life style blended with remnants of the old businesses, families, and memories.
The Los Alamitos Museum is housed in the building which was once the Los Alamitos volunteer fire station. In the late 1940s, the volunteer firemen began earning money to purchase the land for the station. The County of Orange then built the firehouse, which is made of adobe bricks. The County used the same plans for other stations in the area. This station operated on a complete volunteer basis until the Los Alamitos Fire Station was moved to Green Street.
The Los Alamitos Museum was dedicated on October 25, 1975, and opened with exhibits on April 26, 1976.