Lake Forest in Orange County is a beautiful town that highly respects nature. It’s also recognized as one of the safest cities in the country. But before it was declared as a city last December 20, 1991, it has a great history worth sharing.
Way back, Lake Forest was known as El Toro. Like most Orange County cities, it was an agricultural area before it became the city that it is today. It all started when Don Jose Serrano settled in an eleven thousand-hectare land in 1874 granted by the Mexican Land Grant. The first name ‘El Toro’ or The Bull as translated came from the bulls that used to roam in the ranch. Serrano and his family occupied the land until such time when financial problems forced them to sell the property for private interests.
In 1884, an Englishman came to El Toro and laid the foundation of the English colony. He bought a big part of the ranch from several people to whom the Serranos had sold it like the thousand acres of land from Cook and Victor. Whiting also bought from a Frenchman, a man named Eldrige and so much more. At this time, sheep raising was the only enterprise at this part of the foothills between San Juan Capistrano and Santa Ana.
About 1893, Whiting brought a lot of his countrymen in England to El Toro. Each of his countrymen bought land from him where they built spacious country homes. They also engaged in farming. This English colony was the primary instrument to create the St. George Episcopal Church.
1900s came, and the land came into the possession of Dwight Whiting. He started the agricultural community by planting 400 acres of fast-growing eucalyptus trees. The trees helped California’s lumber shortage at that time.
Years after World War II, the farmlands in the area were replaced by residential, commercial, and industrial developments. It was around the 1960s when master developer Occidental Petroleum planned to create a master-planned community in the area surrounded by abundant trees and man-made lakes.
The eucalyptus trees planted by whiting grew and provided a landscape that led to the ‘Forest’ in Lake Forest. El Toro grew even more from farmland and agricultural area to a residential community during the peak of activity at the El Toro Marine Base nearby. It raised the need for more homes and support services. The city we had today started from all of this.
El Toro continued to grow the best way possible and was later incorporated as a city on December 20, 1991. It then changed its name to Lake Forest. On the year 2000, the vote to expand the city’s limits was approved. The expansion included the master-planned developments of Portola Hills and Foothill Ranch.
There’s a secure area in Lake Forest called the ‘Heritage Hill.’ It’s the first of all Orange County’s historic parks. The place is the home of Serrano Adobe. It’s the oldest structure in the city dating back to the late 1880s.
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