Printer-friendly version Share:  Share this page on FacebookShare this page on TwitterShare this page by emailShare this page with other services

Historic Martinez, California

Long before California became a state, Martinez was a small town fully plotted on the map of the Contra Costa District of Upper California. It all began with Mexican Land Grants in the 1830's. For services rendered to the government, Don Ignacio Martinez received the 17,000 acres in the Alhambra Valley. With his death, his eleven children inherited the property in 1849.

San Francisco businessman William Smith then married one of the Martinez's daughters, and established a trading post which catalyzed growth of the town in 1849. In the following year, the California Gold Rush brought the first of several booms that left their marks over the next 130 years. During the 1870's and 1880's, the City of Martinez flourished as a governmental and trade center. Incorporated in 1876, the town was previously designated as the County Seat of Contra Costa County. As the County Seat, growth was assured; the judges, lawyers and businesses to serve their needs were established. Martinez became a major shipping port, based primarily on lucrative grain trade between California's central valley and international ports-of-call.

Shaping the downtown business district in the 1870's included completion of the intercontinental railroad through Martinez in 1876, the operation of the longest running ferry service west of the Mississippi River, and the establishment of a home by famed naturalist John Muir, founder of the National Parks System.

Scattered throughout town are many 1865 to 1910 homes, in every style of Victorian and turn of the century motif.

Rumors of oil companies coming to Martinez set off a real estate rush in 1912. After the Shell Oil Company located in Martinez in 1915 the city blossomed into the regional cultural center and marketplace through the 1940's. Hundreds of families arrived with the advent of Shell, spurring a flurry of residential and commercial construction which dominates the Old Town to this day.

Martinez Community Profile

Growth and Trends

1970 1990
County population 556,116 803,000
Population - city limits 16,506 34,000
School enrollment 5,452


Martinez, incorporated in 1876, is the county seat of Contra Costa County. It is located 32 miles northeast of San Francisco, 23 miles east of Oakland and 369 miles north of Los Angeles. The City now occupies 15 square miles.


Average Rainfall 18 inches
Average Minimum Temperature 57 degrees
Average Maximum Temperature 92 degrees


30 feet


Largest non-manufacturing firms:

Contra Costa County 7,000
Veteran's Hospital 1,334
Kaiser Medical Center 800
Merrithew Memorial Hospital 800
Martinez Unified School District 435


Shell Oil 996
Tosco Corporation 718
IT Corporation 200

Industrial Sites

There are approximately 1,100 acres in the city limits zoned for industry; and approximately 850 acres are undeveloped.


  • Amtrak
  • AC Transit
  • BART
  • County Connection
  • Greyhound


Performing Arts


Martinez Chamber of Commerce
620 Las Juntas Street
Martinez, CA 94553
(415) 228-2345
Date: (undated)

Home | Alphabetical Index | What's New & About this Site

Sierra Club® and "Explore, enjoy and protect the planet"® are registered trademarks of the Sierra Club. © 2023 Sierra Club.
The Sierra Club Seal is a registered copyright, service mark, and trademark of the Sierra Club.