Big Bear Lake, California - History

History

Big Bear Lake was inhabited by the indigenous Serrano Indians for over 2,000 years before it was explored by Benjamin Wilson and his party. Once populated by only the natives and the Grizzly bears, from which the area received its name, Big Bear Valley grew rapidly during the Southern California Gold Rush from 1861 to 1912. Grizzly bears were not found in the region after 1908. However there are black bears in the region, introduced in 1933, and they are sometimes sighted in residential areas.

A trip to Big Bear Lake from San Bernardino took two days on horse-drawn coaches. Kirk Phillips was a local who took a trip to New York City and saw the world's first bus line. This inspired him to create the world's second bus line from San Bernardino to Big Bear Valley using White trucks with several rows of seats. This made it possible for the villages to grow and for Big Bear Lake to become the first mountain recreation area in Southern California.

Many people traveled to enjoy recreation on the lake, however, another major draw was the natural hot spring. Emile Jesserun bought 40 acres (160,000 m2) of land that included the hot spring and built the first major resort in Big Bear, the Pan Hot Springs Hotel, in 1921.

This resort was followed with others that strived to be the best by creating a country club atmosphere complete with the amenities required to lure the Hollywood celebrities of the time including Cecil B. DeMille, Shirley Temple, and Ginger Rogers.

It was also a popular place for shooting on location, as they did for the filming of the 1920 version of Last of the Mohicans and a number of Bonanza episodes in the 1960s at Cedar lake. 1924 saw Big Bear populated with 44 resorts and a constant stream of vacationers. The Pan Hot Springs Hotel, like many of the other resorts and hotels in Big Bear, was extensively damaged by fire in 1933.

Big Bear Lake was one of the filming locations for Daniel Boone, Disney's Old Yeller, the 1969 musical film Paint Your Wagon, the 1983 movie War Games, the opening to NBC's children's program HR Pufnstuf and the ending scene in Better Off Dead.

Winter activities are also popular in Big Bear. The first ski jump in Big Bear was erected in 1929 and quickly claimed a world ski jump record. More jumps were built in Big Bear Lake and the Viking Ski Club of Los Angeles began to use them for competition and events. The move to a winter resort town was solidified in 1952 when Tommy Tyndall opened a resort in Big Bear Lake now known as Snow Summit.

In the summer of 1968, Caltech began construction of Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO) located on the north shore of Big Bear Lake. Due to extensive rain and snow, the lake rose several feet and BBSO was surrounded by water at the time construction completed using makeshift barges in May 1970. BBSO, now operated by the New Jersey Institute of Technology, is still a major Big Bear Lake landmark connected to the north shore by a dirt and rock causeway.

Since 1970 Big Bear Lake has held its annual Oktoberfest. The Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest also sports the highest Biergarten in the U.S. (in elevation). Big Bear Lake was incorporated as a city on November 28, 1980.

During the 1990s, the city became famous as a spot for boxing champions who need to train, Oscar de la Hoya, Fernando Vargas and Shane Mosley being among the famous boxers who have trained at Big Bear.

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