Seaside emerged from humble beginnings as scattered Rumsien Indian campsites and Mexican gardens when a prescient and assertive young New York doctor, John L.D. Roberts, saw the development possibilities in land adjacent to the prestigious Del Monte Hotel. In 1887, he bought 150 acres from his uncle, marketed it as a shoreline resort and in 6 months had repaid his loans, built a house, and expanded his subdivision to the north. By 1891 the resort had its own Post Office and a name, Seaside, and was expanding across the sand dunes from the original cluster of holiday homes along the slough (now Roberts Lake.) Streets and a hot springs resort were laid out, schools, churches and a rail-car line built; though begun by resort developers, slowly a working peoples' town emerged.
In the 1920s and 1930s Seaside had to absorb the impact of the Great Depression and the flood of Dustbowl refugees. Lots were cheap or free and most homes were family.
Change came with the build-up to World War II. In 1910, Roberts had convinced President Roosevelt to locate Fort Ord on ranchland to the north; for 30 years a cavalry training base, after 1941 it grew into the major west-coast U.S. Army training facility. Thousands of workers and soldiers arrived and Seaside was the nearest place to live off-base. The integration of the U.S. Army in 1948 created a new opportunity: Fort Ord became the first integrated base and acceptable housing was needed for career military of mixed race. Seaside became a town of ethnic and racial diversity unique in central California, largely because of the influx of Army families and their role in connecting City and Base.
Building the Community
The challenge of melding these diverse resources, dealing with the negative impacts of deed-restrictions and Seasides's reputation as an army-base hangout, helped create a strong, educated, stable community. As early as 1940, community and business leaders began to fight for incorporation. It took courage to face the Monterey City and County power structures and the vote wasn't allowed until 1954. Victory came with a price - the loss of the oldest parts of Seaside (taken by Monterey) and most of the shoreline (to Sand City.), almost half its acreage. But the City set to work on:
- High school
- New City Hall designed by Edward Durell Stone
- Redevelopment and Urban Renewal
The City went from strength to strength, a model for political inclusion, minority business opportunities and neighborhood diversity in the civil rights era and remained strong enough to survive the stunning closure of Fort Ord as a full-time base in 1994. The African-American community, so crucial to Seaside's growth, political dynamism, music and arts culture has dropped in numbers and been replaced by an influx of hardworking, predominately Latino immigrants, now a majority of the population.
City government projects are focusing on ways to best use land acquired from the former Fort Ord by developing projects that will benefit from Seaside's finest new neighbors, California Stat University, Monterey Bay, a 4-year university and the Fort Ord National Monument Other projects seek to transform the historic downtown, provide resort facilities and more shopping areas for the City.