The valley was home to Chumash Indians before becoming
one of many Spanish land grants along the California coast. It became a
cattle ranch in 1837, when it was granted to Fernando Tico. In 1853 he sold
it to prospectors searching for oil, without much success. By 1864, the area
had been settled, and in 1874, the City of Nordhoff was founded.
The city was renamed Ojai - a Chumash word meaning 'the Nest' or 'Valley of
the Moon' - when the name Nordhoff was deemed too German post-World War I.
The main turning point in the development of the city was the coming of
Edward Drummond Libbey. He saw the valley and fell in love, thinking up many
plans for expansion and beautification of the existing rustic town. He
helped design, finance and build a more modern and fitting downtown,
including a Spanish-style arcade, a bell-tower reminiscent of the famous
campanile in Havana, and a pergola opposite the arcade. His buildings still
exist today in exquisite condition as the symbols of the city and its
valley. To thank Libbey for his gifts to the town, the citizens proposed a
celebration to take place on March 2nd of each year. Libbey declined their
offer to call it "Libbey Day," and instead suggested "Ojai Day." The
celebration still takes place each year.
Today, Ojai is an active, though small, community. Libbey's pergola was
destroyed in 1971, and was recently rebuilt to complete the architectural
continuity of the downtown area.