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Hollister California -- The City That Is!

Updated on October 24, 2014

That's Right. Not the Store.

Beach, no. Farm land, yes. That is one of the differences between the real Hollister, California and the mythical one that Abercrombie & Fitch spun for its clothing brand. One thing both worlds have in common---lots of sun.

Hollister, California is where I was born and raised and returned to live after several decades of living in an urban area. I forgot how much I missed the wide sky and the low mountain ranges that surround the town. Excuse me, city. In 1980, the U.S. Census reported a population of 11,488. It tripled by the 2000 Census when the count was 34,413. Between those years, the city limits expanded as once upon-a-time farm fields and fruit orchards were sold and turned into housing developments.

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Which Way to Hollister?

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The fictional surf town of Hollister, California is located in Laguna Beach, a bit south of Los Angeles in Southern California. The real Hollister is about 300 miles north of Los Angeles. It is in fact part of California's central coast region. The nearest beaches, though, are about 30 miles away to the west in the Monterey/Santa Cruz bay area.

Getting Around Hollister

A marker -
Hollister, CA
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The County Seat

The new courthouse of the Superior Court of California, San Benito County
The new courthouse of the Superior Court of California, San Benito County | Source

Hollister is the county seat of San Benito County, which population is nearly 57,000. Hollister, with a population of about 36,000, is one of two cities in San Benito County. The other city is San Juan Bautista, which is approximately seven miles to the west of Hollister. Incorporated communities in the county are Aromas, Tres Pinos, and Paicines.

Hollister Link Mania!

Web sites to check out when you need or want to know more about the real city called Hollister, California.

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The Mutsun Ohlones - The Original Residents

The first inhabitants of the Hollister area were the Mutsuns, a division of the Ohlone people. The Ohlones are also known as the Costanoans, the name that the Spanish called the local peoples when they explored the California coastal region, including inland valleys, between San Francisco and Big Sur. Spanish explorers and settlers encountered several Mutsun tribes in the Hollister valley and throughout San Benito county.

For more info about the Mutsuns and the Ohlones, check out these Web sites:

Going Back in Time

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The City of Hollister was named after an Ohioan by the name of William Welles Hollister. He and his siblings headed west in the 1850s, driving thousands of sheep along with them. Hollister bought a 50 percent interest in Rancho San Justo, which the Flint-Bixby and Company purchased from Don Francisco Pacheco. At first, Hollister owned the land that was west of the San Benito River, and the Flint-Bixby group owned that to the east. After awhile, Hollister didn't think it was a good deal. The two parties eventually compromised and traded sides.

After another 10 years or so, Hollister sold all of his land to a group of farmers and ranchers who had formed the San Justo Homestead Association. He took his money and moved his family and sheep south to the Santa Barbara area. The association set aside 100 acres for a town, and in 1872, Hollister was incorporated as part of Monterey County. A few years later, San Benito County was created and Hollister was made the county seat.

For a precise reckoning of how Hollister came to be, visit the San Benito County Historical Society Web site.

So, why did the San Justo Homestead Association decide to name the new town after the man who left? Supposedly, some of the farmers didn't want to have another California town with a Spanish name. If you'd like to learn a bit more about Hollister, the man, check out the Wikipedia article William Welles Hollister.

Historical Downtown Hollister

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The iconic Masonic Lodge Clock Tower stands at the corner of 4th and San Benito Streets.The City Hall was built in 1910. It was originally the home of the San Benito County Free Library.This is one of the oldest commercial buildings in Hollister, constructed around 1874.The Veterans Memorial Building was completed in 1927. It continues to be used today for public and private functions.The Wapple House, named for its original owner, Pharmacist George Wapple, was built in 1909. Today it houses the San Benito County Historical Museum.Johann & Almira Steinbeck,  author John Steinbeck's grandparents, bought this bungalow in 1911 after having farmed for many years outside of town.This Queen Anne house was built in 1893 by Thomas Hawkins, a founder of Hollister, for his son. It was used in the 1981 "East of Eden" TV-movie.From 1907 to 1962, this building served as the Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital. Today it is used for commercial offices.
The iconic Masonic Lodge Clock Tower stands at the corner of 4th and San Benito Streets.
The iconic Masonic Lodge Clock Tower stands at the corner of 4th and San Benito Streets. | Source
The City Hall was built in 1910. It was originally the home of the San Benito County Free Library.
The City Hall was built in 1910. It was originally the home of the San Benito County Free Library. | Source
This is one of the oldest commercial buildings in Hollister, constructed around 1874.
This is one of the oldest commercial buildings in Hollister, constructed around 1874. | Source
The Veterans Memorial Building was completed in 1927. It continues to be used today for public and private functions.
The Veterans Memorial Building was completed in 1927. It continues to be used today for public and private functions. | Source
The Wapple House, named for its original owner, Pharmacist George Wapple, was built in 1909. Today it houses the San Benito County Historical Museum.
The Wapple House, named for its original owner, Pharmacist George Wapple, was built in 1909. Today it houses the San Benito County Historical Museum. | Source
Johann & Almira Steinbeck,  author John Steinbeck's grandparents, bought this bungalow in 1911 after having farmed for many years outside of town.
Johann & Almira Steinbeck, author John Steinbeck's grandparents, bought this bungalow in 1911 after having farmed for many years outside of town. | Source
This Queen Anne house was built in 1893 by Thomas Hawkins, a founder of Hollister, for his son. It was used in the 1981 "East of Eden" TV-movie.
This Queen Anne house was built in 1893 by Thomas Hawkins, a founder of Hollister, for his son. It was used in the 1981 "East of Eden" TV-movie. | Source
From 1907 to 1962, this building served as the Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital. Today it is used for commercial offices.
From 1907 to 1962, this building served as the Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital. Today it is used for commercial offices. | Source

An Aggie Town

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Hollister was, is, and, with luck, shall always be an agricultural community. The San Benito High School mascot is after all a Haybaler. Not after the machine, but a farmer (any farmer) who bales hay. Go Haybalers!

Most, if not all, of the new neighborhoods (as of 1980s) in Hollister used to be be orchards (apricots, pears, plums, cherries, peaches, walnuts, and so on), crop fields, or cattle grazing lands. Today, a few farms still border the city limits.

Sustainable agriculture farms and vineyards/wineries have been slowly, but surely, increasing in number in the area.

Local Agriculture Links

Here are some links that will lead you to Web sites that can give you info about the different aspects of the local agriculture industry. You'll also find a few links for local farmers in San Benito County.

Local Agricultural Bounty

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Downtown Hollister Farmer's Market is open every Wednesday afternoon from May to September.A field full of organic tomatoes off San Felipe Road.Trays full of drying Blenheim apricots, which once grew in abundance in and around Hollister.A field being watered off Cienega Road in Paicines.
Downtown Hollister Farmer's Market is open every Wednesday afternoon from May to September.
Downtown Hollister Farmer's Market is open every Wednesday afternoon from May to September. | Source
A field full of organic tomatoes off San Felipe Road.
A field full of organic tomatoes off San Felipe Road. | Source
Trays full of drying Blenheim apricots, which once grew in abundance in and around Hollister.
Trays full of drying Blenheim apricots, which once grew in abundance in and around Hollister. | Source
A field being watered off Cienega Road in Paicines.
A field being watered off Cienega Road in Paicines. | Source

Shaking and Rolling!

The Calaveras Fault created this shift in the wall.
The Calaveras Fault created this shift in the wall. | Source

Hollister is full of cracks. Uh-huh. The ground beneath us is continuously shifting because of EARTHQUAKES.

I've heard say that we have an earthquake every day. Most are so slight, we don't know they're happening. Why not? Two major faults run through our area---the ominous San Andreas Fault and the just as menacing Calaveras Fault. Hollister saw much damage in both the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.

Once upon a time, Hollister called itself the Earthquake Capital of the World. Parkfield, California now holds that title. Stilll, Hollister has a good share of geologists coming to town to study earthquake activity. Check out the following Web sites by researchers about the Calaveras Fault that runs through downtown:

A Virtual Tour of Hollister, California and the Calaveras Fault

A Walking Tour of the Calaveras Fault in Hollister, California

Pinnacles National Park

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Hiking, rock climbing, camping, picnicking, gazing at Condors (if you're lucky), or just plain napping are some of the things you can do at the Pinnacles National Monument, which is part of the National Park Service. It's a long, windy 30 miles south of Hollister on highway 25.

The monument was established in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt and became a park in 2013. Over 23 million years ago, according to some scientists, the Pinnacles was a part of the Neenach Volcano that is located several hundred miles to the south near Lancaster, California. Yes, you read that correctly. The famous San Andreas Fault split the volcano and ever so slowly the fault crept and carried the Pinnacles to its present location. Amazing, huh?

For more info about the Pinnacles and all the flora, fauna, and fun there, clickity click over to Pinnacles National Park.

The Birthplace of the American Biker

Originally painted in 1996, this mural was repainted in 2007 by artist (and biker) Ronald Rocha from San Antonio.
Originally painted in 1996, this mural was repainted in 2007 by artist (and biker) Ronald Rocha from San Antonio. | Source

As long as there have been motorcycles, there have been many bikers riding in, about, and through Hollister. Locals as well as visitors. But, that is not the reason some people have called Hollister the birthplace of the American Biker. That designation stems from the events that took place on the 4th of July Weekend in 1947. About 4,000 bikers, from all parts of the state and other states as well came to town for the 3-day motorcyle rally being held at Bolado Park, a few miles south of Hollister. A lot of bikers for a small town.

As you would expect, at night, after the races, some of the bikers came into town to relax, to party, to have some fun. And of course, some got drunk and rowdy. One biker even rode his motorcycle through a bar---the bar in the photo, in fact. Fights also took place. The small local police force had to declare martial law to keep things under control. When all was said and done, the authorities figured less than 1 percent of all the rally attendants were arrested and charged with...wait for it...misdemeanors.

The newspapers at that time turned the incident into a full-blown riot, exaggerating the events in story and photos. One famous photo is of a drunken man sitting on his bike. The story implies that he was a thug, an outlaw, and so on. Years later, it turned out that the photographer posed the photo (and others). The biker was your average everyday local guy. Several years later, the sensationalized events of that 1947 weekend inspired the movie "The Wild One." No doubt the movie also promoted the image of the biker who centers his lifestyle around his motorcycle.

In 1997, Hollister held an Independence Motorcycle Rally to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the incident. Tens of thousands of bikers, motorcycle enthusiasts, and friends attended. Except for a few years, the rally has been held every July, on or around July 4, since then.

For a better low-down of the 1947 incident, check out these Web sites:

The 1947 Gypsy Tour in Hollister

The 2007 Hollister Motorcycle Rally

Hollister Riot

"The Wild One"

The 1947 biker incident in Hollister was the inspiration for the movie "The Wild One." The film came out in 1953. It was directed by Laslo Benedek and produced by Stanley Kramer. The star of the film was none other than Marlon Brando.

Novels Based in Hollister

Here are a couple of novels that set some or all of its story in and around Hollister. Enjoy!

The Octopus: A Story of California
The Octopus: A Story of California

This is the second novel of an unfinished trilogy by Frank Norris, published in 1901. The story is about a very tense conflict between ranchers and the railroad over (what else) land at the end of the 19th century.

 
There's Something in a Sunday (A Sharon Mccone Mystery)
There's Something in a Sunday (A Sharon Mccone Mystery)

A mystery novel in which part of the story takes place in Hollister.

 

Annual Events

Here are a few of the events that take place each year in Hollister.

Photos of Past Events

Click thumbnail to view full-size
San Benito County Saddle Horse Show and Rodeo ParadeThe Hollister RallyThe San Benito Olive FestivalThe Annual Storytelling and Indigenous Gathering in Indian CanyonThe Annual Street Festival, Car Show, and Swap MeetThe Mexican Independence Day ParadeVeterans Day ParadeLights On Celebration Parade
San Benito County Saddle Horse Show and Rodeo Parade
San Benito County Saddle Horse Show and Rodeo Parade | Source
The Hollister Rally
The Hollister Rally | Source
The San Benito Olive Festival
The San Benito Olive Festival | Source
The Annual Storytelling and Indigenous Gathering in Indian Canyon
The Annual Storytelling and Indigenous Gathering in Indian Canyon | Source
The Annual Street Festival, Car Show, and Swap Meet
The Annual Street Festival, Car Show, and Swap Meet | Source
The Mexican Independence Day Parade
The Mexican Independence Day Parade | Source
Veterans Day Parade
Veterans Day Parade | Source
Lights On Celebration Parade
Lights On Celebration Parade | Source

Going to the Fair

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Ever gone to a county fair? San Benito County holds one every year in the fall. It's a 3-day event. It's a blast! Carnival rides and carnival games. Cotton candy, funnel cake, and BBQ. One year, I even forked over a dollar to the see "The Strange Thing," which was a dried, shriveled chupacabra. Gross.

Children and adults throughout the county enter the flowers and vegetables they've raised; the crafts, clothes, cakes, and cookies they've made; the photos they've clicked and paintings they've created; and so on. All for the chance of being one of the best in their categories. (Future Farmers of America) and 4-H members also exhibit the goats, pigs, chickens, rabbits, cows, and other livestock that they have raised all year. After being judged and awarded, the kids sell their animals at an auction that takes place at the fair.

To find out more about the fair, visit the official Web site: San Benito County Fair.

The Hollister Mural by Ernie Valles

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Thank you for visiting! Please come by again.

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Your Say - Be my guest. Just please be nice and keep it clean.

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    • profile image

      Randy in Fresno 2 years ago

      Hello Susieee Mac, Very nice web site about my hometown. Where did you got your San Justo Homestead map? I'd like to get a copy of the whole homestead, any suggestions where I should look, or who I should ask?

      Thanks, Randy

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      Hi and thanks again for linking to us (Costanoan- Ohlone Indian Canyon Resource www.indiancanyon.org) - we need to point a small error...Indian Canyon is NOT the only recognized Indian Land in California - rather, we are the only recognized Indian Land between Clear lake and the Santa Barbara Area - thanks

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      Looks like quite a place. You sure seem proud of your city, that's good. To many people nowadays don't have any civic pride. Thanks for the tour.

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      I recently moved to Hollister after living in nearby Gilroy and Morgan Hill for years. It's nice to learn new things about the town and get an insider's look at what's fun to do. I love the small town feel and can't wait to get out and takes some pictures of the beautiful area. Thanks for sharing!

    • SueM11 profile image

      Sue Mah 7 years ago from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

      Thanks for the tour to your town. This is the first time I have heard of Hollister and I enjoyed visiting it through your eyes.

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      poutine 7 years ago

      Looking at all the pictures, I understand how you missed your birthplace.

      Seems a great place.

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      hNizam 7 years ago

      Nice lens . 5 Stars 4 You .

    • semas profile image

      semas 7 years ago

      An informative lens.5* Living across the world(I am from india) I felt nice visiting a new place and thoroughly enjoyed it!

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 7 years ago

      oh this brings back memories to Hollister...very nicely done lens...5*

    • Hairdresser007 profile image

      James Jordan 7 years ago from Burbank, CA

      great lens. I especially like the map with directions.

    • jennysue19 profile image

      jennysue19 7 years ago

      A lovely place to live (if you don't mind earthquakes!) and a lovely lens - well done

    • Susieee Mac profile image
      Author

      Susieee Mac 7 years ago

      Thanks, everyone, for your comments. I'm glad you like the page. I'll be updating it from time to time.

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      @anonymous: Steve, visit the Historical Society on the second Monday of the month between 10 am and 4 pm to see this map and many other items of interest.

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      There'll be an airshow Memorial Day weekend May 29-30, 2010 at the Hollister Airport. Aerobatics, Skydivers, Displays, Vendors. Admission only $5, parking $3. More info www.hollisterairshow.com

    • sciencefictionn profile image

      sciencefictionn 7 years ago

      Beautiful lens, congratulations! I rated it 5 stars.

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      Lotsa nice information here, Susie. I found the San Justo Homestead map really interesting. When I look at the names of the original property owners, they match many of the town's street names. Wish I could find a clearer copy. Maybe I'll try the Historical Society site.

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      Awesome, just like everything else you've done

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      Susie, everything you do is 1st cabin. Congrats!

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      Californiadan 7 years ago

      Great lens! Very complete good photos and writing. I knew that Hollister was "up there" somewhere (we're in Southern California), but not much about it until now.

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      Fantastic job, Susie!

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      I really enjoyed this ~ thank you for taking the time to collect the pictures and put the information together!!! Love it :)

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      Great job, Susie!

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      chasquaid 7 years ago

      Great site Susie, I love it