King City is a city in Monterey County, California, United States. King City is located on the Salinas River 51 miles southeast of Salinas, at an elevation of 335 feet. It lies along U.S. Route 101 in the Salinas Valley of the Central Coast. King City is a member of the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments. The population was 12,874 at the 2010 census. It is a small town which has experienced slow economic growth over the past 50 years.
The first European land exploration of Alta California, Don Gaspar de Portolá’s Spanish expedition, camped on the Salinas River just south of today’s King City on September 26, 1769, having followed the route of today’s Jolon Road from the south. The land they camped on would later become part of King City.
King City was originally known as Kings City for its founder, Charles King. In 1884 Charles King acquired 13,000 acres of the Mexican land grant Rancho San Lorenzo, originally given to Mariano and Feliciano Soberanes in the early 1840s during Mexican rule of California. King began growing 6,000 acres of wheat. In an effort to get his crop to market, King allowed Southern Pacific Railroad to lay tracks across King Ranch land. The terminus was a station known as King’s.
It was originally called “Hog Town” due to the passel of semi-wild hogs roaming the stubble fields. King wanted to name the town Vanderhurst, after local merchant William Vanderhurst, but was outvoted and it was named for him … Kings’, the City of King, later simply King City.
The King City post office first opened in 1887. Edwards S. Brown, brother-in-law of C.H. King was appointed Postmaster. King City incorporated under the name “City of King” in 1911.
J. Ernst Steinbeck, father of the novelist John Steinbeck, claimed to have been the first permanent resident of King City. Steinbeck was certainly among the first settlers. He was the first agent for the Southern Pacific Milling Company, which built an early warehouse and flour mill alongside the railroad tracks running through town. The mill was built by R. M. Shackelford, an early California settler and businessman who owned sheep pasturage next to that of Charles King.
Agriculture has always played in role in King City history. Between 1910 and 1930, the city became famous for growing pink beans. King City Pinks were sold around the country, helped along by additional demand during World War I.
The Robert Stanton Auditorium, built in 1939 as a WPA Depression project, is a spectacular example of Art Moderne style, with elliptical rounded corners, Doric-style columns, an expansive curved stairway leading to recessed oak and glass double doors, as well as a bas-relief triptych, by artist Jo Mora, above that doors that depicts notable multi-cultural scenes of historic importance. Mora’s distinctive art is incorporated into the building’s design both inside and out. In 1991, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Broadway at First street looking west – Before 1917
Self Guided Tour
There is a rich history in the town of King City. Many of the old buildings are gone now and you can only imagine them as they were many years ago. We suggest you enter on the West end of broadway (just off highway 101) and travel down the six blocks to the east end, park, and walk the streets.
1st STREET – North end of town
North First Street at corner of 102 Ellis – Old Scale House, reconstructed 1935
Current home of Pups & Such Dog Grooming
First Street north of Broadway – Southern Pacific Milling Company Warehouse constructed shortly after 1886 when the train arrived and later Meyer Tomatoes.
Current home of H2A Farm Labor Housing owned by SGH Holdings LLC. (August 1907 photo from Robert Meyer Collection.)
118-120-122 Broadway – El Camino Garage, Built 1917
Current home of Monterey County Social service.
211 Broadway – Mar’s cafe
Current home of Guadalajara Restaurant
219 Broadway – Reel Joy Theatre
Current home of Carniceria La Barata Meat Market
223 Broadway – City Cafe (constructed 1936)
Current home of Mariscos El Camaron
232 Broadway – Monterey County Bank, later Wells Fargo (constructed 1917)
Current home of California Gourmet Pizza
301 Broadway – First National Bank, Later Bank of America (first occupied October 1917)
Current – development currently underway by TMC Mercantile Company for antique cafe
302-304-306 Broadway – Ford & Sanborn Co. – Early 1900’s
Current home of Pacific Valley Bank, LA Vaquera Western Wear, and Iglesia Jesucristo Rey D’Rey church. This is one of the first buildings constructed after the arrival of the train in 1886. There are historic photos of the town on the walls of the bank.
315 Broadway – King City Garage
Current home of El Pueblo Market
321-323 Broadway – The Talbott building housing the first high school and hospital
Current home of KC Body & Mind Studio
320 Broadway – The original Vendome Hotel (before it burned down in 1914)
Currently under renovation as apartments and retail
Current home of Tavernetti, Layous, & Clark Insurance Services
401 Broadway/Vanderhurst – Los Ositos Gargae (about 1917)
Currently home of District Office for King City Union School District with main entrance at 104 South Vanderhurst Avenue
421 1/2 Broadway (upstairs) – Masonic Lodge, constructed at the end of 1928
Currently shared by Masonic Lodge and Kasey’s Fitness Academy at 423 Broadway.
424 Broadway – Better Homes Furniture
Current home of Doris Furniture and Edward Jones Investment
640 Broadway – Palm Hotel
Currently Fireside Inn
110 North Vanderhurst – The Rustler newspaper, occupied January 1931
Home of King City Downtown Plaza
121 North Vanderhurst – United Service Organization USO Club, dedicated 1941 serving Mesa Del Rey WWII Airport
Current home of Buttgereit, Pettitt, & Davis Agency and Robert Cullen Framers Insurance Agency
209 South Vanderhurst – First Baptist Church built 1893
Current home of Asemblea Apostolic Church
215 South Vanderhurst – City Hall
Vanderhurst at Pearl Street – Auditorium at King City Grammar School, later San Lorenzo School, constructed 1912-13
Currently King City Arts Magnet School
305 Bassett – St. Mark’s Episcopal Church construction 1889
Still home of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church
100 North Mildred- Robert Stanton Theatre at King City High School
Built in 1937-39 during the Works Progress Administration. Jo Mora Artwork is on the facade.
This information is brought to you by King City In Bloom, a non-profit group working for the betterment of the community through landscaping and heritage preservation, and a grant from the Rita and Luis Echenique Charitable Foundation.
For personalized walking tours of the above information and more, contact
John and Karen Jernigan
(813) 385-6112 or (381) 594-7410