Eureka is the county seat and principal city in Humboldt County, California, United States. Located adjacent to Humboldt Bay 270 miles north of San Francisco, the port city of 26,097 (2007) residents is situated near extensive preserves of the world's tallest trees - the Coast Redwoods. This architecturally and historically significant coastal city serves as the regional center for government, health care, trade, and the Arts for the far North Coast of California.
Eureka's Pacific coastal location on Humboldt Bay adjacent to abundant Redwood forests provided a rich environment for the birth of this 19th century seaport town. Beginning more than 150 years ago, miners, loggers, and fishermen began making their mark in this pristine wilderness of the California North Coast. Before that time the area was already occupied by small groups of indigenous peoples.
The Wiyot people lived in the area now known as Eureka for thousands of years prior to European arrival. They are the farthest-southwest people whose language has Algonquian roots. Their traditional coastal homeland ranged from the lower Mad River through Humboldt Bay and south along the lower basin of the Eel River. The Wiyot are particularly known for their basketry and fishery management. An extensive collection of highly evolved basketry of the areas indigenous groups exists in the Clarke Historical Museum in Old Town Eureka.
European exploration of the coast of what would become northern California, beginning as early as 1579, repeatedly missed definitively locating Humboldt Bay for nearly three hundred years. This was due to a combination of geographic features, often aided by weather conditions, which concealed the narrow entrance from view. Despite a well documented 1806 sighting by Russian explorers, the bay was not definitively known by Europeans until an 1849 overland exploration provided a reliable accounting of the exact location of what is the second largest bay in California. The timing of this discovery would lead to the May 13, 1850 founding of the settlement of Eureka on its shore by the Union and Mendocino Exploring (development) companies.
Secondarily to the California Gold Rush in the Sierras, prospectors discovered gold in the nearby Trinity region (along the Trinity, Klamath, and Salmon Rivers). Because miners needed a convenient alternate to the tedious overland route from Sacramento, schooners and other vessels soon arrived on recently discovered Humboldt Bay. Though the ideal location on Humboldt Bay adjacent to naturally deeper shipping channels ultimately guaranteed Eureka's development as the primary city on the bay, Arcata's proximity to developing supply lines to inland gold mines ensured supremacy over Eureka through 1856. "Eureka" is a Greek word meaning "I have found it!" This exuberant statement of successful (or hopeful) California Gold Rush miners is also the official Motto of the State of California.
The first Europeans venturing into Humboldt Bay encountered the indigenous Wiyot. Records of early forays into the bay reported that the violence of the local indigenous people made it nearly impossible for landing parties to survey the area. After 1850, Europeans ultimately overwhelmed the Wiyot, whose maximum population before the Europeans was in the hundreds in the area of what would become the county's primary city. But in almost every case, settlers ultimately cut off access to ancestral sources of food in addition to the outright taking of the land despite efforts of some US Government and military officials to assist the native peoples or at least maintain peace. A tragic slaughter on Indian Island committed by a group of locals, primarily Eureka businessmen, in the spring of 1860 is detailed in the Wiyot article. The chronicle of the behavior of European settlers toward the indigenous cultures locally and throughout America is presented in detail in the Fort Humboldt State Historic Park museum, on the southern edge of the city.
The soon to be center of commerce opened its first post office in 1853 just as the town began to carve its grid pattern into the edge of a forest it would ultimately consume to feed the building of San Francisco and beyond. Many of the first immigrants who arrived as prospectors were also lumbermen, and the vast potential for industry on the bay was soon realized, especially as many hopeful miners realized the difficulty and infrequency of striking it rich in the mines. By 1854, after only four years since the founding, seven of nine mills processing timber into marketable lumber on Humboldt Bay were within Eureka. A year later 140 lumber schooners operated in Humboldt Bay, supplying lumber to other booming cities along the Pacific coast. Rapid growth of the lumber industry, depletion of forests located in close proximity to Humboldt Bay and technological advances led to the development of dozens of local, narrow gauge railroads to move the giant trees to dozens of lumber mills on Humboldt Bay.
A bustling commercial district and ornate Victorians rose in proximity to the waterfront, reflecting the great prosperity experienced during this era. Hundreds of these Victorian homes remain today, of which many are totally restored and a few have always remained in their original elegance and splendor. The representation of these homes in Eureka grouped with those in nearby Arcata and the Victorian village of Ferndale are of considerable importance to the overall development of Victorian architecture built in the nation. The magnificent Carson Mansion on 2nd and M Streets, is perhaps the most spectacular Victorian in the nation. The home was built between 1884-1886 by renowned 19th Century architects Newsom and Newsom for lumber baron William M. Carson. This project was designed to keep mill workers and expert craftsman busy during a slow period in the industry. Old Town Eureka, the original downtown center of this busy city in the 19th Century, has been restored and has become a lively arts center. The Old Town area has been declared an Historic District by the National Register of Historic Places. This nexus of culture behind the redwood curtain still contains much of its Victorian architecture, which, if not maintained as homes, have been transformed into scores of unique lodgings, restaurants, and small shops featuring a burgeoning cottage industry of hand-made creations from glass ware to wood burning stoves and a large variety of art created locally.
Eureka's founding and livelihood was and remains linked to Humboldt Bay, the Pacific Ocean, and related industries, especially fishing. Salmon fisheries sprang up along the Eel River as early as 1851, and within seven years, 2,000 barrels of cured fish and 50,000 pounds of smoked salmon were processed and shipped out of Humboldt Bay annually, primarily from processing plants on Eureka's waterfront, which exist to this day. By 1858 the first of many ships built in Eureka was launched, beginning an industry that spanned scores of years. The bay is also the site of one of the west coast's largest Oyster farming operations, which began its commercial status in the nineteenth century. The Bay remains the home port to more than 200 fishing boats in two modern marinas which can berth at least 400 boats within the city limits of Eureka.
In addition to ethnic conflict with the native and Wiyot peoples, some Eurekans joined the statewide response to the increasing Chinese presence in the 1880s. Californians led the nation in the xenophobic response to the perceived large numbers of Chinese immigrants, which ultimately led to the US Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 (forms of this law remained in the US Code until 1943). Economic downturns and resulting competition for jobs especially led some citizens of European descent to commit sometimes violent racist actions, especially on the Pacific coast. In February 1885, the racial tension in Eureka broke when a member of two rival Chinese gangs accidentally shot and killed a Eureka City Councilman in the crossfire between the two opposing tongs (gangs). This led to the convening of an angry mob of 600 Eurekans and resulted in the forcible, permanent expulsion of all 480 Chinese residents of Eureka's Chinatown (a one block area). The expelled Chinese unsuccessfully attempted to sue for damages. In the U.S. Circuit Court case Wing Hing v. Eureka, the court noted that the Chinese owned no land and held that their other property was worthless. A citizen's committee then drafted an unofficial law decreeing:
1) That all Chinamen be expelled from the city and that none be allowed to return.
2) That a committee be appointed to act for one year, whose duty shall be to warn all Chinamen who may attempt to come to this place to live, and to use all reasonable means to prevent their remaining. If the warning is disregarded, to call mass meetings of citizens to whom the case will be referred for proper action.
3) That a notice be issued to all property owners through the daily papers, requesting them not to lease or rent property to Chinese.
The anti-Chinese ordinance was not repealed until 1959. Among those who guarded the city jail during the height of the Sinophobic tension was future Governor of California James Gillett, himself a recent resident to the city.
In 1914 the first major, reliable land route was established between San Francisco and Eureka with the opening of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad, connecting Eureka through Willits, California to the northern shore of San Francisco Bay. With passenger rail service from San Francisco to the bustling Redwood Empire, Eureka's population of 7,300 swelled to 15,000 within ten years. By 1922 the Redwood Highway was completed, providing for the first reliable, direct overland route for automobiles from San Francisco. Eureka's transportation connection to the "outside" world had changed dramatically after more than half a century of uncomfortable stage rides (which could take weeks in winter) or treacherous steamship passage through the infamous Humboldt Bar and on the rarely pacified Pacific Ocean to San Francisco. The greatest symbol of this advance was the opening of the Eureka Inn (see photo, right), which coincided with the opening of the new road to "Frisco" (a favorite local nickname for San Francisco). The inn's history of providing quality accommodations and amenities for travelers in a style unsurpassed for its day and for decades to come is well documented. The hotel, which is currently closed, is still one of the largest lodging properties in the region. As a result of immense civic pride during this early 20th Century era of expansion, Eureka officially nicknamed itself "Queen City of the Ultimate West." The tourism industry, lodging to support it, and related marketing had been born.
The timber industry declined along with Pacific Northwest fisheries steadily since the 1950s. Overcutting and overfishing, increased regulation, and the creation of more parkland to preserve the remnants of once extensive virgin forests, rivers, and fisheries led to diminished profits and massive layoffs of blue collared mill workers and fisherman, beginning in earnest by the 1970s. Automation of remaining consolidated milling operations and competition from other timber markets outside the nation only hastened the process of decline in the number of jobs available in logging and related industries. The challenges resulting from this economic and resulting social upheaval were significant in the lives of many Eureka and North Coast residents. However, both the local fishing industry and the timber industry still figure large in the local and state economy, though in diminished form from the past.
For the region, Eureka remains the center for commerce, healthcare, and tourism.
Eureka is ideally, if remotely, situated within California's Redwood Empire region due to its proximity to exceptional natural resources. These include the spectacular coast of the Pacific Ocean, Humboldt Bay, and several rivers in addition to Redwood National and State Parks and Humboldt Redwoods State Park. The location of Eureka on U.S. 101 is 283 miles (455 km) north of San Francisco and 315 miles (507 km) north and west of Sacramento. Eureka is the closest major city to the most central point of the United States' Pacific Coastline.
The city begins with its marina on one of three islands at a narrow point on the thirteen mile (19 km) long bay and increases in elevation slightly as it spreads north, south, and especially to the east. This city of mostly one and two story wooden structures (fewer than ten buildings over 5 stories) gently encroaches at least two miles (3 km) eastward into abundant, primarily Redwood and Douglas-fir second growth forests. The city has a traditional grid that generally radiates toward the points of the compass, though a correction to more accuracy in relation to the compass just east of the older downtown and residential area is noticeable.
In areas of post-1970 development, the previously completely removed forest, gulches, and ravines and their streams remain, adding considerable character to neighborhoods that because of recency in construction often lack the splendor (and occasional disrepair) of the earlier Victorian homes.
The transition between the official city limits and smaller unincorporated areas described in the demographic section is mostly not discernible. The most recently developed eastern areas include secluded developments on a golf course (as an example) among or in close proximity to extensive second growth forest. The city then gives way to hills and mountains of the rugged coast range, which quickly exceed 2,000 feet (610 m) in elevation.
Eureka's climate is characterized by mild, rainy winters and cool, dry summers, with an average temperature of 55 °F (13 °C). The all-time highest and lowest temperatures recorded in Eureka are 87 °F (31 °C) on October 26, 1993, and 20 °F degrees (-7 °C) on January 14, 1888, respectively. Temperatures normally drop to freezing or below on only 1.7 days annually.
The area experiences coastal influence fog year round. Annual precipitation averages 39.50 inches (987.5 mm). Measurable precipitation falls on an average of 121 days each year. The wettest year was 1983 with 67.21 inches (1680.25 mm) and the driest year was 1976 with 21.71 inches (542.75 mm). The greatest monthly precipitation was 23.21 inches (580.25 mm) in December 2002. The greatest 24-hour precipitation was 6.79 inches (169.75 mm) on December 27, 2002. Snowfall on the coast is very rare, averaging only 0.3 inch (22.5 mm); however, on February 4, 1989, 2.0 inches (5 cm) fell in Eureka and additional snow that month brought the monthly total to 3.5 inches (9 cm).
Weather observations have been taken at Eureka's downtown post office building for many years. In addition, some observations are taken at the Arcata-Eureka Airport.
|Weather data for Eureka, California|
|Average high °F||54||55||55||56||58||60||61||62||63||61||58||55||58|
|Average low °F||41||43||43||45||48||51||52||53||51||49||45||42||47|
|Average high °C||12||12||12||13||14||15||16||16||17||16||14||12||14|
|Average low °C||5||6||6||7||8||10||11||11||10||9||7||5||8|
|Source: Weatherbase November 2006|
Eureka-Arcata-Fortuna Micropolitan Area - Eureka is the principal city of the Eureka-Arcata-Fortuna Micropolitan Area.
Greater Eureka area - Eureka has a population of approximately 42,233 including the neighborhoods of Bayview, Cutten, Myrtletown, Humboldt Hill, and Pine Hill. The Greater Eureka area makes up the largest urban area on the Pacific Coast between San Francisco and Portland.
Eureka (city limits) - According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 14.4 square miles (37.4 km²), of which 9.4 square miles (24.50 km²) of it is land and 5.0 square miles (12.9 km²) or 34.60% of it is water. As of the census of 2000, there were 26,128 people, 10,957 households, and 5,883 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,764.5 people (1,067.5/km²). There were 11,637 housing units at an average density of 1,231.3 per square mile (475.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 82.46% White, 1.63% Black or African American, 4.21% Native American, 3.55% Asian, 0.33% Pacific Islander, 2.71% from other races, and 5.10% from two or more races. 7.77% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 10,957 households out of which 25.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 34.8% were married couples living together, 14.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 46.3% were non-families. 35.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.26 and the average family size was 2.93.
In the city the population was spread out with 22.4% under the age of 18, 11.6% from 18 to 24, 28.9% from 25 to 44, 23.5% from 45 to 64, and 13.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 98.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.7 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $25,849, and the median income for a family was $33,438. Males had a median income of $28,706 versus $22,038 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,174. 23.7% of the population and 15.8% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 29.6% of those under the age of 18 and 11.1% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.
Eureka has a broad area of influence, which includes of all of Humboldt County and portions of Del Norte County, Mendocino County, and Trinity County, a large trading area with an estimated population of 150,000.
The economic base of the city was originally founded on timber and fishing and supplying gold mining efforts inland. Gold mining diminished quickly in the early years and activities of timber and fishing have also diminished, especially in the latter decades of the twentieth century. Today, the major industries are tourism, timber (in value), and healthcare and services (in number of jobs). Major employers today in Eureka include the following governmental entities: College of the Redwoods, The County of Humboldt, and the Humboldt County Office of Education. St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka is now the largest private employer in Eureka.
The 2000 U.S. Census indicates that 3.7% of the employed civilian population 16 years and over (totaling 20,671) worked in agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industries. This percentage may not be indicative of the actual number of people in these professions as many are self-employed, especially in the fishing industry. The 2000 U.S. Census reported that 24.9% of the community worked in education, health care, and social services. Another 18.4% were employed by the government, while self employed workers totaled 11.2% of all workers. The unemployment rate in 2000 was 5.5% compared to the national average of 5.7% (calculated by dividing the unemployed population by the labor force). For the population 16 years and older, 42.7% were not in the labor force, while 57.3% were employed. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, in 1999 the median household income was $25,849 and the per capita income was $16,174. Inhabitants whose income was below poverty level in 1999 were 23.7% of the population. Of the 11,637 housing units in 2000, 94.2% of the housing units were occupied, while 5.8% were vacant. Of the occupied housing units, 46.5% were owner occupied and 53.5% were renter occupied.