Fort Bragg is a city located in coastal Mendocino County, California along State Route 1, the major north-south highway along the Pacific Coast. Fort Bragg is located 24 miles (39 km) west of Willits, at an elevation of 85 feet (26 m). Founded as a military fort prior to the American Civil War, Fort Bragg is now a popular tourist destination due to its picturesque views of the Pacific Ocean and rugged Northern California coastline. The population was 7,026 at the 2000 census.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.8 square miles (7.2 km²), of which, 2.7 square miles (7.1 km²) of it is land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km²) of it (1.44%) is water.
Due to Fort Bragg's proximity to the Pacific Ocean, the city has very mild weather throughout the year. Most of the rainfall occurs from November to April with some occasional drizzle or light showers during the summer. Fog and low overcast are common, especially during the night and early morning hours.
January, the coldest month, has an average maximum temperature of 55.1 °F (12.8 °C) and an average minimum temperature of 39.9 °F (4.4 °C); September, the warmest month, has an average maximum temperature of 65.8 °F (18.8 °C) and an average minimum temperature of 49.2 °F (9.6 °C). Temperatures rarely reach 90 °F (32 °C), occurring on an average of only 0.1 day annually. Freezing temperatures occur on an average of 11.1 days annually. The record maximum temperature was 94 °F (34 °C) on October 5, 1985 (exceeded by 96 °F (36 °C) on October 23, 1965, at the airport, where records were kept from 1948 to 1972). The record minimum temperature was 18 °F (−8 °C) on December 21, 1990.
Average annual precipitation is 41.17 inches (1,046 mm). The wettest year on record was 1995 with 61.90 inches (1,572 mm) and the driest year on record was 1976 with 21.01 inches (534 mm). The maximum precipitation in one month was 21.60 inches (549 mm) in December 2002. The maximum 24 hour rainfall was 4.36 inches (111 mm) on December 28, 2002.
As of the census] of 2000, there were 7,026 people, 2,840 households, and 1,644 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,577.1 people per square mile (993.7/km²). There were 3,051 housing units at an average density of 1,119.1/sq mi (431.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 79.46% White, 1.04% Black or African American, 1.85% Native American, 0.88% Asian, 0.14% Pacific Islander, 12.06% from other races, and 4.57% from two or more races. 22.72% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 2,840 households out of which 30.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.4% were married couples living together, 13.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 42.1% were non-families. 35.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.35 and the average family size was 3.04.
In the city the population was spread out with 24.6% under the age of 18, 9.3% from 18 to 24, 30.0% from 25 to 44, 22.2% from 45 to 64, and 13.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 100.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 99.3 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $28,539, and the median income for a family was $36,000. Males had a median income of $25,833 versus $23,287 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,832. About 11.9% of families and 20.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 26.5% of those under age 18 and 10.6% of those age 65 or over.
In the state legislature Fort Bragg is located in the 2nd Senate District, represented by Democrat Pat Wiggins, and in the 1st Assembly District, represented by Democrat Patty Berg. Federally, Fort Bragg is located in California's 1st congressional district, which has a Cook PVI of D +10 and is represented by Democrat Mike Thompson.
In prehistoric days, the area now known as Fort Bragg was home to the Native American Indians, most of whom belonged to the Pomo tribe. They were hunter-gatherers who lived close to the land and sea along the northern coast of California.
In 1855 an exploration party from the Bureau of Indian Affairs visited the area looking for a site on which to establish a reservation and, in the spring of 1856, the Mendocino Indian Reservation was established at Noyo. It was 25,000 acres and extended from what is now Simpson Lane to Abalobadiah Creek and east to Bald Hill.
In the summer of 1857, First Lieutenant Horatio G. Gibson, then serving at the Presidio in San Francisco, established a military post on the Mendocino Indian Reservation approximately one and one-half miles north of the Noyo River. He named the camp for his former commanding officer Captain Braxton Bragg, who later became a General in the Army of the Confederacy. The official date of the establishment of the fort was June 11, 1857. Its purpose was to maintain order on the reservation.
Gibson and Company M, Third artillery left Fort Bragg in January 1859 to be replaced by Company D, 6th Infantry. They stayed for two years and continued to build up the post.
In 1862 a company from the 2nd California Infantry assumed command and remained until 1864. In October of that year the Fort Bragg garrison was loaded aboard the steamer "Panama" and completed the evacuation and abandonment of Mendocino County's first military post.
The Mendocino Indian reservation was discontinued in March 1886 and the land opened for settlement several years later.
The last remaining building of the Fort Bragg military post is located at 430 North Franklin Street. It was the Quarter- master's storehouse and commissary.
The approximate boundaries of the fort extend from the south side of Laurel, east from the railroad depot to the alley behind Franklin, down the alley to a point 100 feet south of Redwood Avenue, west on Redwood to just beyond the Georgia-Pacific Corporation company offices, then north to connect with the Laurel Street border at the railroad station.
By 1867 the reservation and military outpost at Fort Bragg were abandoned. By 1869 small lumber mills were being built at the mouth of every creek. Ranches were settled. By 1873 Fort Bragg had an established lumber port at Noyo.
Soon after the fort was abandoned, the land of the reservation was offered for sale at $1.25 per acre to settlers. In 1885 C.R.Johnson who, with partners Calvin Stewart and James Hunter had been operating a sawmill in Mill Creek, moved their mill machinery to Fort Bragg to take advantage of the harbor for shipping.
The company incorporated as the Fort Bragg Redwood Company. In 1893 it was renamed the Union Lumber Company.
The Fort Bragg Railroad was founded to haul logs to the mill. The first rails were run up Pudding Creek and in 1887 reached Glen Blair. A San Francisco streetcar was purchased to carry loggers and their families on Sunday excursions to the woods.
Fort Bragg was incorporated in 1889 with C.R.Johnson as its first mayor. Calvin Stewart did the plat maps for the town.
The Union Lumber Company was incorporated in 1893 by absorbing some of the smaller lumber companies in the area. Some of the new company lands were in the next valley east of town making removal of logs difficult by rail, unless a tunnel was built. Johnson hired experienced Chinese tunnel builders from Nevada. After completion of the tunnel, most of the Chinese settled in Fort Bragg. A six-walled Chinese town was built at Redwood and McPherson. Older residents say the town died out eventually because most of the children of the Chinese moved elsewhere.
In 1901 the Union Lumber Company incorporated the National Steamship Company to carry lumber, passengers and supplies. The only link to manufactured creature comforts and staples like sugar and coffee were from delivery by steamship. In 1905 the California Western Railroad and Navigation Company was formed and plans were pushed to get the rail line all the way to Willits, where train connections could be made for San Francisco.
The 1906 earthquake resulted in a fire that threatened the entire city. Within the town itself, all brick buildings were damaged if not destroyed completely and many frame homes were knocked off their piers. The fire downtown burned the entire block bordered by Franklin, Redwood and McPherson Streets, plus the west side of Franklin. The west Franklin block burned down to approximately one half a block beyond the intersection of Redwood and Franklin.
Within 12 months following the earthquake, all downtown reconstruction was completed. Ironically, the earthquake brought real prosperity to Fort Bragg as the mills furnished lumber to rebuild San Francisco. With the new prosperity, the rail line to Willits was completed and in 1912 the first tourists came to Fort Bragg. By 1916 Fort Bragg had become a popular place to visit - and to settle.
Commercial fishing has also played an important role in formation of the economic base of the community. Once a major commercial fishing port, Fort Bragg was well known for producing quality fish products that were distributed to major metropolitan markets.
In 1969 the Union Lumber Company was purchased by Boise Cascade and it, in turn, became Georgia Pacific in 1973.
The emergence of the City of Fort Bragg as a diverse residential, recreational and growing commercial area had begun and the city was on the path to becoming what it is today. The Guest House Museum is the repository of artifacts and records telling the story of Fort Bragg. An endowment fund has been established to support cultural and educational programs associated with the Museum. Donations can also be made for specific building restoration or grounds improvement projects. The Museum is open to the public on a regular schedule.
Recently, Georgia Pacific Lumber Company put on the market a 400-acre (1.6 km2) piece of property within the city limits, formerly the site of a large mill facility. The mill was shut down in 2002 and has been identified as a nonperforming asset by Georgia Pacific. The mill site takes up almost the entire coastline of Fort Bragg including Soldier Bay. The public of Fort Bragg has embraced the mill site as the future of Fort Bragg and has proposed many forward-thinking ideas. Some possibilities for the mill site are: a marine research center, a conference center, a world-class golf course, a smaller mill, or a branch of a college.
Glass Beach is on the edge of town, along the ocean. In the 20th century, Fort Bragg residents threw their trash over these cliffs. They discarded glass, appliances, and cars. The land was owned by the Union Lumber Company, and locals called it "The Dumps." Sometimes fires would be lit to remove the trash pile. In 1967, city leaders closed the area and various cleanup programs were brought on through the years to fix the damage. Over several decades the pounding waves cleansed the beach, wearing down the discarded glass into the small, smooth, colored pieces that coat the beach today. The area is now visited by tourists. Warning: the path from the road down to the beach is somewhat treacherous, so curious visitors should be sure to wear shoes with good tread. It is not uncommon for unprepared visitors to injure themselves on the way down.
Fort Bragg is the western terminus of the California Western Railroad (otherwise known locally as the "Skunk Train", which was either caused or was inspired by the local train logo, a skunk), running through the Coast Redwood forests to the city of Willits, 40 miles (64 km) inland. Started in 1885 as a rail route for moving large logs to the mills, the Skunk Train now offers scenic tours through the redwoods.