Prior to the Spanish conquest, the area was inhabited by the Chumash tribe. The name of the city is derived from a Chumash word "Lum Poc" that means "little lake" or "lagoon." The Spanish called it "lumpoco." Mission La Purísima Concepción was established in 1787, near what is now the southern edge of the city of Lompoc. After an earthquake in 1812, the mission was relocated to its present location 1 mile (1.6 km) northeast of the present city. In 1821, Mexico became independent from Spain, and subsequently secularized the California missions in 1833. Mission La Purísima gradually fell into ruins. The Mexican government granted the land around Lompoc to various settlers via land patents known as 'ranchos'.
The United States gained control of California in the Mexican-American War, 1846-1848. The valley was acquired by Thomas Diblee, Albert Diblee and William Welles Hollister, the latter of whom sold his portion in 1874 to the Lompoc Valley Land Company. It is from that portion that the present-day Lompoc was established as a temperance colony. The town was originally intended to be called New Vineland, modeled after the temperance colony in New Jersey. The city was incorporated in 1888. The coastal branch of the Southern Pacific Railroad replaced ship transportation around 1900.The Dicolite Mine was a large employer in the early 1900s. It's remnants can still be seen at the northeast end of town. A paved road linked Lompoc to Buellton, and the rest of California, around 1920. In 1923, the largest peacetime naval loss of ships occurred, just off the coast: the Honda Point Disaster. During the Great Depression, Mission La Purisma Concepcion was restored by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The W.C. Fields movie The Bank Dick (1940), was set in Lompoc (although the name was mis-pronounced as Lom' poc). During World War II, the coast west of Lompoc was the site of Camp Cooke, a U.S. Army training camp where large units could practice maneuvers.
Lompoc grew slowly until 1958, when the U.S. Air Force announced that the former Camp Cooke would be a test site for the Thor intermediate-range ballistic missile, and the first operational base for the Atlas intercontinental-range ballistic missile. Lompoc then began to grow rapidly to provide housing for thousands of civilian and contractor workers employed at what was soon named Vandenberg Air Force Base. Vandenberg Air Force Base was the first missile base of the United States Air Force. The Space Shuttle program was slated to begin launches in the late 1980s. The city experienced a boom in restaurant and hotel construction in the mid 1980s, due to the anticipated influx of tourists coming to see shuttle launches. However, when the Challenger exploded during take-off from Cape Canaveral in 1986, the West Coast Shuttle Program was terminated, leaving Lompoc in a severe recession.
Located close to Vandenberg Air Force Base is the Federal Correctional Institution. This is a low security facility for male inmates.
The Lompoc Valley responded to the Shuttle disaster by focusing on tourism as a means of fighting its way through the recession. By focusing on the natural beauty of the Valley, its flower industry, the pristine Central Coast, and by developing a successful downtown mural program, the City of Lompoc has built an excellent tourism industry that is to this day a primary component of the Lompoc economy. Today, the City of Lompoc is dubbed "The City of Arts and Flowers" and is also becoming known for its local wines after the movie Sideways was filmed here.
Lompoc is located at . Most of the city is in the valley of the Santa Ynez River at an elevation of about 80-100 feet (25-30 meters); recent expansion has been to the north, on higher ground known as Vandenberg Village, with elevations of 150-300 feet (50-100 meters). Like most rivers in Southern California, the Santa Ynez River does not have a surface flow for most of the year. Underground flow in the sandy river bed recharges the aquifer beneath the city, from which 9 wells, with a tenth one planned, supply the city with water. Unlike most California cities, Lompoc is not connected to the State Water Project.(34.646182, -120.460316)
The city was long known as the flower seed capital of the world. Flower fields have diminished in recent years, so it's debatable whether that title still stands. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 11.6 square miles (30.1 km²), all of it land.
The Federal Correctional Complex located between Lompoc and Vandenberg AFB includes both a medium security facility and minimum security (Club Fed)farm facility. ((reference http://www.bop.gov/locations/institutions/lox/index.jsp))
As of the census of 2000, there were 43,284 people, 13,059 households, and 9,311 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,532.2 people per square mile (1,363.4/km²). There were 13,621 housing units at an average density of 1,170.5/sq mi (451.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 65.81% White, 7.34% African American, 1.58% Native American, 3.90% Asian, 0.32% Pacific Islander, 15.68% from other races, and 5.35% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 37.31% of the population.
There were 13,059 households out of which 41.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.0% were married couples living together, 14.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.7% were non-families. 23.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.88 and the average family size was 3.42.
In the city the population was spread out with 29.9% under the age of 18, 8.9% from 18 to 24, 33.3% from 25 to 44, 18.5% from 45 to 64, and 9.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 113.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 116.4 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $47,587, and the median income for a family was $62,199. Males had a median income of $35,074 versus $26,824 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,509. About 12.6% of families and 15.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.8% of those under age 18 and 6.7% of those age 65 or over.
Vandenberg Air Force Base dominates the economy, directly employing a large percentage of Lompoc's residents, and contributes $1.7 billion to the regional economy. Other mainstays of the economy include the Federal Correctional Institution, a diatomaceous earth mine, and agriculture (especially seed flowers and vegetables). Since the end of the Cold War, many workers employed in Santa Barbara have moved to Lompoc to take advantage of lower housing costs, effectively making Lompoc a 'bedroom community' of Santa Barbara. The character of the town has changed considerably with the growth associated with this demographic shift; in addition, new housing developments are spreading into the adjacent hills.
Wine production and wine tourism comprise the rapidly expanding value-added agricultural sector of the Lompoc economy. Lompoc Valley is the gateway to the Sta. Rita Hills AVA wine appellation, internationally recognized for premium pinot noir and chardonnay. Thirty premium boutique wine labels are produced in Lompoc at wineries in the affectionately termed "Lompoc wine ghetto" industrial park and other locations across town. Numerous other wineries are located along Highway 246, linking Lompoc with Buellton, and on Santa Rosa Road. Lompoc hosts the Santa Barbara County Vintners' Festival held at River Park in the spring. Wine tasting rooms are located in the "Wine Ghetto" and other locations in Lompoc.