Surrounded by mountain ranges and located about 15 miles inland of the Pacific Ocean, Ojai is a small, picturesque city of about 8,000 residents. The sleepy Ventura County destination offers a welcome refuge from the never-ending traffic and swarms of people found in many Southern California cities.
The region was first occupied by the Chumash Indians who named the city after the Ventureno Chumash word for “moon.” In 1837, a Santa Barbara entrepreneur named Fernando Tico received the Rancho Ojai Mexican land grant, which included 17,716 acres of the city. On his newly acquired land, Tico and his family operated a cattle ranch before selling the region in 1853. The land was bought and sold by several people thereafter before oil and railroad baron Thomas A. Scott purchased it in 1864 and began selling parcels of the land in 1867.
Once these land parcels became available, many settlers from the Eastern United States and Midwest began migrating to Ojai, using the land to establish farms and raise families. Not long after these families started migrating to Ojai, R.G. Surdam, a real estate developer, laid out the town and named it Nordhoff to honor Charles Nordhoff, author of California for Health, Pleasure and Residence: A Book for Travelers and Settlers.
Many early Nordhoff settlers were plagued by respiratory illnesses, many of whom recovered after moving to the region, which helped give the city its reputation for having healthy air quality, drawing increased people to the area.
The anti-German sentiment resulting from World War I caused many United States towns and cities to change their German and German-sounding names, which some believe is why the city changed its name from Nordhoff to Ojai in 1917, though that’s yet to be confirmed. The same year, a fire destroyed a large portion of the city, which paved the way for Edward Libbey, one of the wealthy elite who increasingly spent winters in the region, to buy up many properties and rebuild them.
Libbey enlisted San Diego architects Frank Mead and Richard Requa to design many Ojai buildings in the Spanish Colonial Revival style that was incredibly popular in the region during that time. Several of these buildings remain today, such as the Spanish-style Arcade and Post Office Bell Tower, which help set the tone and style of the city.
If you head to Ojai today, you’ll discover a charming city full of shops, restaurants, and galleries that continue to sprout up largely thanks to its dense population of artists, musicians, and designers. Some of the more notable places in Ojai include the Ojai Valley Inn, a Mediterranean-style resort that was built by architect Wallace Neff in 1923 and has become among the premier places to stay in the region.
Additionally, part of Ojai’s unique charm comes from the city law that prohibits chain stores from opening in the area, paving the way for small, local business development. This has resulted in an increasing number of chic, design-centric boutiques, like In the Field, founded by former actors/models Bianca and Channon Roe, which sells everything from Turkish rugs and vintage furniture to caftans and bowler hats. In addition to sweet shops and beautiful hotels, Ojai is home to boundless opportunities to engage in the outdoors through hiking, biking, and spiritual retreats, drawing nature enthusiasts from around the country who enjoy the unique setting the city offers.
If you’re interested in calling this beautiful region home, then check out all of the homes for sale in Ojai.