The scenic Antelope Valley is home to the city of Lancaster. Lancaster is a popular retirement community due to its dry and temperate climate. It was listed by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best places to retire in the United States. This popular retirement destination has seen a steady influx of new residents since its incorporation in 1977 making it the largest city on the California side of the Mojave Desert.
Lancaster has another, somewhat unusual claim to fame. Lancaster is home to one of three “musical roads” in the world and the only “musical road” in the United States. The Civic Musical Road sings the “William Tell Overture” when a vehicle passes over the specially cemented dips and valleys in the pavement. The road was first constructed by the Honda Corporation for use in a television commercial. The road received mixed reviews from the public, noise and safety complaints at first and then a public outcry in favor of the road. To strike a happy medium, the musical road was reinstalled in a new location two miles away from the nearest residence.
- Population 156,633
- Population Breakdown:
- White Persons 49.6%
- African American Persons 20.5%
- Native American Persons 1.0%
- Asian Persons 4.3%
- Pacific Islanders or Native Hawaiian Persons 0.2%
- Hispanic or Latino Persons 38.0%
There are varying accounts of the founding of the city of Lancaster. In one account, in 1884 Mr. M.L. Wicks, a real estate developer purchased six sections of land from the Southern Pacific Railroad. The story goes on to say that he named the new city after his former home, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Another account states that the city deed belonged to a member of the Southern Pacific Railroad staff named Mr. Purnell. Mr. Purnell was charged with naming all of the rail stations and his reasons for naming Lancaster have been lost to history as a fire in 1906 destroyed all records.
Regardless of which story is the accurate story of the founding of Lancaster, the area would not have been developed without the completion of the San Francisco to Los Angeles leg of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1876. Twenty years later, much like the northern parts of California, Lancaster experienced major growth when gold was discovered in 1898. After the discovery of gold in the hills north of Lancaster, scores of prospectors arrived to stake claims. That same year borax was found in the mountains surrounding the Antelope Valley, giving birth to the world’s largest open-pit borax mine.
Currently the area is best known for its long and rich aviation history rather than its borax or gold. When the first airplane was brought to the area in the 1930’s the Air Force started conducting flight tests at Muroc Air Base. With the Air Base came more people and more growth. Later, Edwards Air Force Base, famous for its space shuttle landings and home to the famous aviatrix Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom riding Club continued to foster population growth.
Lancaster was incorporated in 1977 and brought the citizens of the area the ability to self govern. Since then the community has been growing and changing, always with an eye to future growth.