History of Orinda

How Orinda Got its Name

The 12.8 square miles that became Orinda were, in the days when Alta California was a part of Mexico, part of four huge land grants. Each bore melodic Spanish names: Rancho Laguna de los Palos Colorados, Rancho Acalances, Rancho El Sobrante and Boca de la Candad Del Pinole. But Orinda was named after an Englishwoman.

In 1876, County sheriff and landowner William Walker Camron was married to Alice Marsh Camron. Alice enjoyed the poetry of Katherine Fowler Philips, a 17th century English woman known as "The Matchless Orinda." In her honor, the Camrons named their home Orinda Park.

Edward Ignacio de Laveaga established the town site as Orinda in the 1920s. He was the son of San Franciscan Miguel de Laveaga, who, with his brother Jose, had purchased about 1,200 acres in the area in 1897. Having survived the '06 Quake and Fire in San Francisco, it's no wonder de Laveaga preferred life in Orinda!

Easy Access! Easy Living

The region blossomed when the Caldecott Tunnel opened in 1937. Finally, easy access from the East Bay to Contra Costa! The trip from Oakland or San Francisco no longer meant driving through the dark, narrow Contra Costa Tunnel, nor traveling the twisting Fish Ranch or San Pablo Dam roads. With local growth came local pride-and, in 1941, came the new Orinda Theatre. Orinda soon enjoyed a reputation as a lively destination for dining, music, and film.


With the post-war baby boom, the area expanded gently into a suburban environment. Although still an unincorporated area, Orinda had great appeal to families ready to leave Oakland or San Francisco for a less intensely urban environment, more house for less money, and higher quality schools. With more families to serve, every sector continued to grow-the commercial district, the school districts, the housing market. BART opened in 1973, accelerating residential and business growth throughout Contra Costa County.

Officially A City

Orinda incorporated as a City in 1985 after more than 100 years of gradual development. One of the most beautiful cities in Contra Costa County, Orinda remains a family oriented community in an idyllic setting.Orinda continues to make a mark on the region with the beautifully restored art deco Orinda Theatre, the California Shakespeare Theater, and a popular Community Center and Public Library in the center of town.

Its beauty, excellent schools, culture, and its proximity to San Francisco and Bay Area activities make Orinda a delightful place in which to live, visit, and shop.