Carmel-by-the-Sea is in an area permeated by Native American, Spanish, Mexican and American history. Most scholars believe that the Esselen-speaking people were the first Native Americans to inhabit the area of Carmel, but the Ohlone people pushed them south into the mountains of Big Sur around the 6th century.
Early mission settlement after relocation to Carmel as depicted by John Sykes in 1794
Spanish Mission settlement
The first Europeans to see this land were Spanish mariners led by Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo in 1542, who sailed up the California coast without landing. Another sixty years passed before another Spanish explorer, Sebastián Vizcaíno, and a Carmelite friar discovered for Spain what is now known as Carmel Valley in 1602, which he named for his patron saint, Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
The Spanish did not attempt to colonize the area until 1770, when Gaspar de Portolà, along with Franciscan priests Junípero Serra and Juan Crespí, visited the area in search of a mission site. Portolà and Crespí traveled by land while Serra traveled with the Mission supplies aboard ship, arriving eight days later. The colony of Monterey was established at the same time as the second mission in Alta California and soon became the capital of California, remaining so until 1849. From the late 18th through the early 19th century most of the Ohlone population died out from European diseases (against which they had no immunity), as well as overwork and malnutrition at the missions where the Spanish forced them to live. When Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821 Carmel became Mexican territory.
Mission San Carlos and Junípero Serra
Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo was founded on 3 June 1770 in the nearby settlement of Monterey, but was relocated to Carmel by Junípero Serra due to interactions between soldiers stationed at the nearby Presidio and the native Indians.
In December 1771 the transfer was complete as the new stockade of approximately 130x200 became the new Mission Carmel. Simple buildings of plastered mud were the first church and dwellings until a more sturdy structure was built of wood from nearby pine and cypress trees to last through the seasonal rains. This, too, was only a temporary church until a permanent stone edifice was built.
In 1784 Serra, after one last tour of all the California missions, died and was buried, at his request, at the Mission in the Sanctuary of the San Carlos Church, next to Crespí, who had passed the previous year. Serra was buried with full military honors.
Carmel Mission has importance beyond the history of Serra, who is sometimes called the "Father of California". It also contains the state's first library.
A welder, John Martin, acquired lands surrounding the Carmel mission in 1833, which he named Mission Ranch. Carmel became part of the United States in 1848, when Mexico ceded California as a result of the Mexican–American War.
Known as "Rancho Las Manzanitas", the area that was to become Carmel-by-the-Sea was purchased by French businessman Honore Escolle in the 1850s.
Escolle was well known and prosperous in the City of Monterey, owning the first commercial bakery, pottery kiln, and brickworks in Central California. His descendants, the Tomlinson-Del Piero Family, still live throughout the area.
In 1888, Escolle and Santiago Duckworth, a young developer from Monterey with dreams of establishing a Catholic retreat near the Carmel Mission, filed a subdivision map with the County Recorder of Monterey County. By 1889, 200 lots had been sold. The name "Carmel" was earlier applied to another place on the north bank of the Carmel River 13 miles (21 km) east-southeast of the present-day Carmel. A post office called Carmel opened in 1889, closed in 1890, re-opened in 1893, moved in 1902, and closed for good in 1903. Abbie Jane Hunter, founder of the San Francisco-based Women's Real Estate Investment Company, first used the name "Carmel-by-the-Sea" on a promotional postcard.
In 1902 James Frank Devendorf and Frank Powers, on behalf of the Carmel Development Company, filed a new subdivision map of the core village that became Carmel. The Carmel post office opened the same year. In 1910, the Carnegie Institution established the Coastal Laboratory, and a number of scientists moved to the area. Carmel incorporated in 1916.
In 1905, the Carmel Arts and Crafts Club was formed to support and produce artistic works. After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake the village was inundated with musicians, writers, painters and other artists turning to the establishing artist colony after the bay city was destroyed. The new residents were offered home lots – ten dollars down, little or no interest, and whatever they could pay on a monthly basis.
Jack London describes the artists' colony in his novel The Valley of the Moon. Among the noted writers who lived in or frequented the village were Mary Austin, Nora May French, Robinson Jeffers, Sinclair Lewis, George Sterling and his protege Clark Ashton Smith, and Upton Sinclair. Visual artists of Carmel in the early twentieth century included Anne Bremer, Ferdinand Burgdorff, E. Charlton Fortune, Arnold Genthe, Percy Gray, Armin Hansen, Alice MacGowan, Charles Rollo Peters, William Frederic Ritschel, and Sydney Yard.
The Arts and Crafts Club held exhibitions, lectures, dances, and produced plays and recitals at numerous locations in Carmel, including the Pine Inn Hotel, the Old Bath House on Ocean Ave, the Forest Theater, and a small building in the downtown area donated by the Carmel Development Company.
In 1911, the town became host to what became an ongoing tradition of presenting plays by Shakespeare with a production of Twelfth Night, directed by Garnet Holme of UC Berkeley and featuring future mayors Perry Newberry and Herbert Heron, with settings designed by artist Mary DeNeale Morgan. Twelfth Night was again presented in 1940 at Heron's inaugural Carmel Shakespeare Festival, and was repeated in 1942 and 1956.
By 1914, the club had achieved national recognition, with an article in The Mercury Herald commenting that "a fever of activity seems to have seized the community and each newcomer is immediately inoculated and begins with great enthusiasm to do something ... with plays, studios and studies".