The bay was visited by Juan Cabrillo in 1542 and entered and named by Sebastián Vizcaíno in 1602. In 1770 an expedition under Gaspar de Portolá arrived and established a presidio; Junípero Serra remained to found a Franciscan mission. Monterey was the capital of Alta California for many of the years between 1775 and 1846. In 1846 it was taken by a U.S. naval force under Commodore John D. Sloat, and in 1849 the state constitutional convention met there.
California's first theater (1844) and first brick building (1847) still stand, and it was in Monterey that California's first newspaper was established in 1846. The city has museums, the presidio, and an aquarium with an unusual deep-sea exhibit. The Monterey Institute of International Studies, the Naval Postgraduate School, and the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center are there.
Monterey is home to the Naval Postgraduate School, the Defense Language Institute, the Monterey Institute of International Studies, the former Fort Ord, part of which is now the site of California State University Monterey Bay; Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Monterey American Viticultural Area; Cannery Row, Fisherman's Wharf and a Marine Mammal Center field station located in the area.
The Monterey Jazz Festival, one of the world's longest consecutively running jazz festivals, is held annually at the Monterey County Fairgrounds.
In prehistoric times the Rumsen Ohlone tribe, one of seven linguistically distinct Ohlone groups in California, inhabited the area now known as Monterey. They lived a subsistent life of hunting, fishing and gathering in what has been deduced as a biologically rich Monterey Peninsula. The most prominent archaeological resources extant here are shell middens, the garbage dumps of these early inhabitants. We can infer from midden contents that the mussels Rumsen Ohlone and abalone consumed as the chief marine staples. The principal archaeological sites that have been mapped are located between the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Naval Postgraduate School, within about 2000 feet (610 m) of the coastline.
First established in 1770 by Father Junípero Serra and Gaspar de Portolà (governor of Baja and Alta California (1767–1770), explorer and founder of San Diego and Monterey), Monterey served as the capital of California from 1777 to 1849, under the flags of Spain and Mexico. Portola erected the Presidio of Monterey to defend the port against an expected Russian invasion. It was also the site of the July 7, 1846, Battle of Monterey during the Mexican-American War. It was on this date that John D. Sloat, Commodore in the United States Navy, raised the U.S. flag over the Monterey Customs House and claimed California for the United States. In addition, many California "firsts" occurred in Monterey. These include California's first theater, brick house, publicly funded school, public building, public library, and printing press. California's first constitution was also drafted here in October 1849. Monterey had long been famous for the abundant fishery in Monterey Bay. That changed in the 1950s, when the local fishery business collapsed due to overfishing. A few of the old fishermen's cabins from the early twentieth century have been preserved as they stood along Cannery Row (photo below). The famous Cannery Row has now been turned into a tourist attraction, with restaurants and shops in the historical site. It is also the location of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. In June 1967 the city was the venue of the Monterey Pop Festival.
Monterey has a noteworthy history as a center for California painters in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Such painters as Arthur Frank Mathews, Armin Hansen, Xavier Martinez, Rowena Meeks Abdy and Percy Gray lived or visited to pursue painting in the style of either En plein air or Tonalism.
In addition to painters many noted authors through the years have also lived in and around the Monterey area such as John Steinbeck, Robinson Jeffers, Robert A. Heinlein, Henry Miller, Ed Ricketts, and Robert Louis Stevenson.
More recently, Monterey has been recognized for its significant involvement in post-secondary learning of languages other than English and its major role in delivering translation and interpretation services around the world. In November 1995, California Governor Pete Wilson proclaimed Monterey as "The Language Capital of the World".
Monterey is steeped in history and famed for the abundance and diversity of its marine life, which includes sea lions, sea otters, harbor seals, bat rays, kelp (seaweed) forests, pelicans and dolphins.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the largest in North America, hosts several important marine science laboratories. Monterey's geographic location gives scientists access to the deep sea within hours, and only a few miles offshore is Monterey Canyon, the largest and deepest (3.2 km) underwater canyon off the Pacific coast of North America.
Sealife makes Monterey a popular destination for scuba divers of all abilities ranging from novice to expert. Scuba classes are held at San Carlos State Beach, which has been a favorite with divers since the 1960s.
Monterey also has much to offer anyone who wants to dip into California's history including several museums, and more than thirty carefully preserved historic buildings.
Monterey is home to California Historic Landmark Number One, the Custom House. Monterey was originally the only port of entry for taxable goods in California. All shipments into California by sea were required to go through the Custom House.
Colton Hall, built in 1849 by Walter Colton, was originally a public school and government meeting place. It also hosted California's first constitutional convention. Today it houses a museum, while adjacent buildings serve as the seat of local government.
What may be the only whalebone sidewalk still in existence in the United States lies in front of the Old Whaling Station.
Larkin House, one of Monterey State Historic Park’s National Historic Landmarks, built in the Mexican period by Thomas Oliver Larkin, is an early example of Monterey Colonial architecture. The old Custom House, the historic district and the Royal Presidio Chapel are also National Historic Landmarks. The Cooper-Molera Adobe is a National Trust Historic Site.
Other attractions within easy reach of Monterey include:
Monterey is home to the Naval Postgraduate School, Presidio of Monterey, Monterey Institute of International Studies and Monterey Peninsula College. The city is served by Monterey Peninsula Airport, and local bus Service is provided by Monterey-Salinas Transit.
Monterey is located at (36.600010, -121.890605). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 11.7 square miles (30.4 km²), of which 8.4 square miles (21.9 km²) is land and 3.3 square miles (8.5 km²) (28.05%) is water. Sand deposits in the northern coastal area comprise the sole known mineral resources.
Local soil is Quaternary Alluvium, and the city is in a moderate to high seismic risk zone, the principal threat being the active San Andreas Fault approximately 26 miles (42 km) to the east. The Monterey Bay fault, which tracks three miles (4.8 km) to the north, is also active, as is the Palo Colorado fault seven miles (11.3 km) to the south. Also nearby, minor but potentially active, are the Berwick Canyon, Seaside, Tularcitos and Chupines faults.
Monterey Bay's maximum credible tsunami for a 100 year interval has been calculated as a wave nine feet (2.7 m) high. The considerable undeveloped area in the northwest part of the city has a high potential for landslides and erosion.
The city is situated on the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, a Federally protected ocean area extending 276 miles (444 km) along the coast. (Sometimes this sanctuary is confused with the local bay which is also termed Monterey Bay.) The California sea otter, a threatened subspecies inhabits the local Monterey Bay marine environment, and a field station of the Marine Mammal Center is located in Monterey to support sea rescue operations in this section of the California coast. Monterey is home to some endangered bird species: the California clapper rail, found in salt marshes; plus the California brown pelican and the Yuma clapper rail, both of whose habitats are dunes and rocky headlands. The rare San Joaquin kit fox is also found in Monterey's oak-forest and chaparral habitats. The chaparral, found mainly on city's drier eastern slopes, hosts such plants as manzanita, chemise and ceanothus. Additional species of interest (that is, potential candidates for endangered species status) are the Salinas kangaroo rat and the silver-sided legless lizard.
The closed-cone pine habitat is dominated by Monterey pine, Knobcone pine and Bishop pine, and contains the rare Monterey manzanita. (In the early 1900s the botanist Willis Linn Jepson characterized Monterey Peninsula's forests as the "most important silva ever", and encouraged Samuel F.B. Morse (a century younger than the inventor Samuel F. B. Morse) of the Del Monte Properties Company to explore the possibilities of preserving the unique forest communities.) The dune area is no less important, as it hosts endangered species such as the vascular plants Seaside birds beak, Hickman's potentilla and Eastwood's Ericameria. Rare plants also inhabit the chaparral: Hickman's onion, Yadon's piperia (Piperia yadonii) and Sandmat manzanita. Other rare plants in Monterey include Hutchinson's delphinium, Tidestrom lupine, Gardner's yampah and Monterey Knotweed, the latter perhaps already extinct.
Monterey's environmental noise has been mapped to define the principal sources of noise and to ascertain the areas of population exposed to significant levels. Principal sources are the Monterey Peninsula Airport, State Route 1 and major arterial streets such as Munras Avenue, Fremont Boulevard, Del Monte Boulevard, and Camino Aguajito. While most of Monterey is a quiet residential city, a moderate number of people in the northern part of the city are exposed to aircraft noise at levels in excess of 60 db on the Community Noise Equivalent Level (CNEL)scale. The most intense source is State Route 1: all residents exposed to levels greater than 65 CNEL—about 1600 people—live near State Route 1 or one of the principal arterial streets.
As of the census of 2000, there were 29,674 people, 12,600 households, and 6,476 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,516.9 people per square mile (1,357.5/km²). There were 13,382 housing units at an average density of 1,586.0/sq mi (612.2/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 80.83% White, 2.52% African American, 0.57% Native American, 7.43% Asian, 0.29% Pacific Islander, 3.91% from other races, and 4.45% from two or more races. 10.86% of the population were Hispanic.
There were 12,600 households out of which 21.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.5% were married couples living together, 8.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 48.6% were non-families. 37.0% of all households consist of individuals and 11.0% have a lone dweller who is over 64. The average household size was 2.13 and the average family size was 2.82.
The age distribution is as follows: 16.6% under the age of 18, 13.1% from 18 to 24, 33.8% from 25 to 44, 21.7% from 45 to 64, and 14.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 96.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.1 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $49,109, and the median income for a family was $58,757. Males had a median income of $40,410 versus $31,258 for females. The per capita income for the city was $27,133. About 4.4% of families and 7.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.5% of those under age 18 and 4.8% of those age 65 or over.
Among the great patrons of the arts is Virginia Stanton who is immortalized for her contributions with her name on the Museum of Maritime History near Old Fisherman's Wharf. Monterey is also the home of the Thomas Kinkade National Archive. Many of Kinkade's original works can be viewed there.
Local radio stations include KWAV-FM - 96.9, KBOQ-FM - 103.9, KIDD-AM - 630, KNRY-AM - 1240, and 1610-AM the city information station. Television service for the community comes from the Monterey-Salinas-Santa Cruz designated market area (DMA). Locale newspapers include the Monterey County Herald.