Arcadia, California was an enormous piece of land given from the San Gabriel Mission by the King of Spain in 1771. Arcadia changed ownership five times, when in 1875, Elias J. “Lucky “Baldwin purchased eight thousand acres for two hundred thousand dollars. Mr. Baldwin was rich from his goldmine investments. He had no trouble maintaining his homestead, ranch, and the land west of Santa Anita Avenue. Lucky Baldwin also helped plan Santa Anita Track, which was the future Arcadia.
Since Baldwin ranch was for visitors, Arcadia did not hold its election until 1903. Baldwin was elected first mayor. In order to earn quick money, they adopted forty dollar liquor license tax. After earning enough money, they opened a City Court and a jail.
In 1904, Santa Anita Race Track was opened to represent Arcadia County Park. On the same year, Arcadia’s first grammar school was built on First Avenue and California Street. As the character of the city changed, a fire department was established, and street lights were lit, graded, and oiled. During 1910-1920, Arcadia received a steady increase in population that demanded new and expanding city services (example: water, postal, street paving.)
During World War I, Arcadia was home to the U.S. Army's Ross Field Balloon School in what is now Los Angeles County Park. Here observers trained on watching enemy activity from hot air balloons.
In 1920, there was a rapid development of large home sites. At this time, Arcadia was known for its chicken raising community. But, in the 1930s there were business failures and unemployment. Because of this, in 1934 the Santa Anita Race Track was opened to the public to visit. An interesting note about the Santa Anita Race Track: Lucky Baldwin’s race track time was used for Baldwin’s winery.
During World War II, Arcadia's Santa Anita Park racetrack became the site of the Santa Anita Assembly Center for the Japanese, where Japanese Americans were interned under President Franklin Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066.
In 1937, the County of Los Angeles built public swimming pools, tennis courts, golf courses, and picnic tables. Ten years later, the Los Angeles state and Country Arboretum were built in the acres of Rancho Santa Anita. Many movies, such as Tarzan, Daniel Boon, Mission Impossible, and many others were filmed in that part of location.
The population of Arcadia in 1980 was 46,850 and has rapidly increased as more and more people move into Arcadia. It was reported in 2010 that Arcadia had 56,364 residents.