125th Anniversary


Celebrating the Past, Preserving the Future

Lake Elsinore, the second oldest City in Riverside County, has a long and sometimes colorful past. This year, as the City turns 125, Lake Elsinore celebrates its rich history and is taking steps to preserve it for generations to come.

Settlers came to Lake Elsinore in the early 1800’s for the natural springs which were said to have healing qualities. Rich and fertile farm lands and natural resources such as clay, coal, sand and gravel, kept them here. The birth of these industries brought the Butterfield stagecoach line through town and in 1858 a stop was established at the Juan Machado adobe along Grand Avenue, part of which can still be seen today. In 1882 a rail line was extended through town and soon the Santa Fe train station was constructed one block off Main Street which serves today as the home of the Chamber of Commerce.

These early settlers established a town site around the lake, which they named Elsinore, after the town of Elsinore in Denmark immortalized by Shakespeare in "Hamlet." On April 9, 1888 the town incorporated, 5 years before the County of Riverside even existed.

In the 1920’s & 30’s Hollywood turned Lake Elsinore into a weekend getaway: Bella Lagosi, king of the macabre, had a home here and Aimee Semple McPherson from the Four-Square Church built a Castle which still stands today. Some of these grand homes on the hills surrounding Lake Elsinore during this time were also “allegedly” used as speakeasy’s and gambling dens. Their high perch above the valley floor afforded the occupants the opportunity to see the headlights of the County Sheriff from miles away. But of course this is only legend.
In 1951 the Lake dried up and stayed that way for the next 13 years. With the advent of air conditioning, a new Hollywood destination sprung up; Palm Springs. But in 1971 the Elsinore Grand Prix launched Elsinore into the national spotlight again when Bruce Brown released his movie “On Any Sunday” featuring Baja Champion Malcolm Smith and Hollywood’s Mr. Cool, Steve McQueen. Today, the last race of the Grand Prix is called the Harvey Mushman, an alias McQueen often used when riding.

In 1972, citizens approved a new name: the City of Lake Elsinore. This name change was favored as a way to promote the City as a tourist-oriented destination area. Tourism remains one of the city’s “claim to fame” offering venues for professional baseball, motocross, skydiving, sail planes, bowling, golf, water skiing, jet boats, fishing and even bow fishing! Tourists from all over the world come to enjoy southern California’s largest natural lake and the beauty and recreation that is Lake Elsinore. 

“Dream Extreme” Lake Elsinore and Happy Birthday! 

Did You Know? - Click to test your knowledge of Lake Elsinore history.