A Look Back at Mendocino’s History
Mendocino (formerly, Big River, Meiggstown, and Mendocino City) is an unincorporated community in Mendocino County, California, United States. Mendocino is located 9.5 miles (15 km) south of Fort Bragg, at an elevation of 154 feet (47 m).The population is approximately 900. The town’s name comes from Cape Mendocino, named by early Spanish navigators in honor of Antonio de Mendoza, Viceroy of New Spain.
Despite its small size, the town’s scenic location on a headland surrounded by the Pacific Ocean has made it extremely popular as an artist colony and with vacationers.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 7.4 square miles (19 km2), of which, 2.3 square miles (6.0 km2) of it is land and 5.2 square miles (13 km2) of it (69.58%) is water.
Mendocino experiences a cool summer Maritime Mediterranean climate. Summers are characterized by frequent fog and highs mostly in the upper sixties and lows in the fifties. Winters rarely, if ever, see frost or snow, due to close proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Mendocino averages about 43 inches of rain per year concentrated mainly in fall, winter, spring, and early summer.
Many films and movies have been filmed in and around Mendocino and Mendocino County, including Dying Young, The Russians Are Coming; Overboard; The Dunwich Horror; The Karate Kid, Part III; Dead & Buried; Forever Young; Same Time Next Year; Racing with the Moon; Pontiac Moon; and The Majestic. Mendocino was depicted as turn-of-the-20th-century Monterey in the James Dean classic East of Eden, and it served as a New England resort town in Summer of ’42 (the latter film featuring numerous local Mendocino High School students as extras).
However, the TV series Murder, She Wrote has had the largest impact on the community.Nine episodes of the 264-episode program were filmed in Mendocino, while exterior shots throughout Mendocino were used in the remaining episodes. The program was broadcast for 12 seasons, from September 1984 until May 1996, and won many awards. Many local residents looked forward to the yearly filming, as over a hundred and fifty were chosen to play background parts. A lucky few were cast for speaking roles. Murder, She Wrote also brought in more money to the town due to increased tourism — by some estimates, around $2,000,000. The local high school band appeared in one of the episodes and received enough money from the appearance to go on a band trip.
Mendocino is also the home of the Mendocino Film Festival which was first held in May 2006. Because the area is a haven for artists, the festival honors them with a special “artist category”, in addition to the documentary, feature and short film categories.