Arcadia Publishing First dubbed San Benito and then "Spanishtown," Half Moon Bay is a coastside town with a long and intriguing story. Many know it for its lovely natural surroundings, quaint downtown architecture, and relaxed atmosphere, but not many people know that this town was the first to be established in San Mateo County as a result of 1840s land grants to early Spanish settlers. Isolated on the coast for a time, it became home to Mexican, Chilean, Italian, Portuguese, and other cultures after the 1850s, when roads finally reached over the mountains. During the 20th century, a wide variety of businesses thrived here, as people arrived by road, water, and even railroad. Farms, churches, schools, businesses, and homes sprang up, and the town modernized, though today's Half Moon Bay looks much like it did 100 years ago.