While the California Development Company was making its first developments to irrigate the lower Colorado Desert, the Imperial Land Company was created to encourage settlement of the newly-named Imperial Valley. A site was chosen for the intended primary townsite in Fall 1900, and Imperial was born. The town was platted early the next year, and lots were sold. As the center of all the valley's activity, Imperial had the first of everything: the first church, first hotel, blacksmith shop, general store, and so on. It seemed for a moment that Imperial was to become the greatest city in the valley for which it was named.

Unfortunately, it didn't take long for farmers to recognize that the soil where Imperial was founded was the worst in the valley. Nevertheless, it continued to grow as a shipping center when it was reached by the Imperial & Gulf Railroad on April 10, 1903. The I&G gave Imperial and the Imperial Valley a direct link to the Southern Pacific network at Imperial Junction. The city incorporated on July 12, 1904, but that same year neighboring El Centro was founded and its strategic location at the I&G's junction with the new Holton Interurban Line caused a shift in business as the newer town quickly grew.

For the next several decades, Imperial has almost consistently been a suburb for larger El Centro, which became the seat of Imperial County at its creation in 1907. The city has been devastated by earthquakes in 1912, 1940, and 1979; the 1979 quake leveled almost all of Imperial's business district. Today the city of over 15,000 continues to operate as a bedroom community, with most of its population commuting to El Centro or other parts of the valley for work.

See Also
El Centro