Before the colonization of the region by Spain, Lafayette and its vicinity were inhabited by the Saclan tribelet of the indigenous Bay Miwok. The indigenous inhabitants' first contact with Europeans was in the late 1700s with the founding of Catholic missions in the region.
American settlement started with the arrival of Elam Brown, who purchased Rancho Acalanes in 1848. Steadily growing from the influx of American settlers, in 1857 the community of Acalanes acquired its own post office and renamed itself La Fayette. (changed to the modern spelling of Lafayette in 1932). In the early 1860s, Lafayette was briefly the site of a station for the Pony Express. During the mid-1900s, Lafayette was transformed from an agricultural village into a commuter town, and was incorporated in 1968.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 15 square miles.
The city is part of the greater San Francisco Bay Area and has its own station on the BART public transit system. Lafayette is situated between Walnut Creek, Moraga, and Orinda. It is the La in "Lamorinda." (Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda)
Lafayette is also known as being a part of the "Far East Bay," a classification which places it just outside of the realm of metropolitan Bay Area politics, culture, and nightlife. This area is separated from greater Berkeley and Oakland by the Berkeley Hills (and the Caldecott Tunnel running beneath), a geographical boundary within the East Bay which also represents interesting meteorological, cultural, and political distinctions. The region directly east of the hills is generally known for its more suburban or rural atmosphere, and features rolling, grassy hills which highlight a more peaceful and domestic aura.
As of the census of 2000, there were 23,900 people, 9,152 households, and 6,754 families residing in the city. The racial makeup of the city was 86.81% White, 0.55% Black or African American, 0.22% Native American, 8.23% Asian, 0.09% Pacific Islander, 0.81% from other races, and 3.30% from two or more races. 3.95% of the population was Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 9,152 households out of which 36.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 64.9% were married couples living together. The average household size was 2.60 and the average family size was 3.02.
The median income for a household in the city was $102,107, and the median income for a family was $120,364.
Glenn Seaborg, chemist prominent in the discovery of several transuranic elements.
Will Forte, actor, writer, and comedian best known for being a Saturday Night Live player.
Alexander Shulgin, chemist best known for his use and discovery of hundreds of psychoactive compounds.
Frankie Beverly, Internationally acclaimed singer and songwriter, known primarily for his recordings with the band Maze.