San Francisco City and others

San Francisco City

San Francisco is a bustling metropolis known as much for its diverse culture as for its rolling hills, fog, and cable cars. Stretching seven miles in each direction, the City by the Bay sits on the tip of a peninsula and is bordered by San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. This location gives San Francisco the benefit of cool, mild weather all year round, but it also blankets the city in fog for months at a time. San Francisco is a liberal city, with a mixing of cultures from almost every nation in the world. Neighborhoods like Chinatown, the Mission District, and Little Italy all maintain their own distinct cultural identity, even while contributing to San Francisco’s melting pot.

The city actually began as the Mission San Francisco de Asís, founded by the Spanish in 1776, and the area became a part of Mexico in 1821. The small trading village of Yerba Buena was founded near the mission in 1835, which drew American settlers to the Golden Gate area. California was claimed by the U.S. in 1846, during the Mexican-American War, and Yerba Buena’s name was changed to San Francisco. Despite its status as a trading port and naval base, however, San Francisco didn’t truly begin to grow until 1848 with the discovery of gold. A number of entrepreneurs sought to capitalize on the sudden wealth, establishing early on San Francisco’s status as a major commercial center. The banking industry and the railroads also flourished in the wake of the California Gold Rush.



Fresno City

The Spanish word for ash tree is “fresno,” and it is from these ubiquitous trees lining the San Joaqin River that Fresno takes its name. Fresno County was formed in 1856, with the town of Millerton as its county seat. However, the threat of constant floods drove the population of Millerton to higher ground. They eventually settled around the Central Pacific Railroad’s Fresno Station. The community grew and became an incorporated city in 1895.

Located in the heart of the San Joaqin Valley in the center of California, Fresno is the hub of government, health care, and education for the area. Agriculture still plays a major part in the economy, as does food processing. Sun-Maid, Kraft Foods, and Foster Farms are located in Fresno.


Huntington Beach City

Legend has it that Jan and Dean’s 1963 song “Surf City” was inspired by Huntington Beach. And while the claims of “two girls for every boy” may be a bit over the top, Huntington Beach has definitely staked a claim to the “Surf City USA” title. The summer brings southern swells from storms in Mexico, while western swells from the North Pacific grace the beach in winter. All in all, it adds up to epic waves all year round.

The city of Huntington Beach, named for railroad magnate Henry Huntington, got its start as an oil mining town. When the surfing craze hit, this blue-collar ambience gave Huntington Beach a gritty quality lacking in other surf spots. People didn’t come for the glamour; they came for the waves.


Irvine City

Irvine is a planned community, designed from the ground up by Los Angeles architect William Pereira and developed by the Irvine Company since the 1960s. Pereira originally envisioned a circular city of separate townships (or “villages”) centered around the University of California, Irvine. However, when the Irvine Company decided the land was more valuable for farming than building, the site of UCI was moved. The city was redesigned to resemble a necklace, with the villages strung along two main streets, which converge at UCI.

There are over 20 different villages in Irvine, including those currently in development. Each village has been planned with a distinct architectural style, running the range from Tuscan Ranch to California Modern. Westpark features Mediterranean-styled postmodern buildings and monumental rows of date palms, while Wood bridge was built to resemble a New England Cape Cod seaside community. University Hills is a subsidized community for the UCI staff, the first of its kind in the nation.

Long Beach City

The area that would eventually become Long Beach has passed through many hands. The land was originally inhabited by the Tongva natives, until the land was claimed by Spain. In 1784, a Spanish soldier named Manuel Nieto received a grant of 300,000 acres as a reward for his military service. This land was divided into six parcels and the area known as Rancho Los Cerritos (“Ranch of the Little Hills”) was eventually sold to Jonathan Temple, who created a prosperous cattle ranch. In 1866, Temple sold the land to the sheep-raising firm of Flint, Bixby & Co., who in turn sold it to William E. Willmore in 1880. Willmore had aspirations of creating a farming community named Willmore City, but his endeavor ultimately failed and he was bought out by a Los Angeles consortium called the Long Beach Land and Water Company. The name of the community was changed to Long Beach, and it was incorporated as a city in 1888.

The Port of Long Beach is one of the world’s largest shipping ports, and the oil fields have long played a part in the city’s economic growth. However, Long Beach was always, first and foremost, a seaside resort. The Pike, a waterfront amusement park and arcade, drew tourists from 1902 through the 1960s. Long Beach became known as “Iowa by the sea,” due to the large number of visitors arriving from the Midwest.

Orange City

Located in Orange County, California, the city of Orange is a slice of old town charm. The city was founded in 1871 by two attorneys, Alfred Chapman and Andrew Glassell, who received the land in payment for their legal services. The founders originally wanted to call the town Richland, but since there was already a town in California by that name, the Post Office insisted on a name change.

A popular legend has it that Glassell, Chapman, and two other gentlemen wanted to name the town after what they imagined would be the leading product of the region. Glassell chose oranges, Chapman chose lemons, and the other two went with olives and almonds. The matter was settled over a poker game. Glassell won, and the town became known as Orange. As consolation to the other three, the surrounding streets were named Lemon, Olive, and Almond.

Riverside City

The city of Riverside was founded in 1870 by John W. North, a Tennessee abolitionist who had previously founded Northfield, Minnesota. The first orange trees were planted in 1871, but it wasn’t until 1873 that the citrus industry really took off in the region. Luther and Eliza Tibbets received two bud stocks of a new kind of orange, derived from the Brazilian navel orange, from a friend at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Once planted, these new oranges thrived in the area’s semiarid climate. As word spread about the sweet, seedless oranges, many local growers began requesting grafts from the Tibbets’ trees. By 1895, there were vast groves of navel oranges throughout Southern California and Riverside had become the richest city per capita in the nation.

The Botanic Gardens at the University of California, Riverside contain 40 acres of exotic and unusual plants, with four miles of walking trails. Riverside is also the home of the “World’s Largest Paper Cup,” which stands nearly 70 feet tall. But apart from the navel orange groves, Riverside is perhaps best known for the historic Mission Inn, an opulent and “slightly bizarre” hotel that occupies a full city block downtown. This eclectic inn, restored and reopened in 1992, is favored by presidents, royalty, and movie stars.

Sacramento City

Located in the northern part of the California Central Valley, Sacramento is the capital of California and the county seat of Sacramento County. With its intriguing mix of gleaming skyscrapers, hearty Victorian homes, and historic landmarks, Sacramento has been called “a snapshot of Wild West history in a modern, world-class city.”

In 1808, Spanish explorer Gabriel Moraga discovered and named Sacramento Valley and Sacramento River. “Sacramento” is Spanish for “sacrament,” and the name was intended to pay honor to the Roman Catholic sacrament of the Eucharist. Pioneer John Sutter arrived from Switzerland with other settlers in 1839 and established New Helvetia, a trading and agricultural colony centered around Sutter’s Fort. He also built Sutter’s Mill and established the town of Sutterville. Sutter was involved in a number of endeavors over the next decade, all of them prosperous. However, with the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in 1848, his fortune changed. Sutter’s son, against his father’s wishes, established his own town just a few miles east of New Helvetia to capitalize on the Gold Rush. Sacramento City, named for the Sacramento River, proved to be a commercial success almost instantly while Sutter’s own ventures eventually failed.

San Bernardino City

The city of San Bernardino takes its name from the surrounding valley, which was discovered and named by Father Francisco Dumetz in 1810 on the feast day of Saint Bernardino of Siena. The land was used for ranching until 1851, when it was sold to members of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-Day Saints. The Mormons designed and built the city, basing their plan on the layout of Salt Lake City. The Mormon settlers were recalled by Brigham Young in 1857 due to the Utah War, but the city continued to thrive as a commercial center in their absence. Today, with an emphasis on residential development, San Bernardino is often referred to as a “bedroom community.”

San Bernardino hosts the National Orange Show, an annual festival that marks the completion of the winter citrus crop harvest. Car enthusiasts from all over the country gather each year to “get their kicks” at the Route 66 Rendezvous. Historical landmarks in San Bernardino include the California Theater, where Will Rogers made his final public appearance, and the McDonald’s Museum, built on the site of the first McDonald’s restaurant.

San Diego City

San Diego is a coastal city in southern California, just north of the Mexican border (which it shares with Tijuana). Mountains rise to the city’s east, barricading San Diego from the heat and dryness of the Sonoran Desert. The city itself is built atop a series of mesas, with deep canyons running between them. This has the effect of creating small, scattered pockets of natural woodland all throughout the bustling metropolis.

Although the area has long been inhabited by the Kumeyaay natives, it was Portuguese explorer Juan Cabrillo who claimed the bay for Spain. A statue stands at the edge of Cabrillo Park where he first landed in 1542. Cabrillo named the land San Miguel. It was Sebastian Vizcaino who arrived some 60 years later and named the area San Diego, in honor of Saint Didacus. On November 12, 1602, Fray Antonio de la Ascension conducted the first Catholic service of record in California to celebrate the feast day of San Diego.

San Jose City

Founded November 29, 1777, El Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe was the first town in the Spanish colony of Nueva California. In its earliest days, San Jose was a farming community, responsible for supporting the Spanish military installations at San Francisco and Monterey. The settlement eventually grew to be an agricultural center and, when California became a state in 1850, San Jose served as its first capital. In 1941, the Food Machinery Corporation in San Jose received an order from the U.S. War Department for a thousand amphibious landing vehicles, which brought defense contracts to San Jose and set off a technological renaissance in the area.

Today, San Jose is known as the “Capitol of Silicon Valley.” With over 300 days of sunshine every year, San Jose is constantly abuzz with activity. Visitors can hike the trails of Alum Rock Park or feed the koi at the Japanese Friendship Garden in Kelley Park. Santana Row offers hundreds of shops and restaurants, a day spa, and an open-air cafe.

Santa Ana City

William H. Spurgeon, a Kentuckian, was looking for a suitable place to start a town. On October 10, 1869, he was riding on horseback across the land that would become Santa Ana. The land was covered with yellow mustard plants so tall that Spurgeon climbed a sycamore tree to view the area. Impressed with what he saw, he bought 74.2 acres from Jacob Ross, Sr., for $595. George Wright of Los Angeles was hired to design and lay out the town, and the map was plotted on December 13, 1870. The land had originally been part of a larger grant called Santiago de Santa Ana, so Spurgeon named the town Santa Ana.

Spurgeon spent the rest of his life developing his city. His artesian well and small tower supplied water for the residents, and paid for a road through the mustard fields to open up travel to Anaheim. He ran a small general store, but also served as postmaster (keeping the mail in a wooden shoe box). He became the first mayor when Santa Ana was incorporated on June 1, 1886, and presided over the town when it became the county seat of Orange County in 1889.

Santa Barbara City

The Channel of Santa Barbara was discovered as early as 1542, but was named by Spanish explorer Sebastian Viscaino on December 4, 1602. As this day is considered sacred to Saint Barbara, the patroness of artillerymen and miners, Viscaino named it in honor of her.

In 1782, Father Junipero Serra met with California Governor Filipe de Neve about constructing a presidio and mission in the area to convert the local Chumash natives. Governor de Neve had long been an opponent of the Franciscan missionaries, whom he felt were growing too powerful in California. He went along with the building of El Presidio, but balked at the construction of the mission. Father Serra tried to change the governor’s mind, but de Neve could not be swayed. Defeated, Father Serra returned to his home mission in Caramel. When Pedro Fages replaced de Neve as governor four years later, he granted the Franciscans permission to build the mission. Sadly, Father Serra never lived to see his dream realized, as he died just one month later. Mission Santa Barbara was founded on December 4, 1786 by Serra’s successor, Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen.

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