History of Fresno
San Joaquin Valley was originally inhabited by the Yokut people. The first explorers in the area were the Spanish, who named it after many white ash trees that grew along the San Joaquin River. They, however, did not settle the area of present-day Fresno, which remained undeveloped until the late 19th century. The main problem with this area was the hostility of the native Indian tribes. Unlike many other California cities, Fresno did not get its start during the Gold Rush. Gold prospectors generally just passed through the area on their way to the Sierras and did not build any settlements there. The County of Fresno was established in 1856 and after the Gold Rush the area where Fresno will later be built was mainly used for cattle grazing.
The first permanent settlement was established in 1860 by a Dutch immigrant and several others. Initially, this was hardly an actual town; it was rather just a cluster of houses. It was only in 1872, when the Central Pacific Railroad passed through the Valley, that the plan for the town was laid out. It was initially called Fresno Station, after the county. At the time, the seat of Fresno County was Millerton, which did not have access to the railroad. The residents of Millerton then voted to transfer the county seat to Fresno Station and the entire town’s population also moved there. The town was initially desolate, rough, with barren countryside. However the residents pulled together, introduced irrigation systems and started growing grapes and Fresno started its first real period of development.
In 1885 Fresno was incorporated as a city and its population grew with the influx of European immigrants, especially Italians, Swiss and French. These immigrants brought their own winemaking traditions; however, the white grapes cultivated in and around Fresno were not good for wine. Instead, the area started producing raisins and soon became one of the largest markets for this product. Another significant product was figs.
By the beginning of the 20th century the population in Fresno grew to 12,500 inhabitants and in the following decades its agriculture-based economy flourished. By the end of the World War II, Fresno became a major metropolitan area, with many ethnic neighborhoods such as Little Armenia, Little Italy, German Town and Chinatown.
Geography and Climate
Fresno is located very near the geographical center of California. Many large urban centers and recreation areas (Yosemite National Park, Sierra National Forest, Sequoia National Park) are located at a comfortable distance. The city sits at the junction of I-41 and I-99 which makes it the gateway to many of those places, especially for visitors from Los Angeles.
Fresno occupies an area of 112.3 square miles, of which only 0.3% is water. It has a semi-arid climate, with Mediterranean characteristics. Winters are usually mild and wet and summers are hot and dry.
Neighborhoods of Fresno
The city has many neighborhoods and the most well-known ones include Downtown (with its famous, although non demolished Vagabond Hotel, the historic Fulton Mall and the Chinatown), Sunnyside, Old Fig Garden, Tower District (with the historic Tower Theatre, with a vibrant and active indie, punk, goth and heavy metal community and also a large LGBT community), Huntington Boulevard, Van Ness Extension, West Side, Woodward Park and Sierra Sky Park (one of the first residential airport communities in the nation).
In 2010, Fresno had a population of 494,665, of which Hispanics or Latinos made up for 46.9%, 32.7% were non-Hispanic Whites, 12.6% Asian, 8.3% African American or Black, 1.7% Native American, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 22.6% some other race and 5.0% two or more races.
Ever since it was first founded, Fresno has had a sizeable Armenian population the first immigrants came in the late 1880s and then a large wave of immigration followed after the Armenian Genocide. The last major wave of Armenian immigrants came from Germany during and after the World War II. The famous Armenian American author William Saroyan, whose many works are centered around Armenian communities in California, was born and died in Fresno.
Fresno County is one of the leading agricultural counties in the United States. Fresno and other places in the county are major producers of nuts, grains, rice, melons and various vegetables. Of course, the city has other large economic sectors on which it relies, especially trade, commerce and finance.
One of the largest companies with headquarters in Fresno is Sony Music Distribution/Sony Computer Entertainment.
The largest employers in the city are Community Medical Centers, City of Fresno, Kaiser Permanente, Saint Agnes Medical Center, Quinn CAT, Foster Farms, AT&T, Cargill Meat Solutions, Zacky Farms and Aetna.
Culture and Attractions
Fresno is home of the Artists’ Repertory Theatre, Fresno Grand Opera and Fresno Philharmonic. It has a number of historic theatres, most notably the Tower Theatre, Warnors Theatre, Saroyan Theatre and Azteca Theater.
Some of the most popular destinations and attractions in the city include Discovery Center, Forestiere Underground Gardens, African-American Museum of the San Joaquin Valley, Fresno Art Museum, Fresno’s Chaffee Zoo and Kearney Mansion Museum.
Major annual events in Fresno include Cinco de Mayo at Fulton Mall, Big Fresno Fair, Art Hop, Christmas Tree Lane, Fresno Film Festival, Greek Fest and others.
Education in Fresno
Top institutions of higher education in Fresno include Fresno City College, California State University in Fresno, Fresno Pacific University, DeVry University, Heald College, San Joaquin Valley College, California Christian College, Alliant International University and University of Phoenix, Central Valley Campus.
Fresno is the largest city in the USA without a direct link to an interstate highway. The primary airport is Fresno Yosemite International Airport. Amtrak provides passenger rail service (San Joaquins train) and public transit is provided by Fresno Area Express. Greyhound and Orange Belt Stages provide intercity bus service.