|City of Fresno|
Clockwise: Fresno skyline from Chukchansi Park; San Joaquin Light & Power Tower; Warnor's Theatre; Brix Mansion; Bank of Italy Building; Fresno at twilight.
Location within Fresno County
|Region||San Joaquin Valley|
|Incorporated||October 12, 1885|
|Named for||Spanish for "ash tree"|
|• Mayor||Jerry Dyer (R)|
|• City manager||Thomas Esqueda|
|• City council||Esmeralda Soria|
|• City||116.00 sq mi (300.43 km2)|
|• Land||114.79 sq mi (297.30 km2)|
|• Water||1.21 sq mi (3.13 km2) 0.31%|
|Elevation||308 ft (94 m)|
| • Estimate |
|• Rank||1st in Fresno County|
5th in California
34th in the United States
|• Density||4,630.90/sq mi (1,788.01/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC−08:00 (Pacific)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−07:00 (PDT)|
93650, 93701–93712, 93714–93718, 93720–93730, 93737, 93740, 93741, 93744, 93745, 93747, 93750, 93755, 93760, 93761, 93764, 93765, 93771–79, 93786, 93790–94, 93844, 93888
|GNIS feature IDs||277606, 2410546|
Fresno (Spanish for 'ash tree') is a city in and the county seat of Fresno County, California, United States. It covers about 112 square miles (290 km2) in the center of the San Joaquin Valley, the southern portion of California's Central Valley.
Named for the abundant ash trees lining the San Joaquin River, Fresno was founded in 1872 as a railway station of the Central Pacific Railroad before it was incorporated in 1885. The city has since become an economic hub of Fresno County and the San Joaquin Valley, with much of the surrounding areas in the Metropolitan Fresno region predominantly tied to large-scale agricultural production.
The population of Fresno grew from 134,000 in 1960 to 428,000 in 2000. With a census-estimated 2020 population of 542,012, Fresno is the fifth-most populous city in California, the most populous inland city in California, and the 34th-most populous city in the nation.
Fresno is near the geographical center of California. It lies approximately 220 miles (350 km) north of Los Angeles, 170 miles (270 km) south of the state capital, Sacramento, and 185 miles (300 km) southeast of San Francisco. Yosemite National Park is about 60 miles (100 km) to the north, Kings Canyon National Park is 60 miles (100 km) to the east, and Sequoia National Park is 75 miles (120 km) to the southeast.
The original inhabitants of the San Joaquin Valley region were the Yokuts people and Miwok people, who engaged in trading with other Californian tribes of Native Americans including coastal peoples such as the Chumash of the Central California coast, with whom they are thought to have traded plant and animal products.
The first European to enter the San Joaquin Valley was Pedro Fages in 1772. The county of Fresno was formed in 1856 after the California Gold Rush. It was named for the abundant ash trees (Spanish: fresno) lining the San Joaquin River.
Millerton, then on the banks of the free-flowing San Joaquin River and close to Fort Miller, became the county seat after becoming a focal point for settlers. Other early county settlements included Firebaugh's Ferry, Scottsburg and Elkhorn Springs.
The San Joaquin River flooded on December 24, 1867, inundating Millerton. Some residents rebuilt, others moved. Flooding also destroyed the town of Scottsburg on the nearby Kings River that winter. Rebuilt on higher ground, Scottsburg was renamed Centerville.
In 1867, Anthony "McQueen" Easterby purchased land bounded by the present Chestnut, Belmont, Clovis and California avenues, that today is called the Sunnyside district. Unable to grow wheat for lack of water, he hired sheep man Moses J. Church in 1871 to create an irrigation system. Building new canals and purchasing existing ditches, Church then formed the Fresno Canal and Irrigation Company, a predecessor of the Fresno Irrigation District.
In 1872, the Central Pacific Railroad established a station near Easterby's—by now a hugely productive wheat farm—for its new Southern Pacific line. Soon there was a store near the station and the store grew into the town of Fresno Station, later called Fresno. Many Millerton residents, drawn by the convenience of the railroad and worried about flooding, moved to the new community. Fresno became an incorporated city in 1885. By 1931 the Fresno Traction Company operated 47 streetcars over 49 miles of track.
In 1865, William Helm brought his sheep to Fresno county, which was then a vast space of open land. By 1877, Helm made Fresno his home with a five-acre tract of land at the corner of Fresno and R streets. Helm was the largest individual sheep grower in Fresno County. In carrying his wool to market at Stockton, he used three wagons, each drawn by ten mules, and spent twelve days in making the round trip.
Two years after the station was established, county residents voted to move the county seat from Millerton to Fresno. When the Friant Dam was completed in 1944, the site of Millerton became inundated by the waters of Millerton Lake. In extreme droughts, when the reservoir shrinks, ruins of the original county seat can still be observed.
In the nineteenth century, with so much wooden construction and in the absence of sophisticated firefighting resources, fires often ravaged American frontier towns. The greatest of Fresno's early-day fires, in 1882, destroyed an entire block of the city. Another devastating blaze struck in 1883.
Fresno entered the ranks of the 100 most populous cities in the United States in 1960 with a population of 134,000. Thirty years later, in the 1990 census, it moved up to 47th place with 354,000, and in the census of 2000, it achieved 37th place with 428,000.
The Fresno Municipal Sanitary Landfill was the first modern landfill in the United States, and incorporated several important innovations to waste disposal, including trenching, compacting, and the daily covering of trash with dirt. It was opened in 1937 and closed in 1987. It is a National Historic Landmark as well as a Superfund site.
Before World War II, Fresno had many ethnic neighborhoods, including Little Armenia, German Town, Little Italy, and Chinatown. In 1940, the Census Bureau reported Fresno's population as 94.0% white, 3.3% black and 2.7% Asian. Chinatown was primarily a Japanese neighborhood and today Japanese-American businesses still remain. During 1942, Pinedale, in what is now North Fresno, was the site of the Pinedale Assembly Center, an interim facility for the relocation of Fresno area Japanese Americans to internment camps. The Fresno Fairgrounds were also utilized as an assembly center.
Row crops and orchards gave way to urban development particularly in the period after World War II; this transition was particularly vividly demonstrated in locations such as the Blackstone Avenue corridor.
In September 1958, Bank of America launched a new product called BankAmericard in Fresno. After a troubled gestation during which its creator resigned, BankAmericard went on to become the first successful credit card. This financial instrument was usable across a large number of merchants and also allowed cardholders to revolve a balance (earlier financial products could do one or the other but not both). In 1976, BankAmericard was renamed and spun off into a separate company known today as Visa Inc.
In the 1970s, the city was the subject of a song, "Walking Into Fresno", written by Hall Of Fame guitarist Bill Aken and recorded by Bob Gallion of the "WWVA Jamboree" radio and television show in Wheeling, West Virginia. Aken, adopted by Mexican-American movie actress Lupe Mayorga, grew up in the neighboring town of Madera and his song chronicled the hardships faced by the migrant farm workers he saw as a child. Aken also made his first TV appearance playing guitar on the old country-western show at The Fresno Barn.
Fictional residents of the town were portrayed in a 1986 comedic miniseries titled "Fresno", featuring Carol Burnett, Dabney Coleman, Teri Garr and Charles Grodin, along with numerous other celebrities. The mini series was presented as a parody of the prime time soap operas popular in the 1980s.
In 1995, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Operation Rezone sting resulted in several prominent Fresno and Clovis politicians being charged in connection with taking bribes in return for rezoning farmland for housing developments. Before the sting brought a halt to it, housing developers could buy farmland cheaply, pay off council members to have it rezoned, and make a large profit building and selling inexpensive housing. Sixteen people were eventually convicted as a result of the sting.