An area once comprised of three rural communities, the City of Moreno Valley, incorporated in 1984, has twice emerged as one of the fastest growing cities in the US. While the City represents one of the most dynamic economic market potentials in contemporary California, this has not always been the case.
1918 saw the construction of a new element in the valley's history: March Field. The military airfield was originally built on 640 acres of land purchased primarily from the Hendrick Ranch. March was established at a time when the United States was anticipating entry into World War I and was rushing to build up its military forces. March Field was first used to train fighter pilots; in 1922 the Field was closed, only to reopen again in 1927 as a flight training school. Later, March became a permanent military facility encompassing more than 7,000 acres. For more than 70 years, March Air Force Base enjoyed a long and active military history in the valley; at the height of its activity, the Base supported 85,000 troops.
In the decade of the '80s, the valley experienced explosive growth, signaling the start of a major transition from rural life to urbanization. Housing construction escalated, and families from the major metropolises migrated by the tens of thousands. In a little more than a decade, the valley's population more than doubled from 18,871 residents in 1970 to 49,702 in 1984.
The need for managed growth and the desire for self-governance served as the major impetus behind the movement to incorporate the three valley communities as an independent city. The notion was not immediately favored by voters. The incorporation effort failed in the 1968 election and again in 1983. In 1984, however, the voters of Edgemont, Sunnymead and Moreno overwhelmingly passed the measure, and a new city was born.
On December 3, 1984, the City of Moreno Valley was officially incorporated as a California general law municipality.
In 1996, March -- home to the longest airstrip in Southern California -- was realigned as an Air Reserve Base, and is today poised for great economic growth involving public and private development.
Perris is named in honor of Fred T. Perris, chief engineer of the California Southern Railroad. The California Southern connected through the city in the 1880s to build a rail connection between the present day cities of Barstow and San Diego.
CSR purchased the land from Southern Pacific Railroad in the Pinacate area for a town site. Local citizens offered to erect a depot, dig a well, and donate a number of lots to the railroad in exchange for establishing a station at the new town site.
The Perris station came online in April 1886. By 1887, six passenger trains and two freight trains stopped at Perris daily and rapid growth followed for several years. After storms repeatedly washed out the tracks in the Temecula Gorge, service to San Diego through this route ended.
Perris officially incorporated as a city in 1911.
While the railroad had played an important part in establishing the new town, the people now turned to agriculture for their future development.
Because of limited groundwater, dry grain farming was the main crop before water was brought to the valley by the Eastern Municipal Water district in the early 1950's. Alfalfa, the King potato (which would produce two crops a year), and still later, sugar beets became the mainstay of farming the Perris Valley. The annual Rods, Rails and Potato festival in June celebrates the regions agricultural past.
With the construction of Lake Perris in the late 60's and early 70's - Perris once again became attractive - this time as a recreational area. In addition to the lake's activities Perris' hot air ballooning. Orange Empire Railway Museum and skydiving activities attract international recognition.
Founded in 1870 by John North and a group of Easterners who wished to establish a colony dedicated to furthering education and culture, Riverside was built on land that was once a Spanish rancho. Investors from England and Canada transplanted traditions and activities adopted by prosperous citizens: the first golf course and polo field in Southern California were built in Riverside.
The first orange trees were planted in 1871, but the citrus industry in Riverside began two years later when Eliza Tibbets received two Brazilian navel orange trees sent to her by a friend at the Department of Agriculture in Washington. The trees thrived in the Southern California climate and the navel orange industry grew rapidly.
Within a few years, the successful cultivation of the newly discovered navel orange led to a California Gold Rush of a different kind: the establishment of the citrus industry, which is commemorated in the landscapes and exhibits of the California Citrus State Historic Park and the restored packing houses in the Downtown's Marketplace district. By 1882, there were more than half a million citrus trees in California, almost half of which were in Riverside. The development of refrigerated railroad cars and innovative irrigation systems established Riverside as the wealthiest city per capita by 1895.
As the city prospered, a small guest hotel designed in the popular Mission Revival style grew to become the world famous Mission Inn, favored by presidents, royalty and movie stars. Postcards of lush orange groves, swimming pools. and magnificent homes have attracted vacationers and entrepreneurs throughout the years. Many relocated to the warm, dry climate for reasons of health and to escape Eastern winters. Victoria Avenue with its landmark homes serves as a reminder of European investors who settled here.
Riverside's citizens are proud of the city's unique character born from a tradition of careful planning, from its carefully laid out historic Mile Square to its 1924 Civic Center designed by the same planner responsible for San Francisco's, Charles Cheney. Through the City's Office of Historic Preservation, it is committed to preserving the past as a firm foundation for the future. Over 100 City Landmarks, 20 National Register Sites and 2 National Landmarks have been designated by the City Council, all offering enjoyment and education to city residents and visitors.
Riverside is fortunate to have a wealth of sites and buildings that provide a link to the city's past and a strong sense of place. This is the result of the hard work and careful planning of the city's Historic Preservation Program. Created by the City Council in 1969, it identifies and advances the preservation of Riverside's historic neighborhoods, and civic and commercial resources.
Examples include the Mission Inn, the Chinatown site, the National Packing House, Citrus Experiment Station and engineering feats like the Gage Canal. Many of these landmarks are found in the Downtown's Mission Inn Historic District. California's Mission Revival style, born in Riverside, can be seen throughout the City, most notably in the Mission Inn, the Municipal Auditorium, First Church of Christ Scientist, and the Fox Theater, home of the Riverside Film Festival.
The Mission Inn was developed from the Glenwood Tavern, owned by Captain Christopher Columbus Miller, who moved to Riverside in 1874 to survey land for the Gage Canal, which brought water to Riverside. His son Frank developed a lasting interest in culture and the arts and took over the expansion of the Inn. Over the years he embellished and expanded it into a unique resort known all over the world. It has played host to numerous movie stars, musicians and heads of state. Ronald and Nancy Reagan honeymooned there, and Richard and Pat Nixon were married on its grounds. Teddy Roosevelt planted a tree in its courtyard, and a special chair, built for President William Howard Taft when he visited, is still in the Inn's collection.