Corona California is nestled at the base of Cleveland National Forest. The mountains of the Cleveland National Forest separate Orange County from the Inland Empire region of Southern California. The city of Corona welcomes many visitors each year as they enter into this rapidly growing region of Southern California.
The History of Corona
by Gloria Scott Freel, Former Heritage Room Supervisor, Corona Public Library
The City of Corona is located approximately 45 miles southeast of Los Angeles in western Riverside County. The community is ideally situated at the base of the mountainous Cleveland National Forest on an alluvial plain leading down or north to the Santa Ana River. In 1996 the city population will reach over 100,000 and the city limits cover approximately 32.83 square miles, and this grows continuously through annexations. The mean temperature in January has averaged 51.6 degrees, and in July 74.8 degrees. Rainfall averages 2.71 inches in January and .01 in July. Corona is a General Law City. Five Corona citizens make up the Corona City Council and each is elected to a four year term of office.
Historically, the area has many significant features. The Luiseño Indians, the site of the first Spanish family to settle in Riverside County, the Temescal Tin Mines, and some of the best clay and mineral deposits in the United States are located here. Also, the renowned circular Grand Boulevard where three international road racing events took place in 1913, 1914 and 1916. The first lemon processing plant in the country was built here in 1915 and the world's largest cheese plant was opened on Lincoln Avenue in 1985 where the Desi Arnaz horse ranch had once stood.
The local Luiseño Indians were known as hunters and gatherers. They hunted for such animals as black bear, snakes, rodents, coyote, rabbits, birds and fish. They made straw baskets from wild grasses, constructed clay containers and gathered acorns, seeds, wild berries and roots for food. These Native Americans were very clean, and used the hot waters in the Temescal Canyon to bathe on a daily basis and as part of their religious ceremonies. (Current residents and visitors still enjoy the rejuvenating mud baths and hot springs at the Glen Ivy resort.) Luiseño religious ceremonies were strictly followed and remnants of some of their artistic pictographs and petroglyphs can still be found on some of the rocks in the undeveloped areas.
These Indian tribes came under the influence of the Spanish settlers at the Mission San Luis Rey, and they were given the name Luiseño. As Spanish settlement progressed inland, the land soon was taken over by Spanish ranchos. Sheep and cattle dotted the hills from ranchos run by the Serrano, Cot, Sepulveda and Botiller families. Remnants of the Serrano tanning vats are still found on Old Temescal Canyon Road. This is also the route that was taken by the Butterfield Stage Route that brought many Americans to California along the southern route between 1858 and 1861. Plaques marking the sites of Indian petroglyphs, the Butterfield Stage stops and the Serrano adobes are still found along this road.
In 1886, developer Robert Taylor persuaded his partners, Rimpau, Joy, Garretson and Merrill to form the South Riverside Land and Water Company. Together they raised approximately $110,000 to purchase approximately 12,000 acres of good agricultural land. Taylor realized the importance of water for the soon to be developed community, and additional funds were used to ensure that sufficient water rights were obtained. Taylor hired Anaheim engineer H. C. Kellogg to design a circular Grand Boulevard three miles round. Early residents used to parade their fancy buggies on this circular street that enclosed the main functions of the community: schools, churches, residences and stores. To the north along the railroad tracks were the manufacturing plants and packing houses. The southern end of town was left to the citrus industry, and the mining companies were established just outside the city's southeastern and eastern city limits.
The town's founders initially named their development South Riverside after the successful citrus community of Riverside, just a few miles away. Almost all of the new settlers planted orange and lemon trees in hopes of gaining future profits. New groves continued to spring up and by 1912 there were 5,000 acres of established lemon and orange groves. By 1913 Corona shipped more fruit than any other town in Southern California. In 1961 citrus was still considered the backbone of Corona's economy, and the largest source of revenue. In that year citrus covered 7500 acres. The labor force fluctuated between 400 and 1800 workers at the peak of the harvest. An additional 500 people worked at the Exchange Lemon Products plant. By 1982 Corona's agricultural industry faced a bleak future as "production costs made the economics of farming only fair or poor." Plans were begun to replace the groves with approximately 12,500 dwelling units.
Since Corona's 1900 population of 1434, there have been numerous changes. On July 13, 1896 residents voted to incorporate and change the name of the community to Corona, which is Spanish for crown, in honor of the City's circular Grand Boulevard. On September 9, 1913, in observance of California's Admissions Day, Corona residents celebrated with an international automobile race on the Boulevard. The event attracted such auto racing greats of Ralph De Palma, Barney Oldfield, Terrible Teddy Tetzlaff and Earl Cooper. More than 100,000 people came to the town of 4,000 to watch Cooper win the race and a prize of $8,250. It was so successful that races were held again in 1914 and 1916. The demise of the road races were due not only to the tragic deaths which occurred in 1916, but because of the cost and local effort needed to stage such an extravagant event.
During the teens and twenties, Corona citizens built numerous churches, a library and a new city hall. By 1915 the production of lemons was exceeding national demand, and local businessmen worked together to form the first Lemon Exchange By-Products Company in the United States. Located on Joy and the railroad tracks, this co-operative was eventually bought out by Sunkist. In 1954 they employed over 700 people and marketed a variety of lemon products for worldwide disbursement. The plant produced citric acid, lemon oil, lemon juice and pectin which helped Corona gain the nickname "Lemon Capital of the world." As housing developments began to overtake the Southern California citrus orchards, Sunkist found that the lack of a local supply was forcing them to move. They closed the Corona plant in 1982.
Mining has always played a secondary but vital role to the more prominent citrus industry. Now that citrus has declined and the mines remain, they have again become a focal point in Corona industry. Historically this area is known for having the only productive tin mine in the country, and it produced tin until 1893. Other more successful mining ventures included the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (previously Blue Diamond mine,) the Pacific Clay Company (organized in 1886,) Redlands Clay Tile, Maruhachi Ceramics, Monier Roof Tile and U.S. Tile. By 1954 the city had more than 11,000 inhabitants and was home to such industries as the Corona Clipper Company, Liston Brick Company, Borden Food Products and Tillotsen Refractories. The only oil wells in Riverside County were located in this area.
Agriculture has always played a significant role in Corona's history. The land to the northwest was more suitable for alfalfa, grin, sugar beets, tomatoes, beans, walnuts and dairy land as far back as 1914. In the 1930s the average dairy consisted of 5-10 acres with 35 to 70 cows. By 1982 operations had become highly mechanized with almost 500 cows per 60 to 200 acres. With increased development the future of agricultural pursuits within the city limits is significantly decreasing.
As Southern California began to grow, so did Corona. The Riverside Freeway (Highway 91) was constructed through Corona in 1962. Downtown Corona went through urban renewal in the late 60s and 70s, razing the old and putting in a new downtown. By 1989, the I-15went in to the east of town, and development of Sierra del Oro, Corona Hills and South Corona were in full gear. New commercial developments began opening on Lincoln Avenue, McKinley Avenue and in Sierra del Oro. Price Club, Walmart, and the new auto mall became important parts of the city's revitalization. In June 1993 the City opened the newly redone Corona Public Library at 650 South Main Street with 62,300 square feet of space and the addition of new automated technologies. Additional plans for revitalizing downtown was addressed at an October 1995 community Charette. By 1996 Corona's population had topped 100,000 people, there were 32 Corona parks, a Senior Center, gymnasium and 30 schools in th Corona Norco Unified School District. The City also celebrated the Centennial of the City's Incorporation with numerous events, parades, picnics, banquets and ceremonial dedications to mark the City of Corona's 100th birthday.
The City of Corona has a remarkable and unique history. In order to collect and preserve information about the community, the City of Corona opened a Heritage Room at the Corona Public Library in November 1980. Library staff and volunteers from the community and the Heritage Committee work to collect, organize, display and preserve materials relevant to the history of the city and immediate environs. Collected items on display in the library's mezzanine and available for research in the Heritage Room include maps, photographs, original documents, artifacts, oral histories, videos and books. The Heritage Room is open Mon and Tuesday 3pm to 7pm and Thursday 10am to 1pm. For additional information please call 951/279-3593.
Source: Corona Public Library
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