Modesto Historical Information
From its earliest days, Modesto (Spanish for modesty) has
been a community dedicated to growth, progress and the quality of community life.
In 1870, when it became generally known where the new town of Modesto was to be
located, there was a stampede of businesses, dwellings, furniture and people
rapidly moving to the one-mile square railroad town. Modesto became the end
of the railroad line November 8, 1870, and it took another two years to construct
the tracks as far as Merced. When newcomers got off the train here they saw a
community of approximately 25 buildings, either hastily built or moved from
other locations when the Central Pacific Railroad announced its selection of the
Modesto site. It was a bleak settlement on the plains without trees or
vegetation but an abundance of wind-blown sand.By 1910, Modesto's population was
estimated at 4,500. City fathers referred to the young community as the "most
metropolitan and classy of its size in California." Modesto soon became known
as the "Rose City" and the "Garden City" because of its many
rose bushes and well-manicured lawns.
Emphasis was placed on education and cultural amenities-schools and theaters
received priority treatment. The local media boasted of the academic achievements
of the city's students, and of the first-rate theatrical productions and entertainers.
In 1912, the downtown Modesto Arch, located at 9th and I streets, was built for
a cost of $1,200. The illuminating arch holds 668 lights, stands 25 feet high at
its center, and spans 75 feet across I Street. Details of a 1911 contest reveal
that the slogan for the arch, "Water, Wealth, Contentment, Health," was
selected by a committee of the Modesto Business Men's Association. They paid Sam
Harbaugh $3 for his winning slogan.
In the last decades of Modesto's history, there has been progress, vision and
growth beyond even founder William Ralston's prediction for the wheat field that
was Modesto in 1870. Attracting new business-from retail to manufacturing to the
services industry-and keeping up with the demands of future technology and
innovation are vital to the growth of Modesto. Afterall, we are a well-established
community filled with civic pride and grand plans for the future.