Fresno was founded by the Central Pacific Railroad Company in 1872, and Leland J. Stanford, a Director for the Railroad, is credited with selecting the site of the city. On a scouting party in 1871, Stanford noticed a wheat field belonging to A.Y. Easterby, lush and green in the middle of the dry prairie. Stanford announced, “Wonderful! Here we must build the town!” Fresno became the county seat in 1874 and was incorporated in 1885. By 1890 the population was over 10,000 and ornate Victorian commercial buildings lined Mariposa Street. The first streetcars were introduced in 1892 and streetcar suburbs soon followed. By the 1920s the streetcar system had 50 miles of track and Downtown core featured soaring neoclassical highrises and sidewalks packed with pedestrians.
Today, Fresno has the largest collection of historic resources in central California and preservation is playing an important role in the revitalization of Downtown and other neighborhoods. The City of Fresno’s Historic Preservation Ordinance was approved by the City Council in 1979 and today there are more than 300 designated historic resources. The City was the first in California designated as a Preserve America Community by former First Lady Laura Bush.
The Ordinance establishes the Historic Preservation Commission and is comprised of seven individuals appointed by the Mayor, who have training and expertise in preservation, architecture, architectural history, engineering, and related fields.
The Commission typically meets on the 4th Monday of the month at 6:00 PM, Conference Room 2165, 2nd floor, CITY HALL, 2600 Fresno Street. The Commission reviews all substantial alterations proposed to historic properties, nominations to the Local Register of Historic Resources, requests for Heritage Property designation, and comments on plans and projects that have the potential to affect the historic integrity of Fresno’s historic resources and cultural heritage. The Historic Preservation Specialist may approve, in the name of the Commission, non-substantial alterations. Commission hearings are open to the public and participation is highly encouraged.