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History of Corona

Brief History of Corona

Early History Alta California South Riverside
Corona Road Races Lemon Capital Timeline
Local History Links    


Early History

Painted Rock in Temescal Canyon, Resource ID: NAT-aaa-073The history of Corona pre-dates the founding of the town in 1886. The original inhabitants of this region were the Luiseño (or Payomkowishum) and Gabrielino (or Tongva) Indians. Both groups were hunter-gatherers with well established villages in the Corona area, the Gabrielinos to the west near the Santa Ana River where Prado Dam is today and the Luiseños farther south in Temescal Luiseno Jar from Temescal CanyonCanyon, Lake Elsinore and Temecula areas near natural water resources. The future of these California Indians was forever altered when Spain colonized California in 1769 and later established the San Luis Rey and San Gabriel Missions. The introduction of new diseases and the base treatment of the indigenous population at the hands of the padres resulted in a sharp population decline among the California Indians between 1769 and 1821. 


Alta California

Communion Wafer Press, Resource ID: AAA-1136When Mission San Luis Rey de Francia was founded in 1798 its primary mission was to colonize the indigenous people of the area. Ranchos were established to further the influence of the Catholic Church and the Missions. To create a self-sustaining system to support the Mission, the padres quickly developed irrigation systems that allowed them to cultivate a variety of crops such as grapes, oranges, olives and corn as well as care for livestock and the Mission’s inhabitants.

In 1769 Portola’s expedition through Alta California where Padre Junipero Serra and Spanish soldier Jose Yorba both would leave their mark on California. Padre Serra established the Franciscan Missions. Jose Yorba left the Spanish Army in 1797 and returned to California in 1800. In 1801 Yorba would be rewarded for his service to Spain with a large land grant along the Santa Ana River.

Jose Yorba’s youngest son, Bernardo, would receive a land grant from the Mexican government in 1825. The 14,000 acres granted to Bernardo lay just east of his father’s Spanish land grant. Later Bernardo acquired an additional 10,000 acres from Governor Jose Figueroa. With this addition, Bernardo Yorba’s property encompassed present day Corona.


South Riverside

R.B. Taylor Adolph Rimpau George L. Joy A.S. Garretson Samuel Merrill

R.B. Taylor

Adolph Rimpau

George L. Joy

A.S. Garretson

Samuel Merrill

In 1886 Robert B. Taylor, Adolph Rimpau, George L. Joy, A.S. Garretson, and Samuel Merrill purchased 12,000 acres of land from the Yorba family in what was then southwestern San Bernardino County. The South Riverside Land & Water Company was formed to develop the newly acquired land. The company quickly made arrangements to establish a railroad depot, irrigation systems were created to bring water to the arid land and it introduced the building blocks of the citrus industry to their new town, South Riverside.
Bird's Eye View of South Riverside, circa 1887
"On my return trip to Sioux City...I stopped at Omaha and learned while there that the city was spending large sums of money to secure a grand boulevard about the city. I then and there decided to lay out a grand boulevard in a perfect circle around the proposed townsite on the Company lands and later the matter was taken up with Mr. Kellogg and the survey for the circle was made..."
~R.B. Taylor,
Letter to Capt. Merriam, 1913

Hiram Clay Kellogg, Civil Engineer & architect of South RiversideDuring this period R.B. Taylor contracted with well known civil engineer H.C. Kellogg to create the boulevard and streets that would later distinguish South Riverside from any other city in California. Kellogg took Taylor's vision of a "grand" circular boulevard and designed a series of grid-like streets enclosed by the boulevard. With the design of the town approved by the Company the founders set out to name each street. According to Emma "Ocie" Taylor Songer, R.B. Taylor's daughter, the streets of South Riverside were named in one evening in the Pasadena office of A.S. Garretson. As Ocie played with her dolls her father and his partners nominated, debated and finally agreed on the names for all the original streets.  
Main Street, circa 1890. Resource ID: HIG-cit-015
A thriving and profitable citrus industry soon emerged with grapefruit, orange, and lemon fruits providing the backbone of the local economy. On July 13, 1896 the citizens of South Riverside voted to incorporate the town into the newly developed Riverside County and to change the name of the city to Corona.

Corona Road Races

"Corona is the talk of the whole world and thousands will see the greatest speed demons smash all records Tuesday."
~Corona Courier,
September 4, 1913

Corona Road Race poster, 1913Grand Boulevard's circular shape has always been a unique feature that attracts the attention of anyone visiting the city or viewing a map. Grand Boulevard was one of the original streets designed by civil engineer H. Clay Kellogg. The three mile boulevard hosted the best in international auto racing in the 1913, 1914, and 1916 Corona Road Races. Road races were popular throughout the United States and Europe, and Corona's Road Races each garnered thousands of spectators as well as drivers from around the world. 

The first race held on September 9, 1913 offered $10,000 in prizes, one of the largest purses offered in auto racing. Racing legends Earl Cooper, Teddy Tetzlaff, Barney Oldfield, Eddie Rickenbacker and Bob Burman were some of the drivers who participated in the first road race. In 1913 three separate races were held – Light Car Race (37 laps ~ 102 miles), Heavy Car Race (91 laps ~ 251 miles) and the Free-For-All Race (109 laps ~ 301 miles). The competition for the Free-For-All Race was fierce as the prize for 1st Place was over $5000 and a $1000 bonus was offered for a new world’s record. It was Earl Cooper who earned First Place in the Free-For-All.
2nd Corona Road Race, 1914With the success of Corona’s 1913 Road Race, plans for a second road race were started immediately. The Corona Racing Association scheduled the event for Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 1914 and began preparing by permanently paving Grand Boulevard and offering advanced ticket sales. The Association also added certain safety measures that would ensure that spectators & participants remained safe - a five foot fence was built around the outside of the boulevard and bridges were constructed over the street which would allow spectators to view the race while preventing them from stepping onto the track during the race. 

The 109 lap race included 19 of racing’s finest drivers including Road race on Grand Blvd., circa 1914defending champion Earl Cooper, Eddie Pullen, Barney Oldfield, Eddie O’Donnell, Eddie Rickenbacker, Arthur Klein, Ralph De Palma, Billy Maxwell, Guy Ruckstell, Louis Nikrent, Harry Grant, Harry Babcock, “Terrible” Teddy Tetzlaff and Bob Burman. Thousands made their way to sunny Corona that Thanksgiving Day, some drove while others took the train from Los Angeles. News & wire services relayed the events of the day to cities all over the United States. Competition for the $12,000 in prizes was fierce, but when the race was over Eddie O’Donnell was 3rd, Barney Oldfield came in 2nd & Eddie Pullen took first place in his Mercer (#4).
Eddie O'Donnell winner of the 3rd Corona Road Race,1916Plans for a third road race were delayed until 1916 and promoters decided to shift the race from the fall to the spring. On April 8, 1916, the day of the race, Corona experienced record breaking high temperatures. Of the twelve cars & drivers that qualified for the third Corona Road Race, only five completed the race. The weather wreaked havoc on the cars, vehicles overheated and there were a number of tire blowouts during the race. Tragedy struck during Bob Burman's 97th lap, his Peugeot veered off the track and into spectators. The accident killed Burman, his mechanic Erick Schrader and security guard William Speer of Corona. A short time later Eddie O'Donnell crossed the finish line in his Duesenberg and took first place. 
Despite the popularity of the events, they were not financially successful, and after the death of three men in 1916's Road Race, the future of Corona Road Races on Grand Boulevard was sealed. Citizens had long been complaining about the noise, flying wheels, dangerous speeds and general havoc wrought by outsiders each year. Those complaints, combined with Burman's tragic accident, left the promoters no choice but to cancel plans for any future races.


Lemon Capital of the World

"During April there were 489 packers and 650 pickers employed in packing houses and groves of Corona. Practically one-fourth of our population is engaged in the caring for our citrus interests."
~Corona Courier,
May 14, 1915

Early investors and developers in the citrus industry included Ethan Allen Chase, John Flagler, A.F. Call, S.B. Hampton and W.H. Jameson (son-in-law of founder George Joy). Though the soil was fit for citrus and there was funding to establish groves and packing houses, the growers lacked any agricultural experience which initially hindered the fledgling industry. To solve the problem growers advertised for experienced citrus workers in Italy where there was a long history of successful citrus cultivation. The infusion of new ideas and experience that arrived with the Italian workers provided the much needed boost to Corona’s citrus industry. Field workers and packers were needed to make a true success of Corona’s citrus industry. The majority of the agricultural labor force was composed of Mexican and later Mexican-American workers, who worked around the clock to collect, prepare and ship out citrus fruits and their by-products.

Exchange By-Products Company, 1915By the time Corona hosted its third road race, it had already established itself as the “Lemon Capital of the World”. Lemon production was so successful that the Exchange By-Products Company was developed to research and produce commercial products from lower grade lemons and lemons that did not sell at market. The plant could handle 1,000 tons of lemons per day, employed 250 people, and operated 24 hours a day. The main products produced at the plant were citric acid, sodium citrate, lemon juice, pectin, and lemon oil. In 1921 the By-Products plant would change its name to the Exchange Lemon Products Company, indicating the facilities focus on research and products derived from the lemon. It was in 1958 that the Exchange merged with Sunkist and formed the Lemon Products Division for Sunkist Growers. The encroachment of suburban Corona, shifting of the agricultural industry to Central California and out-dated facilities and equipment lead Sunkist to close the plant in 1982.



1769 Spain colonizes Alta California
1796 Mission San Luis Rey de Fracias is established Communion Wafer Press - This artifact is a Wafer Press used to make communion wafers by the local Indians. It was owned by the Serrano Family living in the Prado Basin during the 18th century. Resource ID: AAA.1136
1821 Mexico gains independence from Spain
1833 Mission San Luis Rey is secularized
1857 Tin is discovered in Temescal Canyon Temescal Tin Mines, 1890s
1886 R.B. Taylor, Adolph Rimpau, George L. Joy, Map of South Riverside Townsite circa 1886
A.S. Garretson, & Samuel Merrill, purchase
12,000 acres of land and develop the community
South Riverside.
1887 South Riverside Bee, the town’s first newspaper begins circulation;

First citrus grove is planted in South Riverside by Patrick Harrington
1888 Over 150 acres of citrus groves have been plantedCitrus groves in south Corona, circa 1920
in South Riverside
1889 South Riverside's first school, Lincoln, is built on theLincoln School, South Riverside's first schoolhouse, c. 1905
site of what is now Victoria Park.
1891 April 26th, President Benjamin Harrison visits President Benjamin Harrison visiting Corona, April 1891
South Riverside to see the tin bars from the
Temescal Tin Mine. In the photo, President Harrison
(wearing a top hat) can be seen standing next to a
stack of tin bars.
1893 Riverside County is formed;

Temescal Tin Mine closes
1895 A reading room opens in the Gleason Building in South Riverside
1896 South Riverside incorporates under the new name Corona
1899 Woman’s Improvement Club is formed Woman's Improvement Club
1906 Carnegie Library opens at 8th & Main Street Carnegie Library
1907 Corona's first high school is built Construction of Corona's first high school, located on Main Street
1911 Corona Lemon Foothill Company is formed;

Washington School opens
1912 Association Charities is formed by the Woman’s Improvement Club, later this organization will be renamed Settlement House.
1913 September 9th, first Corona Road Race is held;
Postcard advertisement for the first Corona Road Race.
December 22nd, Marshal G.C. Alexander is murdered during a raid.
1914 July 28th, World War I begins;

November 26th, second Corona Road Race is held.
1915 Exchange Lemon By-Products Company opens, it is the first plant of this type in the United States.
1916 April 8th, the third & final Corona Road Race is held. Bob Burman's wreck race car, 1916.
Race car driver Bob Burman, his mechanic Erick Schrader and local resident W.H Speer are killed when Burman's Peugeot veers off the track.
1917 April, President Wilson asks Congress for a declaration of war with Germany.
1918 August 12, Pvt. Chester Husted, stationed in France, sends a letter to his family in Corona. Husted died in battle on October 5, 1918 near Blanc Mont, France. 

November 11, World War I ends. Letter from Chester Husted of Corona. Husted died in France just a couple weeks after writing the letter.
1929 February 2nd, Lake Norconian Club opens, the luxury resort hosted celebrities such as Walt Disney, Bob Hope, and Shirley Temple;

October, a series of stock market crashes begin this will eventually lead to the Great Depression.
1936 Corona's Golden Jubilee
1938 March, severe floods cause damage in RiversideCorona Daily Independent newspaper, March 3, 1938
& Orange Counties. The Corona Daily Independent
continues to publish typed copies of the newspaper which
staff deliver in boats.
1939 Construction of Prado Dam begins;

September 1, Germany invades Poland, World War II begins
1940 Residents of Prado are officially evicted, the land Construction of Prado Dam, circa 1939
where the town once stood becomes the
Prado Reservoir
1941 December 7th, Japan bombs Pearl Harbor & the United States officially enters World War II;

December 8th, the U.S. Navy begins the converting Lake Norconian Club into a military hospital
1949 January, freezing temperatures threaten crops & Slide of snowfall in Corona groves
snow blankets the City
1958 April, Onias Acevedo is the first Hispanic to be elected to Corona City Council
1962 Highway 91 is constructed through Corona;

Rena Parker is the first woman to run for Corona City Council, she was defeated.
1963 Rena Parker is the first woman appointed to Corona City Council to fill a vacancy
1964 Rena Parker is the first woman to be elected to Rena Parker
Corona City Council.
1968 December 21, snow falls in Corona
1969 January & February, flood waters threaten the city Hickory Bar-B-Q restaurant flooded, 1969
1971 Carnegie Library closes its doors and the new Library at 6th & Main Street opens.
1980 April, David Felix becomes Corona's first Hispanic mayor David Felix becomes Corona's first Hispanic mayor
1982 Sunkist plant at Joy & the railroad tracks closes.
1984 Olympic torch is carried through Corona. Olympic Torch in Corona, 1984
1989 I-15 through Corona is completed.
1993 Current Corona Public Library building opens.

Local History Links


Corona Genealogical Society (CGS)
CGS has published the scripts developed for the Sunnyslope Cemetery Stroll. The scripts contain biographical and historical information about many of Corona’s citizens and events.

Fire Dept. History 
Created by Corona's Fire Department, this includes a list of Fire Chief's from 1897 to the present, photos of historical fire fighting equipment & engines and history of this city department.

Dept. of Water & Power History
An overview of the development of the utility, information about Corona's water supply and a list of department facts.

Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians
The website highlights the history, culture and tribal government of the Luiseño.

Corona Heritage Park & Museum 
The Park & Museum website includes a great deal of information about the organization as well as information about the Hotel del Rey (Victoria Hotel) and Corona pioneer Ida B. Frasier.

Corona Historic Preservation Society (CHPS) 
CHPS website includes information about their home tour and Corona Beautiful as well as brief history of the society & urban renewal as well as a list of Corona sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

City of Corona Veterans Memorial
The City of Corona Veterans Memorial database is dedicated in honor and remembrance of all past, present, and future veterans of the United States military.
The veterans database allows users to create an on-line profile detailing a veteran’s military service.

Speed Kings 
Hosted by Archive.org, this short film from 1913 features some of the race car drivers that participated in the Corona Road Races on Grand Boulevard.

Lake Norconian Club Foundation
A timeline and brief history of the luxury resort which became a naval hospital during World War II. 

Sherman Indian Museum 
The Museum's website features a brief history, timeline and photograph gallery of Riverside's Sherman Indian High School.

Asian American Riverside 
From the University of California, Riverside, this site features biographical sketches and historic sites that contribute to our knowledge of Asian American history in Riverside.

Evergreen Memorial Historic Cemetery 
The cemetery houses more than 27,000 individuals of local and national significance. The site includes biographical sketches of Riverside pioneers who are interred at Evergreen as well as images showcasing the art & architecture of the historic section of the cemetery.
Metropolitan Water District History


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