Fremont is a city in Alameda County, California, United States. It was incorporated on January 23, 1956, from the merger of five smaller communities: Centerville, Niles, Irvington, Mission San Jose, and Warm Springs. The city is named after American explorer John Charles Frémont. Located in the southeast section of the San Francisco Bay Area in the East Bay region primarily, Fremont is the fourth most populous city in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the largest suburb in the metropolis. It is the closest East Bay city to Silicon Valley and is thus sometimes associated with it. The area consisting of Fremont, Newark (an enclave of Fremont), and Union City (formed from the communities of Alvarado and Decoto) is now known as the Tri-City Area.
Nestled between the East Bay rolling hills and San Francisco Bay were five small independent towns — Centerville, Niles, Irvington, Mission San Jose, and Warm Springs — that combined and incorporated to form the city of Fremont in 1956. Six decades later, these places have greatly expanded, are no longer separate communities, and are considered districts or community plan areas of the more or less developed city of Fremont. The town of Newark declined to join Fremont, and is now an enclave of it. Since incorporation, Fremont has created six more districts, which it calls “community plan areas” for planning purposes. These include Central, North Fremont, South Fremont, and Bayside. The two other districts, Baylands and the Hill Areas, are primarily open space.
Centerville was perhaps the main town in Washington Township. Centerville was started by George Lloyd who started selling cold beer to stage passengers from a tent in 1850. Capt. George Bond set up a general store and the name Centerville was chosen. The Centerville Pioneer Cemetery contains the burial places of many of the city’s founding pioneers. Centerville can be traced back to its native American roots. Spanish, Mexican, Italian, Portuguese and Swiss (Swiss Park), peoples were among the early settlers that contributed greatly to the growth Centerville. Most of Centerville was and still is Catholic. Housing developments began to appear in the area after WWII. Most of the early housing stood along Fremont Blvd. from Decoto Road, south to Washington High school, along Thornton Ave. from Fremont Blvd., west to the Newark city border and along Peralta Blvd, from Fremont Blvd. to Niles.
For city planning purposes, Centerville was enlarged to encompass most of the north central residential section of Fremont, from Mowry Ave to Decoto Rd, from I-880 to the BART line. This Centerville community plan area includes the sprawling subdivisions, developed in the 1950s and 1960s, of Glenmoor Gardens, bounded by Central Avenue, Fremont Boulevard, Mowry Avenue, and the I-880 freeway. and the Cabrillo Park subdivision bound by, Thornton Ave, Fremont Blvd, Decoto Road and the I-880 freeway. Also the Brookvale subdivisions, the Quarry Lakes Regional Park, and part of Parkmont. The area is served by two high schools, Washington High School (Fremont, California) established in 1892, which for a long time was the only high school in the area and American High School established in 1972. It also has two junior high schools, Centerville Junior High School and Thornton Junior High School, which now stands on the old main site of the Freitas ranch.
The town is physically divided from other parts of Fremont and neighboring Union City by Mission Boulevard to the east and north, Alameda Creek to the south, Union Pacific Railroad to the west and southeast, and the Quarry Lakes to the southwest. The hills of Niles are lower than those of the area south of the Alameda Creek in Mission San Jose. Old Town Niles features its own library, post office, and silent movie theater as well as a large number of antique and craft stores. The town is named after Addison Niles.
Niles was the home of one of the first West Coast motion picture companies, Essanay Studios. Charlie Chaplin and Broncho Billy Anderson filmed some of their most famous silent movies in Niles. Scenic Niles Canyon stretches between Niles and Sunol. The nonprofit Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum offers both artifacts of Niles’ early years, and each Saturday evening, screenings of early-twentieth-century silent films, many of which were filmed locally.
The Niles Canyon Railway runs along Alameda Creek, and carries passengers on weekend excursions, including a holiday ‘train of lights’ which is extremely popular – tickets for these trains typically sell out by early October. The Niles Canyon Railroad has a small but well-maintained collection of historic rail stock.
Of special note is the annual antique fair and flea market which takes place on the last Sunday in August. The entire town turns out with things to sell as early as Saturday morning, with bargain hunters from the Bay Area and beyond visiting in search of bargains. Niles is also home to the Fremont Gurdwara, which serves the large American Sikh community of Fremont as a religious shrine open to not only the Sikhs but to everyone regardless of their caste and religion.
The Irvington District area has cycled through many name changes over time. Shortly after the US Civil war, a freed male black slave traveled from the southern United States to California, reputedly in search of a fortune. This former slave noticed the traffic at the crossroads of what is today the “Five Corners” intersection in Fremont; the transcontinental railroad passed through this region, bringing many passers-by. Realizing a financial opportunity, this freed slave constructed the first building at the cross roads, a tavern with an inn. For many years, due to a lack of a formal name, the intersection was known as “Nigger Corners”. This corner, today the intersection of Fremont and Washington Boulevards, Union and Bay Streets, is known as “Five Corners” or Irvington Square. The inn and several of the other original buildings were demolished by the city of Fremont in the early 1980s.
The Irvington district has two main neighborhoods: Irvington Woods and the Irvington Square. The neighborhood is ethnically mixed and is primarily working class. For city planning purposes, the Irvington area was enlarged to encompass most of the south central residential section of Fremont, from Auto Mall Parkway to Mowry Avenue, from I-880 to roughly the BART line (excluding the Central District described below). This Irvington community plan area includes the Sundale neighborhood, the South Sundale neighborhood, 28 Palms, Blacow, and Grimmer subdivisions. The area is served by three high schools: Irvington High School, Robertson High School, and John F. Kennedy High School.
At the time of the California Gold Rush, a boom town grew up around the old Mission, to equip and transport 49ers overland to the gold fields. The district, like Niles, is surrounded by hills. The hills are higher and steeper than Niles, with the highest points being on the Mission Ridge. Mission San Jose district lies close to the northern two peaks, Mission Peak and Mount Allison. Mission Peak is very distinctive and is one of Fremont’s emblems. These peaks go from 2,517 to 2,604 ft, taller than Mount Tamalpais, a great height for the San Francisco Bay Area. They see some deep snow occasionally.
Nestled at the base of Fremont’s rolling hills is the Mission San José, one of the oldest of the historic Spanish missions in California, for which this district is named. The church building that exists today is a re-construction (dedicated in 1985 for daily Mass and tours) of the original 1809 adobe church that was destroyed by the 1868 Hayward-fault earthquake. One side of the original mission quadrangle remains and houses a museum. Fremont’s community college, Ohlone College, is situated one block away from the mission and serves over 12,000 students.
The local high school is Mission San Jose High School, it is ranked 67 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Owing to an influx of professionals and other affluent families seeking access to the top-performing local public schools, Mission San Jose’s median home value reached $831,000 in 2006, earning the community a rank of 237 on Forbes magazine’s list of the 500 most affluent communities in the United States.
In 2001 an attempt by community organizations in the Mission San Jose district to withdraw from the Fremont Unified School District caused state-wide controversy and led to accusations of racism from both sides. The attempt was prompted by a re-drawing of the school enrollment areas, under which some Mission San Jose residents would send their children to Horner Junior High and Irvington High schools. The controversial effort to secede was dropped later that year. Fremont’s public schools continue to rank among the best in California.
Warm Springs is located on Rancho Agua Caliente and is so named for the springs that are located there. The Warm Springs district is the southernmost portion of Fremont whose hub is the Warm Springs and Mission Boulevard intersection. Due to its proximity to the center of Silicon Valley, Warm Springs has attracted the headquarters of many high-tech companies including Nielsen Norman Group, Lam Research, Corsair Memory and Lexar of the US as well as foreign high-tech companies such as Elitegroup Computer Systems, and Asus. The district is also home to blue-collar industry. The San Jose mission is also present.
Warm Springs also serves as commercial center for the mainly residential Mission San Jose district, especially since the construction of Pacific Commons, a large, modern regional shopping center. The Oakland Athletics talked about moving their stadium to this area. The large Asian population in Mission San Jose comes to Warm Springs for authentic Asian stores such as the 99 Ranch & Marina Food supermarkets, as well as more traditional supermarkets such as Safeway. It was also home to one of the SF Bay Area’s only two coffee houses to employ baristas who wear bikinis, Your Coffee Cups, a concept that’s gained some controversy from Bay Area newspapers and news stations. This controversy led to the eventual closing of the business.
The BART extension to Warm Springs began construction in 2009 and opened for service in 2017.
The central district is surrounded by the Centerville, Niles, Mission San Jose, and Irvington communities. The central district contains retail shopping centers (e.g., the Fremont Hub), the Fremont Bay Area Rapid Transit station, health care centers and Central Park (Lake Elizabeth).
City planners envision a mid-density, pedestrian friendly, transit oriented development, bounded by Mowry Ave, Fremont Blvd, Walnut Ave, and Paseo Padre Pkwy. One of the central streets, the Capital Avenue extension to Fremont Blvd, was completed in 2016, as the city pursues its plans for a Downtown Fremont.
North Fremont is a primarily residential district surrounded by Union City, Centerville District, Newark, and Coyote Hills Regional Park. It is a growing community that includes the Ardenwood neighborhood, the Lakes and Birds neighborhood, and the Northgate neighborhood. It is the site of the Ardenwood Historic Farm, which has the George Washington Patterson House as one of its highlights, and the Ardenwood Technology Park. A 99 Ranch Market is one of many Asian businesses in the North Fremont District. Thornton Junior High School and American High School, which are both physically located in the enlarged Centerville District, also serve as the junior high and high school, respectively, for this community.
South Fremont is a primarily industrial district, east of Interstate 880 and west of Interstate 680, south of Auto Mall Parkway and north of Brown Rd. The area overlaps with Warm Springs, with which it shares the eponymous BART station. The composition of the area will change, because thousands of residential units were under construction as of 2016. It is sandwiched between the Irvington and Warm Springs community plan areas. It is noted as the site of the Tesla Factory as well as the site of the Warm Springs / South Fremont BART station.
Bayside Industrial is a primarily industrial and commercial district, west of Interstate 880 between Newark and Milpitas.
Baylands is an open space (bay and land) district that stretches from the Bay and engulfs the western edge of North Fremont, Newark, and Bayside Industrial. It is the site of the headquarters and visitor center of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
Hill Area is an open land district that forms the eastern edge of Fremont. It is the site of Mission Peak.
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