Ontario was founded in September of 1882 by George and William B. Chaffey. The City was named after the home of the Chaffey Brothers, Ontario, Canada. The Chaffey’s established three principles for the “Colony” that had social and economic implications including a mutual water company concept, a grand thoroughfare, and an agricultural college for general education. Seven mile long Euclid Avenue, with twin roadways and a central mall, was the stately backbone of the Colony. It’s long easy incline, from the Southern Pacific railway tracks on the south to the tableland at the mouth of San Antonio Canyon on the north, was ideal for the development of gravity irrigation. In 1903, Ontario had been declared The “Model Colony” as an Act of Congress of the United States for its innovation, principals, and establishment of a new standard for urban living. The Model Colony stood as a prominent example of a successful irrigation project for many years.
Ontario’s Historic Preservation Program seeks to preserve and protect the significant architectural, historical, and cultural resources, which reflect Ontario’s unique character and heritage. In 2003, the State of California Office of Historic Preservation designated the City of Ontario a Certified Local Government (CLG). The Advance Planning division is responsible for administering the City’s Historic Preservation Program and the Historic Preservation Ordinance (download below). Planning staff, along with the Historic Preservation Sub-Committee and Historic Preservation Commission, review all historic preservation applications, including proposed alterations to the exterior of historic buildings and alterations to public improvements, such as street trees, within Ontario’s historic neighborhoods.
The Historic Preservation Program implements the Historic Preservation Ordinance by processing Certificates of Appropriateness or Waivers (download below) for minor alterations, restoration, and rehabilitation, Landmark Designations (download below) for local, state, and national registers, historic property evaluations, historic property surveys, and ensuring environmental compliance. The Program offers incentives for historic preservation such as the Mills Act Contract (download below) (Preservation Agreements), bronze plaques (download below), and the City Council hosted Model Colony Awards for historic resources within the City.
The Historic Preservation program coordinates and collaborates with the local non-profit Ontario Heritage and other organizations to promote, inform, educate, and celebrate historic preservation and the program.
In the year 1983, a group of volunteer citizens, under the leadership of a qualified historic resource consultant, and funded by the State of California Office of Historic Preservation, surveyed nearly three thousand properties within the City that were fifty years of age. Intensive level surveys and nominations were completed and submitted to the Office of Historic Preservation and the National Register of Historic Places for hundreds of properties thought to be historically eligible for designation.
In 1991, the City Council had adopted the City’s first Ordinance intended to preserve historic resources. Through the mid-1990s, a few amendments to the Ordinance were approved which further developed the program. During the late 1990s, the Planning Commission was assigned the duties of the Historic Preservation Commission and the Planning Department allocated staff to the historic preservation program. During this period, the program grew at a rapid rate designating nearly 60 landmarks and 5 historic districts. Additional updates were made in 2003, the year Ontario became a Certified Local Government, and in 2015, with a comprehensive Development Code update.
Ontario is a Certified Local Government. Pursuant to the National Preservation Act of 1966 and as amended in 1980, the Certified Local Government (CLG) program encourages the preservation of cultural resources by promoting a partnership among local governments, the State of California Office of Historic Preservation (OHP), and the National Park Service. Becoming a CLG, through the development and implementation of a local historic preservation program based on federal (The Secretary of Interior Standards) and state standards, can provide local staff and commissions the tools, technical training, and more meaningful leadership roles in the preservation of the community's cultural heritage. These tools assist with integrating local historic preservation interests and concerns into the official planning and decision-making processes at the earliest possible opportunity. In addition, CLG status provides CLGs access to historic preservation grant funds. In April 2001, the City of Ontario became a Certified Local Government (No. 46) by the State of California. To date, there are approximately 62 local governments within the State of California that participate in the CLG program.
Each year, OHP requires all CLGs to submit an annual report. The report serves two major functions: 1) it is a vital means of communicating local historic preservation issues to OHP; and 2) it serves as a tool to monitor local government activities that are required to maintain CLG status. The annual report demonstrates compliance with the six (6) basic requirements as listed below:
- Maintain a comprehensive local historic preservation plan that identifies the preservation mission, goals, and priorities of the local government.
- Enforce appropriate local legislation for designation and protection of historic properties.
- Establish and maintain an adequate and qualified historic preservation review commission and non-commissioned staff.
- Maintain a system for the survey and inventory of historic properties.
- Provide for adequate public participation in the local historic preservation program.
- Review and recommendation of historic properties within the local jurisdiction to the National Register of Historic Places.
The State of California conducts the annual review from each period beginning October 1st and ending September 30th to ensure that each CLG continues to meet the minimal requirements for participation and is satisfactorily performing its responsibilities. To view past Ontario CLG Annual Reports, click here.
Ontario is a Preserve America Community. Preserve America is a national program, initiated by the White House and developed in cooperation with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Department of Commerce that recognizes and designates communities, neighborhoods, and tribal governments that protect and celebrate their heritage through preservation of historic assets, economic development, community revitalization, education, and heritage tourism. The goals of this initiative include greater shared knowledge about our Nation’s past, strengthened regional identities and local pride, increased local participation in preserving the country’s irreplaceable cultural and natural heritage assets, and support for the economic vitality of communities. In 2007, the City of Ontario was designated a Preserve America Community.
For information regarding the Historic Preservation Program contact:
303 East "B" Street
Ontario, CA 91764
Phone: (909) 395-2036
Fax: (909) 395-2420
For specific questions on the Historic Preservation program, please contact:
• Diane Ayala, Senior Planner, [email protected]
• Elly Antuna, Associate Planner, [email protected]
The following list of architectural styles was produced by the City of Ontario in conjunction with the Office of Historic Preservation. Links to the common California styles will provide descriptions of the features that define each style.
The Historic Preservation Commission, who receives regular training on historic preservation treatments, is responsible for implementing the City of Ontario's Historic Preservation Program. Currently, the Planning Commission acts as the Historic Preservation Commission. The Planning Commission meets on the 4th Tuesday of each month. Only applications for District or Landmark designation, Certificates of Appropriateness on Designated Structures or Demolitions, Certificates of Economic Hardship and Mills Act Contracts are taken to the Commission. The Commission formed a Historic Preservation Subcommittee to deal with the majority of the issues and requests regarding Historic Preservation. The Historic Preservation Subcommittee consists of 3 Planning Commission Members. They are:
- Richard Delman, Historic Preservation Chairman
- Jim Willoughby, Historic Preservation Commissioner
- Bob Gregorek, Historic Preservation Commissioner
All applications are taken to the Historic Preservation Subcommittee for their review. The Subcommittee is the hearing body for requests for removal from the Eligibility List and makes recommendations to the full Commission on other miscellaneous requests. The Historic Preservation Subcommittee meets typically on the 2nd Thursday of each month.
The township of Ontario, California was founded in September of 1882 by brothers George and William B. Chaffey, and named after their hometown, Ontario, Canada. The brothers purchased the “San Antonio lands,” which consisted of 6,218 acres with water rights and set aside 640 acres for the Community of Ontario. Half of the initial 640 acres were deeded to the Chaffey Agricultural College as an endowment.
The Chaffey's established four principles for the colony that had social and economic implications including a mutual water company concept, a prohibition of intoxicating liquors, a grand thoroughfare through the City, and an agricultural college for general education. On December 10, 1891, Ontario was incorporated as a city under the California Constitution with a City Council-City Manager form of government.
In 1903, Ontario was proclaimed a “Model Irrigation Colony” by an Act of Congress. The Ontario planned community had many modern innovations, many of which still show merit today. An impressive two-hundred feet wide and eight miles long, Euclid Avenue (on the National Register List of Historic Places) was the stately back-bone of the colony. Provisions for an electric railway, water rights for each landowner, a local educational institution, electric lights, one of the first long distance telephone lines, and access to water and transportation set a new standard for rural communities and irrigation practices and ensured the success of the Model Colony.
Ontario first developed as an agricultural community, largely, but not exclusively, devoted to the citrus industry. The Sunkist water tower, a reminder of the heydays, remains to this day. In addition to oranges, the production of peaches, walnuts, lemons, olives, and grapes were also important to the growth of Ontario and the neighboring city of Upland.
In 1923, airplane enthusiasts Waldo Waterman and Archie Mitchell established Latimer Field. From that point on, Ontario became an aviation town. Urban growth pushed the fliers east until they took up their permanent residence located at the Ontario World Airport. During WWII, this airport was a busy training facility for pilots.
Since WWII, Ontario has become a diversified community that has grown to a population of approximately 173,000 residents in 2015. Although the City boundaries have been extended from 0.38 square miles in 1891 to almost 50 square miles today, Ontario’s Historic Downtown still retains the original irrigation system and land subdivision pattern established by the Chaffey brothers. The Euclid Avenue corridor continues to remain the stately back-bone of the city that it once was.
Learn more about Ontario’s diverse history which includes irrigation, agriculture, viticulture, dairy, aeronautical, World War II production era, and expansive industrial growth. Several tours, histories, and contexts have been developed for Ontario and are listed below.
Self-Guided Walking Tours.
Discover Historic Downtown. Enjoy a leisurely stroll through downtown with the Historic Downtown Ontario self-guided walking tour map in hand. (download below). Discover the people, businesses, and architecture associated with Ontario’s buildings and sites. Did you know that downtown was home to Los Angeles famed architect Paul Williams’ “Old Post Office” building on Emporia Avenue, which is now used for an art gallery and work/live lofts? See a collection of Work Progress Administration (WPA) architectural gem buildings, such as the Museum of History and Art, Ontario, on South Euclid Avenue and the United States Post Office on East Holt Boulevard. Don’t forget to have a look at the WPA-sponsored artwork displayed in the lobby of the post office. A printed copy of the tour guide may be picked up at the Ovitt Family Community Library, the Museum of History and Art, Ontario, or at the Ontario City Hall.
College Park Historic District. (download below) In conjunction with Ontario Heritage, a local non-profit preservation advocacy group, a fun and fact-filled walking tour was developed for one of Ontario’s most desirable neighborhoods. The Walking Tour highlights homes, sites, and features of this historic neighborhood including the Historic Graber Olive House
Mural at Ontario Town Square. The mural, Ontario through the Years, is located in the heart of downtown at the Ontario Town Square, along North Euclid Avenue between B and C Streets. The images included in the mural highlight events, people, and places that helped shape Ontario from “The Vision” Era (the 1880s) to the “Commitment to Community” Era (the 2000s). The mural commemorates and celebrates Ontario’s past and the framework it has established for the future.
Histories. download bolded titles below.
- Hotpoint/ General Electric
- The C.C. Graber Company
- The Citrus Industry
- Ocean to Ocean Highway (Holt Boulevard)
- Guasti Winery
- Dietz Garage
Historic Contexts. download below
- Model Colony
- Dorr B. Lee (local citrus farmer)
- The Dairy Industry
- The Citrus Industry
Ontario’s historic properties and neighborhoods are a tangible symbol of our past. We document their architecture and associated history to inform current and future generations about the City’s unique history. Information about the City’s historic resources is shared with the general public through the City of Ontario’s component of the California Historical Resources Inventory Database (CHRID). The CHRID promotes and protects cultural heritage through documenting and sharing information on historical resources. CHRID was developed through the California State Office of Historic Preservation's Certified Local Government (CLG) Grant Program and partially funded through the Federal Historic Preservation Fund Program.
This website provides public access to historical resource information that has been entered into the CHRID by local governments. This site is maintained and hosted by the City of Ontario and contains information on historic resources within the City. The information contained within this website may not represent a comprehensive list of historical resources. Please refer to the local government, state Information Centers, State Office of Historic Preservation and the Native American Heritage Commission for additional information on cultural or historical resources. The CHRID should not be relied upon as the sole source of local cultural or historical information.
Discover Historic Downtown. Enjoy a leisurely stroll through downtown with the Historic Downtown Ontario self-guided walking tour map in hand. Discover the people, businesses, and architecture associated with Ontario’s buildings and sites. Did you know that downtown was home to Los Angeles famed architect Paul Williams’ “Old Post Office” building on Emporia Avenue, which is now used for an art gallery and work/live lofts? See a collection of Work Progress Administration (WPA) architectural gem buildings, such as the Museum of History and Art, Ontario, on South Euclid Avenue and the United States Post Office on East Holt Boulevard. Don’t forget to have a look at the WPA-sponsored artwork displayed in the lobby of the post office. Complete your tour by visiting Ontario Through the Years history mural located at Ontario Town Square, located on North Euclid Avenue between B and C Streets. The images included in the mural highlight events, people, and places that helped shape Ontario from “The Vision” Era to the “Commitment to Community” Era. The mural commemorates and celebrates Ontario’s past and the framework it has established for the future. A printed copy of the tour guide may be picked up at the Ovitt Family Community Library, the Museum of History and Art, Ontario, or at the Ontario City Hall.
Ontario’s Designated Local Landmarks. Download Below. Historic landmarks within Ontario are physical testaments of our community’s heritage. The collection of designated landmarks include single and multi-family residences, commercial buildings, landscape sites and parks, churches, and schools. While many individual public and privately owned properties have been designated, many more potential historic landmarks await property owner consent for designation.
Ontario’s Designated Local Historic Districts. Download Below. Ontario’s historic residential neighborhoods possess their own distinct history, character, and features that help tell its story. Each historic district brochure features a map, photos, and a detailed description of the historical significance of the district and its individual properties. There are currently seven designated historic districts and many more potential historic districts have been identified.