The Pechanga band of Luiseño Native American Indians were our first residents. They ran their hands through the soil, met under the Great Oak and stood atop the rolling hills overlooking the valley, naming it Temecula, or “sunshine through the mist.”
Gateway arches at the northern and southern entrances to this downtown district commemorate our past. In 1859, in the era of the Butterfield Stage, the first U.S. post office was established here, marking Temecula’s permanence and importance. Thus, the year 1859 is boldly emblazoned on each arch.
Two decades later, in 1882, the Temecula town site was established with the arrival of the railroad, with a station in Old Town, midway between Riverside and San Diego. Then, in the early 1900s, new roads reached the valley and helped to open up Temecula to the outside world. The Inland Highway (the first, paved, two-lane, county road and ancestor of Highway 395) was built through Temecula Valley in 1915. Until 1949, it ran down Old Town Front Street where restaurants, gas stations, and motels served those travelling through the Temecula Valley.
Meanwhile, from the 1800s until the 1960s, farmers and ranchers blanketed the valley with cattle and crops. In 1905, cattle baron Walter Vail began buying vast acreage here. By 1947, the Vail Ranch included more than 87,000 acres.
In 1964, the Vails announced the sale of their ranch to a consortium of developers that had plans for a master-planned community to be known as Rancho California. When the City of Temecula was incorporated in 1989, residents voted to retain the original Native American name of the village and railroad town site.
Today, more than a dozen historical properties dating as far back as the late 1880s still exist and have been repurposed and reopened in Old Town. Yet the area continually improves and re-imagines itself in new, contemporary ways. Mixed in with the historical facades, recently built structures reflect different architectural styles, lending an authentic and thoroughly individual spirit cultivated here for more than 150 years.
Although Temecula now boasts a population close to 113,000 and over 3 million visitors each year, our heritage is not forgotten.
A TEMECULA HISTORY TIMELINE
The first post office is established here, marking Temecula’s permanence and importance.
Louis and Ramona Wolf establish a trading post by Temecula Creek. After their deaths, the land was purchased by Walter Vail. By 1905 the site would grow to include more than 87,000 acres—one of California’s largest cattle operations.
The Temecula town site is established with the arrival of the railroad. The station was built in what is now Old Town.
The first paved two-lane road—Inland Highway—is built through Temecula Valley, running through Old Town.
Vail Ranch is sold to a consortium of developers who create a community called Rancho California.
The city is incorporated and residents vote to retain the name of the original Native American village and railroad town site.