History of Rialto

The City of Rialto was incorporated in 1911, but can trace its roots to the 15th century when the Serrano Indians settled in the region.

Over the next 500 years, Rialto went through multiple iterations – as a Mexican land grant, a ranching and railroad center, a popular stop along Route 66, and, ultimately, a thriving population and economic center for Southern California’s Inland Empire.

Today, more than 100,000 people live in Rialto, but only 1,500 called it home when if officially became a city more than a century ago. Even that, though, was a huge jump from its days as a center for farming activity just a few decades earlier.

One remnant of that period still stands – an adobe building from the early 19th century at what is now Bud Bender Park. The City of Rialto leases the house and a small portion of parkland to the Rialto Historical Society for $1 annually.

It wasn’t until 1887 that Rialto’s townsite was laid out by the Semi-Tropic Land and Water Company after the Santa Fe Railroad was extended between San Bernardino and Los Angeles. 

In the fall of 1888, the first school was built and Brooke School District was formed, operating as such until 1920. The prominent Rialto Trapp family bought the first schoolhouse in 1921, remodeled the building, and members of the family resided in it until it was destroyed by fire. 

The Rialto School District (today Rialto Unified School District), was formed in 1891. The staff consisted of two teachers and a principal with separate play areas for the boys and girls.

The Chamber of Commerce was established in 1907, and by 1911, Rialto was home to 40 businesses and a local newspaper. 

Foothill Boulevard was repaired in 1913 and became U.S. Route 66 a section of the U.S. highway system. In 1914, Los Angeles’ Pacific Electric Railway completed its San Bernardino Line through the City of Rialto, with a junction at Riverside Avenue for the Riverside Line. Today the Tracks above First Street are a part of the Union Pacific and the Pacific Electric depot on Riverside Avenue is Cuca’s Restaurant. A fire in the 1920s swept through and destroyed many of the buildings in the downtown area. 

Rialto’s population growth had increased to 3,156 by 1950. In 1956 the population soared to 15,359. By 1964, it showed an increase to 23,290 and 33,500 in 1978. Rialto is 4 miles wide and 8.5 miles long (24.13 square miles). Rialto’s population grew from 80,000 in 1994 to over 91,873 in 2000, to 99,171 as of the 2019 census to the estimated amount of 103,526.