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Historical Context


Reading 2



Table of

Determining the Facts

Reading 1: The Beginnings of a City

The Chaffey Brothers
Ontario was a planned community with innovations that show merit even today. Even before breaking ground for the first roads and first buildings in 1882, George Chaffey and his younger brother William had envisioned a "Model Colony." They developed four basic principles for their colony: (1) cement pipes would distribute water throughout the entire tract to each farm lot, with each holder of water rights to share in the water proportionately to his holdings, regardless of the distance from the source; (2) a grand thoroughfare, landscaped to be a thing of beauty forever, would run from one end of the settlement to the other; (3) an agricultural college would provide for general education; and (4) deeds would include a clause absolutely forbidding the sale of intoxicating liquor, in order to draw the best possible type of settlers.

Providing water to the colony's lots was a prerequisite for starting a new community. The Chaffey brothers had already successfully created irrigated land developments, and they used that experience to figure out a way to provide sufficient water to the colonists of Ontario. The newly purchased lands carried the water rights of the San Antonio Canyon to the north, but that surface water could not support a large population. To complicate the water problem, the city of Pomona claimed half of the surface flow in the canyon. The Chaffeys solved their problem by driving a 2,850­foot tunnel into the canyon bed. There they struck a strong subterranean flow of water which they conducted through a cement­lined ditch to join the diverted surface flow.

With water now available, the Chaffeys laid 40 miles of pipe, formed the San Antonio Water Company, and delivered water to each lot in the colony. The layout of the water lines also determined the form of downtown Ontario. Euclid Avenue divided the water distribution in half. The brothers then made the water company the joint property of all the people who owned lots in the colony. The company soon added wells and sold water to subsidiary companies at ample pressure for both domestic use and irrigation. Water was available at the highest point of each 10-acre lot every 30 days during irrigation season. The company provided a printed schedule that showed when water would be delivered to each parcel of land. The water from San Antonio Canyon also was used to generate electricity for operating pumps and to provide light and power. George Chaffey set aside 640 acres to be used for the general community, half of which was deeded to the Chaffey Agricultural College. While the college would focus on training young men of the region to be effective farmers and ranchers, it would also provide a general college education.

In 1886 the Chaffey brothers departed for Australia where they hoped to construct planned communities similar to Ontario. The Ontario Land and Improvement Company was formed to buy the brothers' Ontario interests. Most of the investors lived in Los Angeles, but the general manager, Charles Frankish, had moved to Ontario, and a new era in the growth and development of the city began.

Charles Frankish
Charles Frankish moved to Ontario in 1885, after trading his 10-acre citrus ranch in nearby Riverside for 80 acres of undeveloped land on Euclid Avenue, south of the Southern Pacific railroad tracks (not shown on Map 2). He moved to Ontario because he firmly believed in what the Chaffey brothers were attempting to accomplish with their planned "Model Colony," and also because he foresaw Ontario's potential for growth and development. When he learned that the Chaffey brothers were planning to sell their interest in the model community, he quickly joined with a small group of investors to organize the Ontario Land and Improvement Company. In February 1886 Frankish was named president and manager of the newly formed company. He took an active role in the promotion and sale of the company's land holdings. Under his management, the company sold $1,015,000 of real estate during its first two years of existence.

Frankish was actively involved in the planning and development of Ontario. He was responsible for the design of almost all of the city south of the Southern Pacific tracks. He personally supervised the extension of Euclid Avenue to Ely Street (now Philadelphia), the city's southern limit, and the installation of stone gutters along the avenue to handle flood waters, doing much of the actual gutter construction himself. In 1887 Frankish guided the organization of the Ontario and San Antonio Heights Railroad (a trolley system).

Frankish also helped establish Ontario's first bank, the Ontario State Bank, in 1887 and served variously as its secretary, vice president, president, and director. In 1895 the town installed its system of electric lights under Frankish, who managed the system until 1901. He formed and headed his own corporation, the Frankish Company, which bought out the Land and Improvement Company in 1912. In a 1907 advertising campaign, the Frankish Company used the slogan "The City That Charms." Later this phrase was adopted by the city of Ontario as its official slogan. Like other important men in the town, Frankish built a family home on Emporia Avenue, and in 1915-16 he and his son Hugh designed and built one of the city's landmark commercial and residential buildings on Euclid Avenue.

The Contributions of the Town Fathers
Both the Chaffey brothers and Charles Frankish left their mark on the town of Ontario. The Chaffey brothers were responsible both for planning the distinctive wide central boulevard around which the town would grow and for instituting its overall grid plan. Seven miles long and 200 feet wide with twin roadways and a central mall, Euclid Avenue always has been the center of everyday and special activities of Ontario. Frankish took over at a time when the original settlement was maturing and needed guidance to compete successfully with other communities in the surrounding region. Like many businessmen of his time period, Frankish celebrated his influence in the community by erecting a special building bearing his name. It stands as a fitting remembrance of a man who took his duties as a town father seriously.

Ontario's rapid growth under its founding fathers and its various awards and honors demonstrate the quality of its planning. In 1903 the State Department of Agriculture chose Ontario as the Model Irrigation Colony. The St. Louis World's Fair also honored the town in 1904. Its orderly growth in subsequent years came from the clear-sighted planning of the Chaffey brothers and Charles Frankish.

1. What do the Chaffeys' basic principles for the colony tell you about their vision for Ontario? We know the first three were adhered to. How could we find out if the fourth principle was implemented?

2. How did the Chaffeys put their plan for a water and irrigation system into effect?

3. In what ways do you think Euclid Avenue and the agricultural college drew settlers? If you had been alive in the 1880s, do you think that you might have considered moving to Ontario? Why or why not?

4. How did Charles Frankish become involved in the development of Ontario? In what ways did he promote the community? Why could he be considered a town "father"?

Reading 1 was compiled and adapted from Ontario Historic Landmarks Society, The Colony Tour: An Experience of Ontario's Heritage (Ontario, Calif.: ADS, 1991); and from Vickie K. Alexander, "Frankish Building" (San Bernardino County, California) National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1979.



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