About Fontana California
Facts, Trivia and useful information
Elevation: 1,237 ft (377 m). Population 203,003 (2013).
Time zone: Pacific (MST): UTC minus 8 hours. Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7).
Fontana is a city located on Route 66, in southwestern San Bernardino County in the south of California. It is the second city in the county and the 20th in the state, ranked by population. (Map of Fontana).
Old service station perhaps? now an antique shop
The History of the city of Fontana, California
Check our San Bernardino webpage for the early history of this region.
The San Bernardino & Los Angeles Railway incorporated in 1886 and built a line between San Bernardino and Duarte the following year. At Duarte it linked with the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Valley Railroad that via Pasadena and Arroyo Seco reached downtown Los Angeles.
Twentyfive stations were established along the line, every 2,600 yards and many of the current towns grew up around them like Fontana, Rialto and Cucamonga. The Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe railroad bought these railroads and completed its line from St. Louis to Los Angeles.
The Semi-Tropic Land and Water company founded several townsites in the area in 1887: Rialto, Bloomington and Fontana. But the colony never took off. Semi-Tropic went bankrupt shortly after.
In 1905, the Fontana Development Co. acquired the land and Azariel Blanchard Miller developed the area by founding a new town, named "Rosena".
The name was changed in 1913 to "Fontana", and the town prospered as a "fruit colony" with lemon and orange groves.
Fontana, the name
Fontana is an italian word, for "fountain".
National Old Trails Highway (N.O.T.) in Fontana
The use of the automobile had grown considerably during the early 1900s and there was a need for better roads, the The National Old Trails (N.O.T.) Association was organized to promote a highway between Los Angeles and New York; which was aligned close to the tracks of the AT & Santa Fe railroad through California and Arizona, passing through Fontana.
Foothill Boulevard was improved in 1913 and the Automobile Club of Southern California's map of 1912 shows the N.O.T. highway running on the north side of the Santa Fe Railroad, passing through Rialto and heading straight, west until reaching Cucamonga in those days Fontana did not appear in the map.
In 1926, the N.O.T. alignment became part of the newly created U.S. Highway 66. And it was gradually improved and widened after that date.
The "Guide to the Golden State" written in 1939 by WPA, said the following about this section of Route 66 during the pre-World War II days:
"West of San Bernardino US 66 runs along the base of the Sierra Madre Mountains [actually, the San Gabriel Mountains] through the heart of a picture post card landscape orange groves overlooked by snowcapped peaks. The tile-roofed stucco towns among the orchards along the way are starting points for roads and trails into the forested mountains.
From [Rialto] US 66 runs through billowing foothills past miles of citrus groves and vineyards vineyards.
The boulevard skirts the northern edge of FONTANA, 5.2 m. (1,242 alt., 6,120 pop.), in a section of small citrus, grape, walnut, poultry, and rabbit farms. West of Fontana vineyards cover the foothills, dotted with wineries."
The 1940s Caltrans road map shows Route 66 running straight west along Foothill Blvd., through Rialto and Fontana, then south of Etiwanda and Alta Loma and into Cucamonga. It was here that the Route 66 traveller encountered the eastern part of the Los Angeles suburbs, leaving the vast deserts behind. Tough in the 1940s they were small towns, that were not yet linked into one gigantic urban sprawl.
Jack DeVere Rittenhouse drove along Route 66 in 1946, gathering information for his book "A Guide Book to Highway 66", he described this area, with it small towns as follows: " Many of them are so close together as to be practically indistinguishable from each other... at 320 mi. you pass through one edge of FONTANA, where Henry Kaiser built the first steel blast furnace west of the Rockies during World War II. Now you pass through vineyard country and orange groves.."
This eastern part of Route 66 in the Greater LA is still pretty open, with fields and some empty lots, but nearer Los Angeles the old classic fruit stands, motels, service stations and shops have been razed and replaced by newer buildings and shopping malls.
The Steel Mill
As pointed out by Rittenhouse, entrepreneur Henry J. Kaiser built a large steel mill in Fontana during World War II, turning the rural farm town into an industrial one. Steel workers moved in and settled in Fontana.
It was one of only two steel mills located west of the Mississippi River. Kaiser also built what is now the "Fontana Kaiser Permanente" medical facility - the largest managed care organization in the US.
Later some sections of the mill closed and many movies scenes were shot there: the steel mill scene in "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" (1991) and the Outworld scenes in the film version of Mortal Kombat (1995).
The town incorporated in 1952 and shortly after, the freeway system in LA would start to divert traffic away from Route 66. In 1964, Route 66 was replaced by the freeway and two years later, Fontana joined the city of Duarte trying to have a large sign posted in San Bernardino to announce that Route 66 remained a through route into Los Angeles, they failed.
Nevertheless, despite the growth of Los Angeles, the second largest city in the U.S., many icons have survived on Route 66 in this area.
Where to Stay in Fontana
Lodging in the City
> > Book your Hotel in town: Fontana
More Lodging Near Fontana along Route 66
Motels and Hotels close to Fontana, California
Heading East.... In California
- 4 miles Rialto
- 9 miles San Bernardino
- 24 miles Cajon Junction
- 45 miles Victorville
- 41 miles Hesperia
- 60 miles Helendale
- 81 miles Barstow
- 218 miles Needles
Further East.... In Arizona
Heading West... Hotels & Motels in California...
Book your hotel in town:
>> Check out the RV campground near Fontana, in San Bernardino
The Weather in Fontana
The weather in Fontana is Mediterranean, known as Continental Mediterranean climate, which has hot and dry summers with cool - chilly winters.
The strong, hot and dry Santa Ana winds blow through Cajon Pass can be felt during autumn (fall). They dry the area increasing the risk of wildfires the foothill and canyon communities.
During winter, the average high in (Jan) is 69°F (20°C) and the average low is 46°F (7.2°C). For summer the average high is 95°F (35°C) and the average low is 63°F (16.8°C). Rainfall averages 14.8 in. per year (375 mm), with the period April to October being the driest one.
Snow can be seen on the San Gabriel Mountains, but never along Route 66.
As Fontana is located very far from the Rocky Montains (western limit for tornados), there is no risk of tornados in this area.
Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.
Getting to Fontana
You can reach Fontana along old Route 66 which here is the "Foothill Blvd." or via Interstate 10, 15, 215 or state higway 210. All of them are freeways.
The Map of U.S. 66 in Fontana, California
See the alignment of US 66 in Fontana, on our California Route 66 Map, it has the complete alignment across the state with all the towns along it.
Color key for Fontana's map
Pale Blue: the 1928 - 1964 Route 66 through Fontana.
Route 66's alignment in California: the Historic Route 66 into Fontana
Route 66 across California
U.S. Route 66 does not have any Byway or Historic designation in California despite the survival of long sections of original roadbed between Needles and Santa Monica.
Click Here for an overview of Route 66 across the state of California.
Below you will find detailed information on Old Route 66 in Fontana.
Classic US 66 sights!
Fontana and its Route 66 attractions
Fontana's has several Route 66 landmarks: like the Rose Motel, the Dragon Motel,
the Fontana Motor Lodge (former Travelodge), the Sand and Sage, the historic
Bono's Restaurant and Deli with its famous Giant Orange.
There are more Route 66 motels: the Sunset Motel, 40 Winks Motel, Cheryo Motel and La Villa Motel. Don't miss Al Capone's winter hideout.
The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club was founded in Fontana, in 1948.
We will tour the town along Route 66 from East to west, starting at the former
El Adobe Motel
18202 Foothill Blvd.
The El Adobe was on 744 E. Foothill Blvd. before the number scheme was changed. It is on the north side of the road, and, comparing its Street View with its vintage postcard, it hasn't changed much. It even has the same Spanish tiled roof.:
Vintage postcard of the Adobe Motel. Postcard view 1940s
Then we will see the Rose Motel
17829 E Foothill Blvd, Fontana
The Rose Motel nowadays:
Then take a left along Alder Ave. until Merril Ave., take a right and at Tamarind Ave., a left (total drive: 1.6 miles) to visit Al Capone's hideout home. Map with directions.
Al Capone's hideout
8775 Tamarind Ave.
The infamous mobster also known as "Scarface" Capone had a second residence in Fontana; it was his winter home in warm California.
Alphonse Gabriel "Al" Capone
American Gangster (1899 - 1947) who was the boss of Chicago's organized crime during the Prohibition (1920s), he was jailed for tax evasion in 1931.
The building was renovated and is now a private residence, but the original chimney with a wrought-iron letter "C" on it (the gangster's initial), survive to this day.
The house of Al Capone nowadays, notice the "C" on the chimney (red arrow):
16564 E Foothill Blvd.
To your right.
The Dragon Motel nowadays:
Fontana Motor Lodge
6390 E Foothill Blvd.
The Fontana Motor Lodge used to be the Fontana Traveldoge, it is very similar to its 1960s appearance -some changes in the sign and the canopy by the office (gone), but basically the same building.
The Fontana Motor Lodge in a vintage postcard
The Fontana Motor Lodge nowadays is the Travelodge:
Beside the former Travelodge is the Sand and Sage.
Sand and Sage Motel
16364 E Foothill Blvd.
Also to your right.
The Sand and Sage:
Keep west and, on the south side of the road you will come across two classic sights: the "Giant Orange" and "Bono's Restaurant and Deli":
Bono's Restaurant and Deli
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
15395 Foothill Boulevard
The one-story building was built in 1936 and expanded in 1943. It housed an Italian restaurant and Deli, which originally sold juice, olives, wine and fruits.
The north wall had big arched doorways which opened towards Route 66 converting the building into an open outdoor market. In 1943 they were glazed in and the building was expanded to become a restaurant. Today, Bono's is closed to the public but is being refurbished to open again.
The Bono's Deli and Restaurant nowadays:
The Giant Orange fruit stand at Bono's
The Bonos (related to the late Sonny Bono - Cher's husband) moved to Fontana in the 1920s and grew grapes there. Trying to make a living during the Great Depression in the 1930, Bono opened a fruit stand and sold orange juice. During the travel boom that followed World War II, they quenched the thirst of many Route 66 travellers. But, during the 1950s when the new freeway network was built, the Bonos turned their business into a delicatessen.
The "giant orange" was not always at its present site at Bono's. It was moved there several years ago when the Fontana Historical Society (of which John Bono was president) asked him to place it in the parking lot to preserve it.
The Giant Orange (6.5 ft. - 2 m. tall) was built with a wood framework covered with stucco by Mr. DeVries. His fruit stand was located three miles to the east of Bono's. Its bright orange color caught potential customers' eyes from afar. After the stand closed it was donated in 1993 to the Historical Society, who placed it at the local Walmart, but had to move it, and Bono let them place it in his parking lot.
15243 E Foothill Blvd.
On the south side of Route 66 (to your left).
The Sunset Motel nowadays:
40 Winks Motel
15210 E Foothill Blvd.
On the north side of US 66 (Right), "forty winks" means a short nap, a good name for a motel.
The 40 Winks Motel nowadays:
La Villa Motel
15211 E Foothill Blvd.
To your left, on the south side of Route 66, following the Sunset Motel. It has individual cabins laid out in a "U" shaped pattern.
The La Villa Motel nowadays:
And next to it, to the west is the Cheryo Motel.
15161 E Foothill Blvd.
The units are lined up on both sides of the plot, and are contiguous.
The Cheryo Motel nowadays:
14888 E Foothill Blvd. Fontana
See its Street View, on the north side of the road with a classic 1940s layout with the office in the front.
Back in 1957 this was advertised as 1100 W Foothill Blvd. so the numbers along the road changed after that date.
Art Deco Classic
8463 Sierra Ave., Fontana
For those who like Art Deco buildings, this is a must-see sight. The old theatre in downtown Fontana (Street View.
Designed by the Boller Brothers in 1937 it closed in the 1950s and later became a skating rink. It has been restored to its former grandeur. Read more at its website (centerstagefontana.com)
Tours & Itineraries
The Alignment of Old Route 66 in Fontana
From Rialto to Fontana
As mentioned above, the first road through Fontana was the National Old Trails (N.O.T.) road which was a highway that was projected to link New York and Los Angeles in the early 1910s. This road ran close to the Santa Fe Railroad between Los Angeles and Needles and in Fontana, it was the Foothill Blvd.
Fontana and Rialto are next to each other, you will hardly notice where one town ends and the other begins.
Route 66 in Fontana
Route 66 extends for 6.2 mi along Foothill Boulevard in Fontana, from North Maple Ave. in the east to East Avenue in the west of town.
This is a Map of Route 66 in Fontana.
To the north you can see the San Gabriel Mountains, and far to the east, the San Bernardino Mountains.
> > See the previous segment Victorville to San Bernardino
> > See this segment San Bernardino to Pasadena (west)
Outdoors, and Parks
Mary Vagle Nature Center
1501 Cypress Ave., Fontana (See map with location, 4 mi. south of Route 66)
Trek a 3 mi. (5 km) self-guided trail, visit the petroglyphs (Fontana Pit and Groove Petroglyph Site) and view rabbits, coyotes, foxes and rattlesnakes. Learn more at their Website (nature.fontana.org)
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