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Rancho Cucamonga

Cucamonga site of the Richfield Gas Station

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Rancho Cucamonga has the Oldest Winery in California (1839), and the famous Cucamonga Service Station (1915). The classic Route 66 The Magic Lamp and the 1848 Sycamore Inn. Visit its two vintage motels: the Red Chief Motel and the still operating New Kansan Motel.
Other attractions are the site of the Tapia Adobe, Jack Benny's Statue and the Historic Rains House (1860)

Rancho Cucamonga CA

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About Rancho Cucamonga California

Facts, Trivia and useful information

Elevation: 1,207 ft (368 m). Population 165,269 (2010).
Time zone: Pacific (MST): UTC minus 8 hours. Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7).

Rancho Cucamonga is a city located on Route 66, in southwestern San Bernardino County in the south of California. (Map of Rancho Cucamonga).

The old Richfield Service Station in Rancho Cucamonga

present appearance of the old Richfield Service Station in Rancho Cucamonga
View of the old Richfield Service Station in Rancho Cucamonga. Google
Click on image for Street View

The History of the city of Rancho Cucamonga, California

Southern California has been inhabited for at least 10,000 years. More recently, the local natives were known as the "Tongva", who lived in the Los Angeles Basin. They settled in Rancho Cucamonga near Red Hill around 1200 AD. These Kukamongan Natives were part of the Tongva, and known by the Spaniards as Gabrielino or Gabrieleño (after the San Gabriel Mission). They numbered around 5 to 10,000 at the time of European contact.

The Spanish settled in Mexico in 1520 and from there explored California in 1602. And founded Los Angeles in 1769. They moved west setting up the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel (1771). Spanish Captain Juan Bautista de Anza camped in the area at Arroyo de los Osos (now Bear Gulch in Cucamonga) in 1774. The Mission San Gabriel established the Rancho Cucamonga as a site for grazing their cattle.

In 1821 Mexico had become independent from Spain and retained California and, in 1839 the Mexican governor, Juan Batista Alvarado granted Tiburcio Tapia the land which would become the "Rancho Cucamonga" (in English: Cucamonga Ranch). This tract of land covered 13,000 acres. Tapia had been Alcalde in Los Angeles and a soldier, as well as merchant. He built a fortified adobe house on Red Hill (Read more about Tapia Adobe).

It was located on the meeting point of the Mojave Trail with the Camino Real and the Spanish Trail. The Butterfield Stagecoach Route also passed through here after 1848.

After Tapia's death in 1845, Mexico was defeated by the U.S. in the Mexican American War (1846-48), and ceded California, which became a state of the US in 1850.

the Tapia Ranch was sold in 1858 to John Rains, an American who had married the heir to the Chino Rancho, Maria Merced Williams. Rains planted 160 acres of vines and produced wine, creating the oldest winery and, building his home, Rains House in 1860.

Rains was murdered in 1862. A post office located at the base of Red Hill in 1864. The first school in Cucamonga opened in 1870 and the following year, Isaias Hellman, a banker, bought the ranch and formed Cucamonga Company to develop the land.

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.

Hellman brought water to the community in 1887, from irrigation tunnels dug into Cucamonga Canyon.

Cucamonga, the name

The word is probably a Tongva place name, the suffix "nga" derived from "ngna", is found in many Tongva place names.

It is said to mean "sandy place" or "land of many waters" and also "light over the mountain".

The diary written in 1849 by George Q. Cannon, describing his journey in California, includes many variations of the name: Cocomungo, Cocoa-Mungo, Chocomonga, Cocommingo, Cocomonga, Cocomongo, Coco Mongo, Comingo and Pokamongo.

Cucamonga in popular culture

The odd-sounding name gave it an aura of a distant and exotic location, like Timbuktu but, also made it the butt of jokes.

Daffy Duck (Daffy Duck Video) parodies a scene from the Jack Benny TV show of the 1950s (See the Video) where the train station announcer called out "Train leaving on track five for Anaheim, Azusa and Cuc... amonga!" of course no such train existed. - thanks to this joke, there is a Statue of Jack Benny in Cucamonga

Bugs Bunny (See Bugs in Transylvania Video - 1963) also mentions Cucamonga.

The voice behind all three Cucamonga's was that of Mel Blanc.

The town prospered as an agricultural area and was described in 1915 as "specializ[ing] in raisin and table grapes and in wines, of which it produces large quantities. The largest single vineyard in the world is located here. Cucamonga also has about 2,000 acres of oranges and lemons and 2,000 acres of peaches".

National Old Trails Highway (N.O.T.) in Fontana

At that time, the use of the automobile had grown and the byway through Cucamonga became part of the National Old Trails (N.O.T.) Association highway that linked Los Angeles and New York; the road was aligned close to the tracks of the AT & Santa Fe railroad through California and Arizona, passing through Cucamonga along Foothill Blvd.

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 it did not have the "Rancho" part appended to its name (46 mi. from LA).

Route 66

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 segment of Route 66 during the pre-World War II days:

"... West of Fontana vineyards cover the foothills, dotted with wineries.
CUCAMONGA, 14.5 m. (1,220 alt., 2,040 pop.), named for CUCAMONGA PEAK (8,911 alt.), the shopping center of a grape and olive-growing district, has several 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. They were separate towns at that time, and a rural area. They had not yet linked into a vast suburban 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..." and added that after passing through Fontana, "... you pass through vineyard country and orange groves. Through Cucamonga at 329 mi".

This eastern part of Route 66 in the Greater LA area is still quite open, you can see many fields and open lots of land among the urbanized areas, despite the new malls and buildings many of the classic Route 66 motels have survived.

In the 1950s, the freeway system in LA would start to divert traffic away from Route 66. In 1964, Route 66 was replaced by the freeway and traffic along Foothill Blvd. dwindled. In 1977 the communities of Cucamonga, Etiwanda and Alta Loma voted to merge into a single city, and adopted the name of "Rancho Cucamonga".

Where to Stay in Rancho Cucamonga

Lodging in the City

>> Book your Hotel in town Rancho Cucamonga

More Lodging near Rancho Cucamonga along Route 66

Motels and Hotels close to Rancho Cucamonga, California

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Further East.... In Arizona

Book your hotel room in Rancho Cucamonga

>> Check out the RV campground near Rancho Cucamonga, in San Bernardino

Weather in Rancho Cucamonga

Latest Rancho Cucamonga, California weather
Route 66: Rancho Cucamonga, California location map
Location of Rancho Cucamonga on Route 66

The weather in Rancho Cucamonga is warm Mediterranean (Continental Mediterranean climate), which has hot and dry summers with cool - chilly winters.

The town has on average, 287 sunny days per year and the strong, hot and dry Santa Ana wind blows through Cajon Pass during autumn (fall); it dries the area increasing the risk of wildfires the foothill communities.

During winter, the average high reaches (Jan) 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.

Tornado risk

As Rancho Cucamonga 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 Rancho Cucamonga

You can reach Rancho Cucamonga 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.

Map of Route 66 in Rancho Cucamonga, CA

Check out Rancho Cucamonga on our California Route 66 Map, with the complete alignment and all the towns along it.

Rancho Cucamonga Map

Map with the alignment of Route 66 through Rancho Cucamonga

Click on this link > > US 66 alignment in Rancho Cucamonga

Route 66's alignment in California: the Historic Route 66 into Rancho Cucamonga

Route 66 logo

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 Rancho Cucamonga.

Route 66 landmarks in Rancho Cucamonga

Places to See and things to do

Rancho Cucamonga and its Route 66 attractions

A World Class Community

Rancho Cucamonga has several Route 66 landmarks: the famous Cucamonga Service Station, the oldest winery in California: Thomas Winery, the Red Chief Motel and the New Kansan Motel as well as the 1848 Sycamore Inn and the The Magic Lamp. Some other attractions are the Jack Benny Statue, the historic site of the Tapia Adobe and the Historic Rains House (1860).

The view, towards the north is great, you can see the San Gabriel Mountains and the outstanding peak of Mount Cucamonga, which has an altitude of 8,911 ft. (2.718 m). These mountains are covered in snow during winter.

City tour

Start your journey across Rancho Cucamonga at the eastern end of town, at the old Mission Winery on Haven and Route 66.

Alternatively you can begin your itinerary 3 miles further east and visit the Statue of Jack Benny (Map with Directions) from Mission Winery to the statue.

Jack Benny Statue

2505 Cultural Center Dr., Rancho Cucamonga

As mentioned Above, the name Cucamonga was the butt of many jokes, and Jack Benny (1894 - 1974), an American comedian, and radio, television and film actor often joked about the town's name in his shows. There is a statue of him, with his violin (which he played badly as part of his character - who was also a miser), in the lobby of Cucamonga's Family Lewis Playhouse in the city's Victoria Gardens Cultural Center.

Visit their website

Going back to the Mission Winery:

Mission Winery

10470 Foothill Blvd., Rancho Cucamonga (Here).

Look at the Northwest corner of Haven and Foothill Blvd. and you will see the tower of the building built in 1910 to house the Mission Winery.

John H. Klusmann and C.W. Post established the Mission Winery in 1910, was sold in 1918 to Garrett & Co., and finally became the Virginia Dare Winery.

Now it is used as office space but was the location of some episodes of the 1960s TV series "Combat".

This vintage postcard, shows what it looked like in the 1930s, Route 66 is in the front, the tower is clearly visible and Haven Ave. is marked by a row of trees. Vineyards extend towards the horizon.

Head west and after 1 mile, on the NW corner of Archibald Ave. and Route 66 is the best known Route 66 landmark in Cucamonga: The Cucamonga Service Station:

Cucamonga Service Station

Historical Landmark Marker

9670 E Foothill Blvd. Rancho Cucamonga

The Cucamonga Service Station was built in 1915 by Henry Klusman and owned by William Harvey. At that time, Foothill Blvd. was a state highway part of the N.O.T.

One year before Route 66 was created it was sold to Ancil Morris, who became a Richfield distributor. The repair shop - garage was owned by Virgil Davis. See this 1920s photo of the service station, which shows, to the right, the garage section that collapsed in 2011.

From 1945 to 1971, when it closed, it was owned by Cucamonga's first Fire Chief, Arvid Lewis. In the 1970s, it became an Arco gas station.

And then stood abandoned for years. It was declared a Historical Landmark by the City Council in 2009, and restoration began in 2013 by Route 66 Inland Empire.

It reopened in Aug. 2015 and is now a Route 66 Museum

It was built in the Mission Revival and Spanish Colonial architectural styles with Spanish tiles crowning parts of its roof.

Rancho Cucamonga Service Station

This photo of Cucamonga Service Station is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Continue west on US 66 after 0.4 mi. on your right is the New Kansan Motel:

New Kansan Motel

9300 E Foothill Blvd. Rancho Cucamonga

You can Book a Room in the New Kansan Motel

The postcard below proclaimed "Your home away from home". This motel had 10 units that had tiled showers and were carpeted. The lounge had a TV.

The place is still operating and is remarkably similar to what it looked like half a century ago in the postcard.

The New Kansan in a vintage postcard

vintage postcard of the New Kansan on Route 66 in Rancho Cucamonga, California
Old postcard of the New Kansan on Route 66, Rancho Cucamonga, California.

The New Kansan is still open (but now painted white instead of pink):

present appearance of the New Kansan in Rancho Cucamonga
View of the New Kansan in Rancho Cucamonga nowadays. Google
Click on image for Street View

Continue west for 0.6 mile and visit the Oldest winery in California:

Thomas Winery

California historic Landmark. Is the oldest commercial winery in the state, and the second oldest in the U.S.

8916 Foothill Blvd.

The California Spanish mission vineyards of the 1700s provided wine for communion services (and also for the congregation - as well as brandy). From the Mission San Gabriel Arcágel came the cuttings used to establish the vineyard in Cucamonga. San Gabriel had in the 1820s the largest vineyard in the area, producing 500 barrels of wine per year.

Tapia, in 1839 established his own vines in his Ranch and began winemaking here. It was expanded by John Rains in 1860 and grew to cover 580 acres.

Disease damaged these vineyards and others in Southern California during the 1870s, moving wine production to the north (Napa Valley).

Ida and Hugh Thomas purchased the winery and the 450 acres of vineyards in 1920 and planted new types of grapes; Thomas Winery (Cucamonga Vintage Co.) had been created.

Other migrants, mainly Italian also plante their vineyards here. 34,000 acres of grapes grew here just after World War II, it was the largest grape-growing area in the U.S.

The winery originally had thick adobe walls, and it has been preserved, housing a restaurant, coffee shop and a new winery.

From the winery, head north up Vineyard Ave. and take a right along Hemlock St. (it is only a 0.3 mi. drive Map with directions) and visit the 1860s house of Ranch Cucamonga owner John Rains:

Rains House

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

8810 Hemlock, Rancho Cucamonga (Map).

John Rains, owner of the Cucamonga Ranch built this house in 1860 using bricks fired at the site. It later was abandoned but in the 1970s the community mobilized and saved it.

There is an admission fee.

Head back to Route 66 and go west, you will pass underneath the former site of the Pacific Electric Railroad bridge, now a bike trail, and 0.8 mi. from the Thomas Winery you will reach (on your right), Sycamore Inn:

Sycamore Inn

8318 E Foothill Blvd. Rancho Cucamonga

view of the Sycamore Inn Cucamonga

Sycamore Inn, from 1848. Sycamore Inn

The place where the Sycmore Inn stands, was chosen by William Rubottom for his "Mountain View Inn", which he opened on the road linking San Bernardino with Los Angeles in 1848.

It soon became a Butterfield Overland Stagecoach stop and it was close to it that local landlord John Rains, owner of Cucamonga Ranc, was murdered (some said that he was killed by his wife, but the case remained unsolved).

The current building was built in 1912 by a local citrus farmer, John Klusma, in a country-inn style, surrounded by sycamores. The Mountain View Inn was renamed Sycamore Inn by Irl Hinrichsen in 1939 and nowadays it is a steak house.

Visit their website

The sycamore, or Platanus racemosa is a local species of Plane tree, also known as California sycamore, Western sycamore, California plane tree, and in Spanish Aliso. It is found near rivers, springs and in humid spots in canyons.

Right next to the Sycamore Inn are the remains of a Classic Route 66 motel, the Red Chief Motel:

The Red Chief Motel

8270 E Foothill Blvd.

Built in the 1930s as an auto court, with cabins that had a garage and a kitchen laid out behind the main building, which served as a café and later as a cocktail bar.

The old cabins were razed and only the building survives, which now is Gao Sushi.

Its matchbook advertised: "Red Chief Motel Cocktail Lounge and Dining Room / 16 Unit Deluxe Motel One Mile East of Upland Calif. On Highway 66 P.O. Address, Cucamonga".

The Red Chief Motel in a vintage postcard

the Red Chief Motel on Route 66 in Rancho Cucamonga, California
Old postcard of the Red Chief Motel, Route 66, Rancho Cucamonga, California

Below, in the in the image you can see the office (left), still standing, and (right), at the back, the drive-in part where the cabins once stood.

The Red Chief Motel nowadays is the Gao Sushi restaurant:

present appearance of the Red Chief Motel in Rancho Cucamonga, now it is the Gao Sushi restaurant
View of the Red Chief Motel in Rancho Cucamonga (now the Gao Sushi restaurant). Google
Click for Street View

And on the south side of Route 66 in front of the motel, is another landmark, The Magic Lamp:

The Magic Lamp

8189 E Foothill Blvd. Rancho Cucamonga

This place was originally Lucy and John's Italian restaurant from 1941 to 1955. Then it was sold and remodelled, it became the Magic Lamp in 1957.

The original building (see image below) is still recognizeable even though it has been roofed with Spanish tiles and its walls covered with brick. The round window facing Route 66 is still there.

The sign is worth a photo: an Aladdin-genie like lamp mounted on a brick pillar with the words "Magic Lamp Inn - Cocktails - Dinners".

Book a dinner there; phone: (909) 981-8659.

Lucy and John's in an old postcard

Postcard of Lucy and John's
(Click to enlarge)

The Magic Lamp nowadays

View of the Magic Lamp today. Google
Click for Street View

At the corner, take a right along Red Hill Country Dr., to see the site of the now gone Tapia Adobe:

Tapia Adobe

The original fortified home built by Tiburcio Tapia in 1839 as the headquarters for his Rancho Cucamonga, was located on Red Hill, an elevated vantage point, which dominated the surrounding area. It was built in adobe (sun dried bricks made of clay and straw). Thick walls that kept it cool in summr and warm in winter.

The building survived its owner's death in 1845, and was still standing in 1849. Later it was abandoned and the adobe walls washed away as time passed.

There is a plaque at the winery. But the adobe on Red Hill Country Club Drive, at its highest point (See map with location).

There is a historic marker of the Tapia Adobe Site (HMY78) at the Thomas Winery.

Tours & Itineraries

The Alignment of Old Route 66 in Rancho Cucamonga

From Fontana to Rancho Cucamonga

route 66 shield California

As mentioned above, the first road through "Cucamonga" 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 what is now Rancho Cucamonga, it was the Foothill Blvd.

Fontana and Rancho Cucamonga are next to each other, you will hardly notice where one town ends and the other begins.

Route 66 in Rancho Cucamonga

Route 66 extends for 6.6 mi along Foothill Boulevard in Rancho Cucamonga, from East Ave in the east, to Grove Ave. in the west of town.

This is a Map of Route 66 in Rancho Cucamonga.

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)

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A Guide to the Golden State, by the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration, Hastings House, New York, 1939.

Banner image: Dead Man's Curve, Laguna New Mexico by Perla Eichenblat.