​​​​Ontario Heritage

     Gravity Mule Car on Euclid Avenue

   George Chaffey              William Chaffey

Sunkist Water Tower in Ontario

         Charles Frankish

History of Ontario


​ George Chaffey Jr. and his brother William founded Ontario, which means “the City on the side of a mountain,” in September of 1881.  The brothers purchased the “San Antonio lands”, 6218 acres with water rights. This purchase would become the center of the “Model Colony”.  The Chaffey brothers also expanded their holdings to include the land south of the Southern Pacific Railroad and north to the San Antonio Canyon, an important source of water.   In 1903 Ontario was proclaimed a “Model Irrigation Colony” by an act of Congress.  The Ontario planned community had many modern innovations, which still show merit today.  Two hundred foot, eight mile long, Euclid Avenue (on the National Register List of Historic Places) was the stately back- bone of the colony with provisions for an electric railway, water rights for each landowner, a local educational institution, electric lights, and one of the first long distance telephone lines. The location near water and transportation ensured the success of the Model Colony and it set new standard for rural communities and irrigation practices that were followed for many years.   Shortly after establishing the “Model Colony”, the Chaffey’s left Ontario for Australia and entrepreneur, Charles Frankish became the guiding force during Ontario’s early years. Frankish commissioned a water fountain to be placed on Euclid Avenue to symbolize prosperity to all visitors that passed through Ontario.  The fountain has been restored and can still be viewed today at its new home in the Museum gardens.   In 1887, Ontario’s unique “gravity mule car” made its first run up Euclid Avenue.  The uphill trip took 90 minutes, but the downhill ride only took 30 minutes because a pull-out trailer allowed the mules to ride as passengers. The mule-car served Ontario until 1895, when an electric streetcar replaced it.   On December 10th, 1891, Ontario was incorporated as a city under the California Constitution with a City Council-City Manager form of government.   Ontario first developed as an agricultural community, largely, but not exclusively devoted to the citrus industry. The Sunkist plant remains to this day, a reminder of the heydays.  In addition to oranges, the production of peaches, walnuts, lemons, olives and grapes were also important to the growth of Ontario and the neighboring city of Upland.     Chaffey College was an agricultural college located on Euclid Avenue in the exact location that it was built by the Chaffey brothers. In 1960 the college moved to Rancho Cucamonga but the High School is still located on the original college campus.