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Fontana Fast Facts:
Fontana was founded in 1913 by Azariel Blanchard Miller. Within a few years it became an agricultural town of citrus orchards, vineyards and chicken ranches astride U.S. Route 66 (now known as Foothill Boulevard). The Fontana area was radically transformed during World War II when Henry J. Kaiser built one of only two steel mills west of the Mississippi River outside the city limits.
In the 1950s and ’60s Fontana was home to a drag racing strip that was a venue in the NHRA circuit. Mickey Thompson’s Fontana International Dragway was also referred to as Fontana Drag City or Fontana Drag Strip. The original Fontana strip is long since defunct, but the owners of NASCAR’s new Auto Club Speedway opened a new NHRA-sanctioned drag strip in Fontana in mid-2006 to resurrect Fontana’s drag-racing heritage.
Ro-Val’s automobile museum, located on Foothill Blvd on the western outskirts between Fontana and Cucamonga, was for a while the home for many classic automobiles of the 1920s and ’30s, including a huge vehicle once owned by screen actor Fatty Arbuckle. When the Ro-Val museum closed, the vehicles were sold to Bill Harrah, a Nevada casino owner and automobile collector, who placed them on display in the museum located at his casino.
As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 128,929, but the present population is now estimated to have reached 189,021 (2009). This rapid expansion had much to do with the numerous large, new residential developments in the almost totally undeveloped northern part of the city, as well as with the city’s aggressive (and highly successful) campaign to annex several unincorporated, but developed, San Bernardino county island areas in 2006-2007.