Modesto is the county seat of Stanislaus County in the U.S. state of California. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 188,856. Current census estimates place the population at 206,300. According to the California State Department of Finance January 2006 estimate, 514,370 people live in the Modesto Metropolitan Statistical Area. Roughly 110 miles (180 km) from Yosemite National Park, 80 miles (130 km) from Sacramento, California's capital city, and about 90 miles (140 km) from both San Jose and San Francisco, Modesto is less than 2 hours from many prime locations in California. This proximity to major business centers has turned the agriculturally based city into a bedroom community. Over twenty percent of the workforce travels outside of the county to their place of employment. The area is plagued by some of the worst air quality in the nation, on occasion surpassing even that of Los Angeles. It is also reported to have had the highest car theft per capita rate in the United States in 2005 and 2006, although it dropped to fifth in 2007.
Modesto, originally a stop on the railroad connecting Sacramento to Los Angeles, was founded in 1870 and was to be named for William C. Ralston, financier of many projects in early California. However, he declined the suggestion and a Spanish-speaking railroad worker at the naming ceremony said that Ralston was "Muy modesto" (very modest). Thus, the town was named Modesto. In reality, he didn't want such a small "nowheresville" to bear his name.
Modesto's official slogan is "Water Wealth Contentment Health," which is emblazoned on a large arch downtown that has been immortalized in many photographs. A contest was run in 1911 to determine the slogan. The original winning slogan was: "Nobody's got Modesto's goat". The second place entry was the final winner.
Up until the 1930's, Modesto was commonly known as the "Filth Capital of California", due to the abundance of saloons, brothels, opium houses, and "wild west" atmosphere. In actuality, it was a Wild West town, with vigilante justice the norm, often ending in shootouts or hangings. Wealthy businessmen on their way north or south through California would routinely schedule an overnight stay in Modesto to "relieve stress", while wives of the same businessmen warned against it.
Modesto is commonly referred to as "a great place to live, a horrible place to visit." That said, there are quite a few sights to see.
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