Visalia (pronounced /ˈvi-seyl-yuh/) is a Central California city situated in the heart of California’s agricultural San Joaquin Valley, approximately 230 miles (370 km) southeast of San Francisco and 190 miles (310 km) north of Los Angeles. Visalia is the largest city between Fresno, CA and Bakersfield, CA. As of 2006, Visalia has an estimated population of 113,487 and spans over 28.6 square miles (74.1 km2) in Central California. Additionally, the Visalia Metropolitan Area is home to 421,553 residents. Its inhabitants are known as "Visalians". Settled in 1852, it is the oldest permanent inland settlement between Stockton, CA and Los Angeles, CA.
As the county seat and largest city of Tulare County, Visalia serves as the economic center to the region known as the Sequoia Valley, the most productive single agricultural area in the United States. Sometimes referred to as the "Gateway to the Sequoias", it lies within miles of the tallest mountain range in the contiguous United States, the Sierra Nevada (U.S.) (see Mount Whitney, which is located in Tulare and Inyo counties), and is the closest major city to Sequoia National Park, home to the some of the largest living things on Earth, the Giant Sequoia trees. Even still, the park, its surrounding forest, and the mountain range are nearly invisible to the metro area, due to the poor air-quality in the region during the summertime. The geography of the Visalia area remains a mix of heavily irrigated green farmland and scrubby Sierra Nevada foothills just to the east of the city. It is known as "Where The Valley Meets The Giants."
When California achieved statehood in 1850, Tulare County did not exist. The land that is now Tulare County was part of the huge County of Mariposa. In 1852, some adventuresome pioneers settled in this area, then called Four Creeks. The area got its name from many watershed creeks and rivers flowing from the Sierra Nevada Mountains. All the water resulted in a widespread swampy area with a magnificent oak forest. The industrious group of settlers petitioned the state legislature for county status and on July 10 of that same year, Tulare County became a reality.
One of the first inhabitants of a fort built by the settlers, unnecessarily as it turns out; to protect themselves from Native Americans was Nathaniel Vise. Nathaniel was responsible for surveying the new settlement. In November of 1852, he wrote, "The town contains from 60-80 inhabitants, 30 of whom are children of school age. The town is located upon one of the subdivisions of the Kaweah River and is destined to be the county seat of Tulare.” In 1853, that prediction became a reality and Visalia has remained the county seat since that time.
Visalia is named for Nathaniel Vises' ancestral home, Visalia, Kentucky. Early growth in Visalia can be attributed in part to the gold rush along the Kern River. The gold fever brought many transient miners through Visalia along the way and when the lure of gold failed to materialize, many returned to Visalia to live their lives and raise families.
In 1858 Visalia was added to John Butterfield's Overland Stage route from St. Louis to San Francisco. A plaque commemorating the location can be found at 116 East Main Street. Included in the early crop of citizens were some notorious and nasty individuals who preyed upon the travelers along the Butterfield Stage route. Many saloons and hotels sprouted up around the stage stop downtown and commerce was brisk if a bit risky.
The next memorable event was the arrival of the telegraph in 1860. Visalians then could get timely information of the events taking place on the East Coast which would ultimately develop into the Civil War.
No one really knows the outcome of the war, but apparently it was concluded to the satisfaction of the participants and life returned to normal.
The federal government however, was not so easily convinced and reacting to concern about sedition banned Visalia’s pro-south Equal Rights Expositor newspaper and established a military garrison. Camp Babbitt was built in 1862 to stop overt southern support as well as maintain law and order in the community. During these Civil War years, Visalia was incorporated which gave the town new rights. The second incorporation in 1874 moved Visalia into city status with a common council and an ex-officio Mayor and President.
Once a creek side settlement, Visalia is now a thriving city with 123,670 inhabitants, and has become a community that takes great pride in the small town feel and high quality of life that accompanies big city amenities.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 28.6 square miles (74.0 km²), of which, 28.6 square miles (74.0 km²) of it is land and none of it is covered by water.
|Weather data for Visalia, CA|
|Average high °F (°C)||54 |
|Average low °F (°C)||37 |
|Precipitation inches (mm)||2.03 |
|Source: Weather Channel|
The city is divided into many neighborhoods, many of which were unincorporated places or communities. There are also several independent cities around Visalia, but they are popularly grouped with the city of Visalia, due to its immediate vicinity. Generally, the city is divided into the following areas: Downtown Visalia, North – including the Lincoln Oval Village, the Eastside, South Visalia, the Industrial Area, Mooney, and the Westside.
As of 2009, there were 123,670 people, 30,883 households, and 22,915 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,237.0/km² (3,204.2/mi²). There were 32,654 housing units at an average density of 441.1/km² (1,142.7/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 54.9% White, 35.6% Hispanic or Latino of any race, 3.1% Asian, 1.9% African American, 2.4% Native American, 0.7% Filipino, 17.8% from other races, and 4.2% from two or more races. There were 30,883 households out of which 41.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.9% were married couples living together, 14.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 25.8% were non-families. 20.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.91 and the average family size was 3.37.
Like the rest of Tulare County, Visalia is home to a large Latino/ Mexican community. There has been a recent estimate that Mexicans represent as much as 40% of the city's population and 45% of the students in public schools.
In the city the population was spread out with 31.3% under the age of 18, 9.6% from 18 to 24, 28.5% from 25 to 44, 19.7% from 45 to 64, and 10.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 93.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.9 males.
According to a 2006 estimate, the median income for a household in the city was $51,870. The median income for a family was $61,074. Males had a median income of $36,670 versus $26,717 for females. The per capita income for the city was $23,475. About 10.1% of families and 13.3% of the population were below the poverty line.
Of the 51,718 registered voters in Visalia; approximately 31.9% are Democrats and 49.1% are Republicans. The remaining 19.0% are Independents or are registered with one of the many smaller political parties, like the Green Party or the Libertarian Party.
Visalia is a general law city governed by a five-member City Council including the mayor and vice mayor. City Council hires a city manager to carry out policies and serve as executive officer. Every odd-numbered year either two or three members are elected by the people to serve a four-year term. Each March the City Council meets and chooses one of its members as mayor and one as vice-mayor.
In the state legislature Visalia is located in the 18th Senate District, represented by Republican Roy Ashburn, and in the 34th Assembly District, represented by Republican Connie Conway. Federally, Visalia is located in California's 21st congressional district, which has a Cook PVI of R +13 and is represented by Republican Devin Nunes.
With 233,293 Christians in the Metropolitan Area (85,000 in city proper) the region has a large population of Christians. Many Churches of the Catholic, Assemblies of God, Southern Baptist Convention, American Baptist Churches in the USA, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Church of the Nazarene, United Methodist Chuch, Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Christian Churches, and Churches of Christ can be found throughout the city. Most are located in South Visalia along Caldwell. The area in North Visalia along Murray and Houston contains a large number of Catholics.
Because of Visalia's large multi-ethnic population, a wide variety of faiths are practiced, including Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Sikhism, Bahá'í, various Eastern Orthodox Churches, Sufism and others. Immigrants from Southeast Asia for example, have formed a Buddhist Temple making the city home to the only Buddhist Temple in the Southern San Joaquin Valley.
The major daily newspaper in the area is the Visalia Times-Delta; El Sol is the city's major Spanish-language paper. There are also a number of smaller regional newspapers, alternative weeklies and magazines, including the Valley Voice Newspaper, Tulare Advance-Register and Tulare Voice (which focuses coverage on Tulare), Valley Response, ROI Magazine, Living Here (which focuses on living in the Greater Visalia Area). In addition to the English- and Spanish-language papers, numerous local periodicals serve immigrant communities in their native languages, including Armenian, Laos, Hmong, and Chinese. Many cities adjacent to Visalia also have their own daily newspapers whose coverage and availability overlaps into certain Visalia neighborhoods.
Visalia Unified School District serves the entire city of Visalia. The Tulare County Public Library operates it's largest branch, the Visalia Branch in Downtown Visalia. There are other smaller libraries in Visalia, such as the Visalia Learning Center.
The Visalia City Coach (now the Visalia Transit) operates environmentally-friendly and convenient public transportation to, from and within the communities of Visalia, Goshen, Farmersville and Exeter. The Visalia City Coach also provides Dial-A-Ride curb-to-curb para-transit service on a shared-ride, demand-response basis to locations within the city limits of Visalia, Goshen and Farmersville.
The Tulare County Area Transit (TCaT) provides the public transit services between Visalia and smaller communities throughout the greater Visalia Area. Service includes Fixed Route and Demand Responsive services that are offered Monday through Saturday.
The Loop is an easy, safe and free way for all school aged kids to get to community centers and recreation centers throughout Visalia where activities for youth are happening.
Other major nearby commercial airports include: