The city of Davis, founded in 1868, was originally named Davisville after prominent local farmer Jerome C. Davis. At that time, Davisville was a little village centered on grain crops and a train depot. According to the Woodland Democrat newspaper, Davisville was considered “the liveliest station on the California Pacific Railroad.”
When a shift began from dry crops to irrigated agriculture, Davisville began exporting apples, peaches and lettuce, and with the aid of refrigerated train cars, Davisville farmers were able to meet the need of growing populations. After the addition of a new farming college, Davisville began to thrive.
The University of California, Davis (UC Davis) is closely tied to the city’s history. In the early 1900s, California’s urban areas were growing and demands were placed not only on agriculture, but on the dairy industry for large-scale butter production. With a need to improve the science of butter-making and other farming methods, a campaign began to establish a new school for agricultural instruction and research. In 1908, the University Farm School was established. From those beginnings, UC Davis is now recognized internationally for its contributions to life sciences, agriculture, veterinary medicine, biotechnology, medical technology and engineering.
The university’s inception was a major turning point for Davisville. The Davisville Post Office shortened the city’s name to Davis, and the revision became official when the city was incorporated in March 1917. Soon urban amenities such as a water and sewage system, street lighting and street paving were installed. Many local improvements began, including the construction of a municipal building and the first city park. In the mid-1900s, the population grew rapidly, with UC Davis being a major generator of growth. Unlike many other cities, Davis resisted pressure to build expansive shopping centers, instead adopting policies to preserve its small-town feel. In the late 20th century, Davis began to focus on environmental conservation and the future shape of the city.
With a current populace of approximately 71,000, Davis has evolved into a community internationally known for its commitment to environmental awareness and the employment of progressive and socially innovative programs. What was once a small farming village is now a remarkable city, proud of its past and looking forward to a bright future.