Nearly 130 years ago, Tracy started out as a small railroad town. Over the last decade, affordable housing and family atmosphere have raised a new level of interest in the city. Although Tracy remains a prosperous agricultural center, its location and accessibility attracts new business and employment opportunities each year. Tracy is just 60 miles east of San Francisco and 60 miles south of Sacramento, strategically placed at the juncture of Highways 5 and 580, providing fast and easy access to the Bay Area and up and down the Central Valley. Tracy is served by Sacramento International Airport to the north as well as by Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose airports.
Although Tracy has grown considerably, it continues to be a family oriented community, emphasizing education, recreation for youth and a high quality of life. Tracy High School is a magnet for music education and continues with its International Baccalaureate program. Elementary and middle schools offer gifted and talented programs as well as special education programs. Athletic opportunities are also plentiful at all schools. Organizations such as Rotary and Kiwanis work during the year to help fund special student projects during the year.
Strategically located at the center of the expanding city, Downtown Tracy is ideally situated to be the focused commercial/retail center for the greater Tracy area. There are numerous retailers, restaurants, and service businesses from legal to beauty. With nearly 45% of Downtown businesses being service-related, a built-in consumer base of employees has emerged, contributing to the area's high foot traffic. In addition to the large number of employees in the area, Tracy sponsors numerous traffic building events throughout the year to promote its Downtown district. Events such as the weekly Farmers' Market and the annual Dry Bean Festival attract thousands of people to the area, benefiting the Downtown merchants.
It was in September 1878 that the Central Pacific Railroad (later Southern Pacific) moved its operations from the company town of Ellis some three miles east to the new town of Tracy. The town was established on the junction of two railroad lines. . . the Altamont Line built in 1896 and the new line extending down the west side of the San Joaquin Valley from Martinez.
As a railroad town in the late 19th century, Tracy -- named for Ohio railroad man and grain merchant Lathrop J. Tracy -- was an active place. Train crews and passengers were moving in and out of the local depot and a string of small hotels, restaurants and taverns had sprung up on Front Street. It was a lively place.
But from the beginning, there was more to Tracy than the Southern Pacific yard and Front Street. Homes had been built on adjacent streets, and stores had been opened to serve the needs of residents of the new town. Several churches also were opened and Willow School educated Tracy's youngsters.
In 1910, the Tracy Board of Trade (later the Tracy District Chamber of Commerce) spearheaded a campaign to incorporate Tracy into a city. That effort was successful, and it was followed by the installation of water and sewer systems, the paving of streets, and the building of Tracy's first City Hall -- now the Central Fire Station at the corner of Central Avenue and Ninth Street.
From those beginnings, Tracy has continued to grow and develop with the addition of new industries, the development of highly productive irrigated farming, and the building of homes, schools, a hospital, businesses, and churches. Lodges, service clubs, and other community organizations have been formed to serve the town and its residents.
As Tracy continues its population growth, new industries have located here to provide new employment opportunities. Development of new commercial activity is being spurred by the opening of the Tracy Outlet Center in the fall of 1994 and the opening of West Valley Mall in the fall of 1995. The Tracy Auto Plaza is now open with five dealerships and more on its way. Improvements to downtown Tracy are also being inaugurated through new parking facilities, a newly adopted streetscape plan and a cultural arts facility in the works.
In recent years, more and more Tracy residents have jobs in the Bay Area, commuting to and from work on the extensive system of interstate freeways developed in the 1960s and 1970s. The newcomers have joined long time residents in creating a new, larger Tracy... but one that is still a town with all the elements of a complete community. That's how Tracy was started in 1878 and the way it continues growing today.
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