Upland was incorporated as a city on May 15, 1906.
At that time it existed as what was perhaps the most significant part of the Greater Ontario area, as it had grown up as a community where the wealthier members of the Ontario business community dwelled in Victorian and early Edwardian homes set amidst citrus groves.
In the early 1880s, Canadians George and William Chaffey were awork establishing irrigation systems that stretched from what is modern-day Ontario out to Etiwanda. Ontario, also known as the Model Colony, was developed as the first residential and commercial center within that area. Ontario incorporated as a municipality in 1891, and its major north-south thoroughfare, Euclid Avenue, extended to what was well north of what was then the Ontario City Limits at G Street. The area north of G Street was at first informally referred to as “North Ontario” or “Magnolia,” a name given it as a consequence of the Magnolia Hotel there. Because Euclid inclined upward toward the foothills below Mount San Antonio as it progressed north, North Ontario/Magnolia were soon referred to as “the upland” and, over time, as Upland.
In 1901, the residents of Upland, highly conscious of the more genteel character of their basically bedroom community compared to the more heavily commercialized Ontario and its earthier and sultrier nature with its concentration of rooming houses, drinking establishments and bordellos, began discussion of incorporating Magnolia as a separate city. Ontario officials moved quickly to stem that, expanding their town’s boundaries, annexing land to become a city of no fewer than 10 square miles.
When Ontario undertook to annex all the way into Magnolia, consisting of the area around modern-day Upland’s downtown, which was to include the Upland Post Office, the tracks for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, and the train depot, Magnolia residents moved quickly, appealing to the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors to arrest Ontario’s hegemonic intent. Beginning on March 12, 1906, the San Bernardino Board of Supervisors conducted a two-day hearing, the upshot of which was that the board agreed to let the voters decide the matter. On May 5, 1906, 202 residents of the Magnolia district of northern Ontario voted on whether to incorporate separately from Ontario, with an overwhelming 183 of those voting to create a new city, San Bernardino County’s fifth, after San Bernardino, Colton, Redlands and Ontario. The City of Upland officially came into existence on May 15, 1906.
Upland’s city fathers hired as Upland’s first chief of police Jed Sawyer, a muscular man, six foot four inches tall missing his right arm as the result of an irrigation system accident. Sawyer functioned out of a police station set up on North Second Avenue. Sawyer kept the peace in the City of Gracious living, initially with the assistance of a single night patrol officer. By 1923, the department had grown to five men, including Sawyer.
Upland’s first hospital, what would become San Antonio Hospital, was constructed to a capacity of 18 beds at the corner of Arrow Highway and San Antonio Avenue, opening in 1907.
In 1911, Upland set up its fire department, one manned by volunteers, under the supervision of Fire Chief F.H. Manker. Initially, the fire crew used a hose cart that was pulled to the scene of conflagrations by the volunteers themselves or a horse. In 1915 the city constructed a fire station on D Street and outfitted it with a newly purchased motorized fire engine.
By the 1920s, Police Chief Sawyer, who initially was paid a mere $20 per month to head the department, creatively extended economy into how he ran the department. He was able to convince the Pacific Bell Telephone Company to detail the local nighttime phone operators to monitor any service calls into the police department and if the request was for suspicious activity in the downtown area, the operator would remotely flip a switch that would illuminate one of the appropriately located red lights atop high poles in the downtown area, alerting the patrolman on duty to take action or look into any anomalies near that spot.
When the community outgrew the limited capacity of the hospital at Arrow Highway and San Antonio, the community’s wealthier members arranged to obtain property on East San Bernardino Road in 1923 and by July 30, 1924, at a cost of $173,107.10, constructed a new San Antonio Hospital there, one with 35 patient rooms and a 50-patent capacity, along with a maternity wing including a nursery to accommodate 20 crying babies.
The campus for the old San Antonio Hospital at the corner of Arrow Highway and San Antonio did not lay fallow for long. It was readily converted by the Brethren in Christ Church as Beulah College, considered to be a West Coast match for the Brethren in Christ Church’s Messiah Bible School and Missionary Training Home outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The institution of higher learning, which became known as Upland College, remained in place until 1964, when the Brethren in Christ national leadership resolved to consolidate the church’s educational efforts at Messiah College.
In 1950, Upland’s police chief, Eugene Mueller, was elected county sheriff.
From May 1977 to 1988, Stan and Jeanne Hoffman adapted a swimming pool and other original structures including a full pipe that was 20 feet tall and 40 feet long into the Pipeline Skatepark, what would, with its vertical challenges, become the model for modern skateparks. The facility attracted throughout the late 1970s and into the 1980s the world’s premier skateboarders, including locals Steve Alba and his brother, Michael “Micke” Alba, and Chris Miller. Propelled by the skatepark’s users, the Hoffmans incorporated a 12-foot deep vertical double bowl consisting of a steep square pool connected to a round pool by a small shallow section.
In 2000, John Pomierski, a 1972 graduate of Upland High School who was the homegrown son of a General Telephone employee, was elected Upland mayor. During his ten year and nearly two-month run in office, he was reelected twice and dominated the city politically while taking in bribes from virtually every direction, managing to get away with what he was doing by raising salaries and increasing benefits to city employees to buy their silence about what virtually all of them recognized was going on. Pomierski’s graft-rich tenure tainted virtually every aspect of municipal operations, as his allies in the police department and the DA’s office looked the other way. It was not until the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office came into Upland to clamp down on what the police department refused to curb that the corruption was brought under some semblance of control. Both Pomierski and his hand-picked city manager, Robb Quincey, were convicted on political corruption charges, Pomierski in federal court and Quincey in state court.
Notable personages from Upland include or included Steve Scott, an Olympic runner and 1500 meter silver medalist who once ran a mile in 3:47.69; televangelist and world class charlatan Peter Popoff; Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Rollie Fingers; Alberto Dávila, former world bantamweight boxing champion; and screenwriter Tom Jankiewicz.
Upland was incorporated as a city on May 15, 1906.