Fresno is the fifth-largest city of California and the state’s largest city not located at the coast. As major city of Central California, it is the center point of a region with about one million inhabitants. Many visitors use Fresno as home base when they visit the Yosemite, KIngs Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, each of which is about 100 kilometres away from here. Fresno is located at the banks of the San Joaquin River, California’s second-longest river which is watering the fertile farmland in the center of the state.
In 1880, the then-young town of Fresno only had a little more than 1000 inhabitants. Shortly before that, the city had been founded as a stop of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Fires destroyed parts of the city in the next years, but Fresno grew to be the most important town of the county. In 1910, more than 24,000 people lived here and their numbers grew continuously. Immigrants, many of them from Germany and Italy, but also from Asia, had their own neighborhoods in Fresno. But the Second World War changed the population picture. One of the detention camps, into which Japanese nationals and Americans with Japanese roots were forcibly relocated, was located in North Fresno. To this day, the city is home to a significant number of immigrants from Armenia - as early as 1881, the first Armenian immigrants had found their home in Fresno.
A special quarter within the city of Fresno is Sierra Sky Park. Here, in a pioneer project in 1946, an airstrip was combined with adjacent residential buildings, so that residents could drive up to their driveways in their own aircraft. Today, there are many of these skyparks in the USA.
Fresno’s Downtown took the same route many American downtown areas took and increasingly lost both appeal and significance in the second half of the 20th century. Today, it is attempted to bring some life back into Downtown by a revitalization program. The Old Fig Garden neighborhood, traditionally a quarter with affluent residents, annually is the home of Christmas Tree Lane, bringing many thousands here to see the lighted and decorated christmas trees along Van Ness Boulevard.
The liveliest part of Fresno though is the Tower District north of Downtown. Here, there is a traditional mix of smaller shops and restaurants, in addition there are some theater stages and bars.