The city occupies just a mile square, and it was laid off on a liberal scale, viewed with reference to the demands of 1853. But it has stretched since far beyond its boundaries. The streets run according to the cardinal points of the compass, and each thoroughfare is eighty-two and a half feet wide. Those which run east and west are called by the numerals, and those running north and south, by the letters of the alphabet. Each block contains eight acres. The principal commercial street is Third, beginning at C, and running west one mile to the depot; D Street between Third and Fourth, and E Street between Second and Fourth, also enjoy great business activity, and in these streets trade centers, although it extends beyond these limits.
San Bernardino was incorporated as a municipality in 1853, and again in 1886. Since 1885, when the Santa Fé Railway established commercial communication between this point and the rest of the great railway system, the progress of the town has been constant, business movement and building being very active, even through what are called dull seasons.
San Bernardino has two pretty sobriquets the ” Fountain City,” and the “Garden City,” the first from the abundant supply of water, so unusual in this part of the country. There are 300 artesian wells within the city limits and their flow is unfailing. Many of the houses have at the top tanks, into which the water for domestic purposes is forced by small steam pumps, run by gas jets. Nearly every dwelling has its own green lawn, and its encircling groups of trees-oranges, peppers, palms, walnuts, apples, and other trees of the temperate and semi-tropic zones, -besides countless climbing vines and flowering plants.
All the principal streets are traversed by street railways.
The city is illuminated by gas and by electricity. The dynamo which generates the electricity is run by water-power furnished by Warm creek, enough force to produce electricity sufficient to light the whole valley being provided by 3,000 inches of water, with a fall of forty feet, so that it is expected this system of lighting will be extended to the neighboring towns.
As has been seen, San Bernardino was laid out as a city by the Mormons in 1853. As first incorporated, it comprehended most of the Mormon settlement. But the ruling powers soon tired of the onerous burden of city government; and dis-incorporated in about two years.
In August 16, 1868, San Bernardino was re-incorporated as a town, so continuing until May 15, 1886, when it was once more incorporated, as a city, being of the fifth-class.
The city government, as in all cities of the fifth-class, is vested in a board of trustees, five in number, a board of education, also of five members, a city attorney, city clerk, city marshal, city recorder, city treasurer, and city assessor. There are also, as provided by statute, subordinate officers, as follows: city engineer, health officer, street superintendent, pound-master, chief of fire department and four police officers.
The city improved very little until 1885-’86, since which time improvements have been many, rapid, and notable.
Such public buildings, that is to say, municipal and county buildings, as exist are of a remarkably fine style of architecture, handsome, commodious, convenient, and admirably adapted to the purposes for which they are designed.
The post office occupies an edifice erected in 1888 expressly for that use, at a cost of $65,000. It has a frontage of 100 feet on E street, and 120 feet on Court Street. Its outside finish is of pressed brick, and the famous brown sandstone from the Sespe (Ventura County) quarries. It is in height three stories, the ground floor being occupied by several stores, besides the post-office quarters, for which the Government is pledged to pay the nominal rental of $1 yearly for the period of five years; the second floor is devoted to offices; the third floor is given up to lodging apartments. The building is furnished throughout with artesian water, forced to roof tanks, with an ample reserve supply in case of fire. Gas, an arched wagon passage; a fireproof vault, and all the latest improvements for buildings of this kind are here in use.
The post office occupies 80 x 26 feet in the southeastern corner of the ground floor, and it comprises the usual office and passage spaces, with 1,372 boxes and drawers.
The corps is composed of a postmaster, Nelson S. Gill, and four clerks or assistants, two of whom are ladies. The gross receipts of the last year, as nearly as can be determined at present, were $12,000.
Source: An Illustrated History of Southern California: embracing the counties of San Diego, San Bernardino, Los Angeles and Orange, and the peninsula of lower California.