At 105 years old, the Central Valley community of Clovis, which has a total area of 23.28 square miles, never forgets where it came from and tries to remain focused on where it still wants to go. Its citizens and leaders understand that cities in which citizens know and respect their shared history and legacy generally move proudly and forcefully into the future.
The city of Clovis began as a freight stop along the San Joaquin Valley Railroad, which was organized in 1890 by six Fresno businessmen in partnership with Michigan railroad speculator Marcus Pollasky. The construction began in Fresno and reached the farmlands of Clovis Cole and George Owen by October of that year. The railroad purchased right-of-way from both farmers, half from each, and agreed to establish a station on the west side of the tracks and to call it “Clovis.”
Cole and Owen later sold land to Marcus Pollasky for development of a community.
The railroad was completed as far as Friant (previously known as Pollasky and then Hamptonville), just 26 miles from its origin in Fresno and officially began operation in January 1892.
Unfortunately, this coincided with a deep national economic decline and the railroad had to be sold to the Southern Pacific Railroad.
At this same time, a group of Michigan lumbermen began acquiring thousands of acres of timber in the Sierra Nevada about 75 miles northeast of Fresno. A dam was built across Stevenson Creek to create a lake that would enable them to move freshly cut timber to a mill beside the lake. They then constructed a 42-mile V-shaped flume that started at the foot of the dam. As lumber was rough-cut at the mill, it was loaded into the flume and propelled by water to a planing mill east of the Clovis railroad station.
The lumber flume was completed in 1894 and the mill opened, sparking additional development around the Clovis Station. The town began to grow as lumber yard employees built homes. Service businesses, churches and schools soon followed so that by the time Clovis’s first post office opened in 1895, the community reportedly had a population of nearly 500. It was finally incorporated in February 1912.
The lumber mill burned in 1914 and was not rebuilt. Those grounds are now occupied by Clark Intermediate School and the Clovis Rodeo Grounds. Ever since that fire, the Clovis Rodeo has been held on the lumber mill site during the last weekend in April.
In recent years, many buildings in Clovis’ core have been renovated. Older storefronts on Clovis Avenue have been restored and new buildings have been designed with facades that resemble those found during the early 20th century. The historic center is now known as Old Town Clovis.
Clovis is a popular choice for those moving to the Central Valley and now has a population of approximately 108,000. It has the lowest unemployment rate and the highest household income in the region. People even pay a premium for homes with a Clovis address.
In addition, several years ago Clovis was ranked as the Best City for Young Families in California by the consumer information website, NerdWallet. The ranking was based on the quality of the schools, home values, household income and family-friendly activities.
Clovis was also one of only two Central Valley cities named as a top city for job seekers in California. They have added thousands of new jobs in recent years, thanks to across-the-board expansions in health care, industrial, retail and state jobs.
In addition, more than 60 churches and other religious institutions dot the streets of this growing community today, reflecting the strong spiritual nature of many of the citizens of Clovis. ›
Clovis is also renowned for The Clovis Veterans Memorial District, a California Special District established in 1946 to honor veterans and serve the Clovis community. There are 27 districts in the State of California that honor the two million veterans who call California home. The Clovis Veterans Memorial District is proud to serve the community by honoring its mission “to provide a permanent living memorial honoring U.S. military and veterans; provide facilities and support programs to promote a legacy of service for preserving our community’s and country’s foundational ideals.”
The Clovis Veterans Memorial District is known throughout Central California as a hidden gem. It is lauded as one of the most remarkable facilities throughout the Central Valley and is priced to provide the best value to customers in California. The revenue generated from facility rentals helps fund school and community programs, affords free meeting space to veterans and youth organizations and provides discounts to service clubs and many other programs. Special grants that promote civic education, patriotism and character development are also resourced from revenue generated through facility rentals.
The Veterans Memorial Building, which is today known as the Rex Phebus Memorial Building, was completed in 1951 and has seen extensive remodeling to become a modern, green, conference center. The 20,200-square-foot facility features a 350-seat auditorium, a ballroom that can accommodate over 900 guests and meeting rooms of various sizes used to host many different events for the Clovis community. The facility’s patrons include veterans’ organizations, nonprofit groups, governmental agencies from around the state and country, weddings, memorial services and more, according to Lorenzo Rios, district CEO.
“We take pride in bringing a lot of outside business to Clovis and in facilitating important conversations that promote community,” Rios said.
In recent years, the Memorial District added several memorials that serve to educate the community on the sacrifices made in defense of the country and to provide healing for those who served. One such memorial consists of statues of five figures standing in a semi-circle around the boots, rifle and helmet of a fallen comrade. Each figure represents a different military branch from a different era in history and is meant to ensure that those who fell in the line of duty are never forgotten. Another memorial is the Veterans’ Garden of Honor which is a living remembrance of the Clovis men and women who gave their lives in the major conflicts of our country.
“The names of local Gold Star Heroes from as far back as World War I are memorialized there,” Rios said.
Another memorial is a large metal globe with nearby plaques which memorialize veterans of different wars and battles throughout our nation’s history.
The district has also erected two memorials at off-site locations in the community. One is The Remembrance Plaza of the Pinedale Assembly Center which honors the 4,800 Japanese-Americans who were interned nearby. It includes a sculpted fountain which shares the history of the former internment camp, as well as the U.S. Soldiers of Japanese descent and the path toward reconciliation. It was built through a joint effort of the Clovis Veterans Memorial District, the Central California District Council of the Japanese American League and the Central California Nikkei Foundation.
The district also honors military working dogs and their handlers through a memorial erected at the Miss Winkles Pet Adoption Center in Clovis. The memorial educates the public on the service that military work dogs have provided to this country dating back to World War I.
In an effort to fulfill the district’s mission of honoring veterans and educating the community, the district has made a promise to open a Community Heritage Center. The center, which is expected to open in Spring 2018, will focus on preserving our community’s and country’s foundational ideals through interactive exhibits that engage the community with a focus on veterans and local history.
The facility will also include an Innovation Center that will promote a healthy, safe place for the community and veterans to come and learn about different hands-on projects from woodworking to welding, 3-D printing and so much more. The Innovation Center will provide a space for an intergenerational conversation to start that promotes the sharing of stories, culture, experience and traditions that promote a vibrant community. It is being developed with Ideaworks of Fresno, a nonprofit organization. Its vision is to inspire the Central Valley and to provide residents with the resources to develop new skills.
The district also makes available to the community the rental of all four commercial kitchens in the district’s main facility. These kitchens provide the commercial facility needed to help those small businesses in the cottage food industry blossom in Central California.
The Clovis Veterans Memorial District is a professional organization that takes pride in providing world class facilities, memorials and programs and serving as a vital partner to the community.