Fremont is a city in Alameda County, California. It was incorporated on January 23, 1956, from the merger of five smaller communities: Centerville, Niles, Irvington, Mission San Jose, and Warm Springs. The city is named after American explorer John Charles Frémont, "the Great Pathfinder."
Located in the southeast section of the San Francisco Bay Area in the East Bay region primarily, Fremont has a population of around 220,000. It is the fourth most populous city in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the largest suburb in the metropolis. It is the closest East Bay city to Silicon Valley, and is thus sometimes associated with it.
The recorded history of the Fremont area began on June 9, 1797, when Mission San José was founded by the Spaniard Father Fermin de Lasuen. The Mission was established at the site of the Ohlone village of Oroysom. On their second day in the area, the Mission party killed a grizzly bear in Niles Canyon. The first English-speaking visitor to Fremont was the renowned trapper and explorer Jedediah Smith in 1827. The Mission prospered, eventually reaching a population of 1,886 inhabitants in 1831. The influence of the missionaries declined after 1834, when the Mexican government enacted secularization.
José de Jesus Vallejo, brother of Mariano Vallejo, was the grantee of the Rancho Arroyo de la Alameda Mexican land grant. His family was influential in the Fremont area in the late colonial era, and owned and built a flour mill at the mouth of Niles Canyon. In 1846 they were visited by the town's namesake John C. Frémont, who mapped a trail through Mission Pass to provide access for American settlers into the southeastern San Francisco Bay Area.
The Fremont area grew rapidly at the time of the California Gold Rush. A town called Mission San Jose grew up around the old mission, with its own post office from 1850. Agriculture dominated the economy with grapes, nursery plants and olives as leading crops. In 1868 the 6.8-magnitude Hayward earthquake on the Hayward Fault collapsed buildings throughout the Fremont area, ruining Mission San José and its outbuildings. Until the 1906 San Francisco earthquake caused its destruction, the Fremont area's Palmdale Winery was the largest in California. The ruins of the Palmdale Winery are still visible near the Five Corners in Irvington.
From 1912 to 1916 the Niles section of the Fremont area was the earliest home of California's motion picture industry. (See Essanay Studios.) Charlie Chaplin filmed several movies in the Fremont area, most notably The Tramp.
Fremont was incorporated under the leadership of Wally Pond in 1956, when five towns in the area, Irvington, Centerville, Mission San Jose, Niles and Warm Springs came together to form a city.
Fremont became more industrialized in the 1950s and 1960s. A boom in high-tech employment in the 1980s to the late 1990s, especially in the Warm Springs District, caused rapid development in the city and linked the city with the Silicon Valley. The Apple factory where the first Mac computer was manufactured was located in Fremont (production ceased in 1993). Other semiconductor and telecommunications firms soon opened in the city, including Cirrus Logic, Asyst Technologies, Mattson Technology, Lam Research, Premisys Communications, and Nextlink California. Approximately 750 high tech companies had offices, headquarters or production facilities in Fremont by 1999. These firms included fifteen of the top one hundred fastest-growing public companies in the San Francisco Bay Area and eighteen of the top fifty companies in the East Bay.
The General Motors automotive assembly plant in South Fremont was the town's largest employer, and Fremont was known for its drag strip. In the 1980s the GM plant became a joint venture automotive assembly plant of Toyota and General Motors called NUMMI. Toyota and NUMMI shut down its operations in early 2010. Part of the plant was acquired in June 2010 by Tesla Motors as its primary production plant, known as the Tesla Factory.
Solyndra, a solar panel manufacturer, was personally promoted in 2010 by President Barack Obama as a model for government investment in green technology after his administration approved a $535-million Department of Energy loan guarantee and the company built a $733 million state-of-the-art robotic facility, but in 2011 the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and laid-off 1,000 workers. Data storage company Seagate Technology, incorporated in the Republic of Ireland with executive offices in Cupertino, acquired the former Solyndra building.
The first Fremont post office opened in 1956.
Former Mayor Bob Wasserman died in office in December 2011.