The city is one of the major cities that make up the Silicon Valley located in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is the seventh most populous city in the San Francisco Bay Area. Sunnyvale is bordered by portions of San Jose to the north, Moffett Federal Airfield to the northwest, Mountain View to the west, Los Altos to the southwest, Cupertino to the south, and Santa Clara to the east. It lies along the historic El Camino Real and Highway 101.
As part of the Silicon Valley, high-tech companies such as Juniper Networks, Fortinet, AMD, NetApp, Spansion, Yahoo!, AppliedMicro and Ariba are headquartered there. Sunnyvale is also home to several aerospace/defense companies; Lockheed Martin has a major facility in Sunnyvale, and Honeywell, Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems - Marine Systems (formerly Joshua Hendy Iron Works), Finisar, and Spirent also have offices in Sunnyvale. Sunnyvale is also the home to Onizuka Air Force Station, where its main building, locally known as the Blue Cube, is its most prominent feature. The base, named for the deceased Space Shuttle Challenger astronaut Ellison Onizuka, was an artificial satellite control facility of the United States armed forces until August 2010.
Sunnyvale is one of the few U.S. cities to have a single unified Department of Public Safety, where all personnel are trained as firefighters, police officers, and EMTs, so they can respond to an emergency in any of the three roles.
Library services for the city are provided by the Sunnyvale Public Library, located at the Sunnyvale Civic Center.
When the Spanish first arrived in the 1770s at the Santa Clara Valley, it was heavily populated by the Ohlone native Americans. In 1777, Mission Santa Clara was built by Ohlone who converted to Christianity.
In 1842, Rancho Pastoria de las Borregas was granted to Francisco Estrada and his wife Inez Castro. Portions of the land given in this grant later developed into the cities of Mountain View and Sunnyvale. Two years later, in 1844, another land grant was provided to Lupe Yñigo, one of the few Native Americans to hold land grants. His land grant was first called Rancho Posolmi, named in honor of Posolmi village of the Ohlone that once stood in the area. Rancho Posolmi was later known as Rancho Ynigo.
Martin Murphy Jr. came to California with his father as part of the Stephens-Townsend-Murphy Party in 1844. In 1850, Martin Murphy Jr. bought a piece of Rancho Pastoria de las Borregas for $12,500. Murphy established a wheat farm and ranch named Bay View. Murphy had the first wood frame house, which was shipped from New England, in Santa Clara County built. The house was demolished in 1961 but was reconstructed in 2008 as the Sunnyvale Heritage Park Museum. When he died in 1884, his land was divided among his heirs.
In 1860, The San Francisco and San Jose Rail Road was allowed to lay tracks on Bay View and established Murphy Station. Lawrence Station was later established on the southern edge of Bay View.
In the 1870s, county property tax laws, imports and soil degradation caused wheat farming to become uneconomical in Santa Clara County. Small fruit orchards replaced the large wheat farms. In 1871, James and Eloise Dawson established the first fruit cannery in Santa Clara County. Fruit agriculture and canning soon became a major industry in the county. The invention of the refrigerated rail car further increased the viability of an economy based upon fruit. The fruit orchards become so prevalent that in 1886, the San Jose Board of Trade called Santa Clara County the "Garden of the World".
In the 1880s, Chinese workers made up 48 percent of the farm labor in Santa Clara County. This percentage reduced over time after the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed. In the following decade, the 1890s, multitudes of immigrants from Italy, the Azores, Portugal, and Japan arrived to work in the orchards.
In 1897, Walter Everett Crossman bought 200 acres (809,000 m²) and began selling real estate. He advertised the area as Beautiful Murphy. Later, in the 1900s, real estate developer Walter Crossman described it as "the City of Destiny". Also in 1897, Encina School opened as the first school in Murphy. Previously, children in the town had to travel to Mountain View for school.
In 1901, the residents of Murphy were informed they could not use the names Encinal or Murphy for their post office. They decided to use the name Sunnyvale for the name of their town.
Sunnyvale continued to grow and in 1904, dried fruit production began. Two years later, Libby, McNeill & Libby, a Chicago meat-packing company, decided to open its first fruit packing factory in Sunnyvale. Today, a water tower painted to resemble the first Libby's fruit cocktail can label identifies the former site of the factory.
Also in 1906, the Joshua Hendy Iron Works relocated from San Francisco to Sunnyvale after the company's building was destroyed by fire after the 1906 earthquake. The ironworks was the first non-agricultural industry in the town. The Joshua Hendy Iron Works switched from producing mining equipment to other products such as marine steam engines.
In 1912, the residents of Sunnyvale voted to incorporate, and Sunnyvale became an official city.
Fremont High School first opened in 1923. It served as a military base before the school opened and through World War II. Planes flying to and from Moffett Field, which opened in 1933, commonly stopped here for fuel top-offs. A 1948 yearbook shows a military aircraft parked at one of the buildings as students watch nearby. Fremont High School has old military buildings on its campus including a Quonset hut installed after WWII, now used as a wrestling team facility.
In 1930, Congress decided to place the West Coast dirigible base in Sunnyvale. This naval airfield was later renamed Moffett Naval Air Station and then Moffett Federal Airfield and is commonly called Moffett Field.
Following the war, the fruit orchards and sweetcorn farms were cleared to build homes, factories and offices. In 1956, the aircraft manufacturer Lockheed moved its headquarters to Sunnyvale. Since then, numerous high-tech companies have established offices and headquarters in Sunnyvale, including Advanced Micro Devices and Yahoo. The first prototype of Pong, one of the first arcade videogames, was installed in Sunnyvale in August 1972, in a bar named Andy Capp's Tavern, now Rooster T. Feathers. In 1970, the Census Bureau reported Sunnyvale's population as 94.6% white and 3.7% Asian.
By 2002, the few remaining orchards were demolished and replaced with homes and shops. However, there are still city-owned orchards, such as the Heritage Orchard next to the Sunnyvale Community Center.
In 1979, an indoor mall called Sunnyvale Town Center opened in what used to be a traditional downtown shopping district. After years of successful operation, the mall started to decline in the 1990s. After numerous changes in plans and ownership, the mall was demolished in 2007, and a new downtown shopping district is being constructed in its place.
Sunnyvale celebrated its one-hundredth anniversary, on August 25, 2012.