The first official settling of Rialto appears to be in 1851 by the Mountain family, who had purchased land from the Lugo family of Rancho San Bernardino. This claim by the Mountain family appears to have been amended by the United States government, but would eventually become Rialto.

The Santa Fe Railroad came to Rialto in 1887 and at that same time, the Semitropic Land and Water Company began organizing rights in the area. It is believed that the name Rialto was chosen by Methodist arrivals at this time in honor of the Rialto Brdige in Venice, Italy. In 1888 the first school would be built and the school district (now the Rialto Unified School District) was founded in 1891.

In 1939, the Works Projects Administration’s Guide to the Golden State noted that Rialto contained several orange-packing plants. The area would continue to be largely citrus groves, vineyards, and other agriculture into the late 1950’s. Census data backs this up: in 1920 the census population was 961; in 1950 it was 3,156; in 1960 it rose to 18,567; and by 1970 is rose again to 28,370.

For today’s Route 66 traveler, this means that there are sporadic hotels, motels, and other service buildings throughout the community, interspersed with much newer structures. This continues to be the case as you proceed east through the Inland Empire to the San Gabriel Valley.

By Scott Piotrowski