Cupertino owes its earliest mention in recorded history to the 1776 expedition led by the Spanish explorer, Captain Juan Bautista de Anza. Starting in Sonora, Mexico, De Anza led a group up the coast of California aiming to establish a presidio (fort) on San Francisco Bay. Leaving the majority of the party of men, women and children in Monterey to rest from their travels, De Anza and his diarist and cartographer, Franciscan priest, Pedro Font and 18 other men pressed on through the Santa Clara Valley in late March towards their San Francisco destination.
The Town Gets a Name
The village of Cupertino sprang up at the crossroads of Saratoga-Sunnyvale Road (now DeAnza Boulevard) and Stevens Creek Road. It was first known as West Side, but by 1898, the post office at the Crossroads needed a new name to distinguish it from other similarly named towns. John T. Doyle, a San Francisco lawyer and historian, had given the name Cupertino to his winery, in recognition of the name bestowed on the nearby creek by Pedro Font. In 1904, the name was applied to the Crossroads and to the post office when the Home Union Store incorporated under the name, The Cupertino Store, and moved to the northeast corner of the Crossroads
Many of Cupertino's pioneer settlers planted grapes in the late 1800s. Vineyards and wineries proliferated on Montebello Ridge, on the lower foothills, and on the flat lands below. Around 1895 the flourishing wine industry was struck by phylloxera (a root louse). It virtually destroyed 75% of the vineyards in 5 years. A few of the more substantial vineyardists resorted to grafting, while many others switched to French prunes (prunes are a type of plum which dries without spoiling), peaches, apricots, cherries, plums, walnuts, and almonds.
As these orchards flourished the valley became known for the spring profusion of blossoms. Many more people passed through the Cupertino area first by electric railway and later by car to view all the blossoms in the "Valley of Heart's Delight." Because of the electric railway, the Monta Vista area of Cupertino developed. Monta Vista was the name of its first housing tract.
The Town Incorporates
In the late 1940's, Cupertino was swept up in Santa Clara Valley's postwar population explosion. Concerned by unplanned development, higher taxes and piecemeal annexation to adjacent cities, Cupertino's community leaders began a drive in 1954 for incorporation. Cupertino rancher Norman Nathanson, the Cupertino - Monta Vista Improvement Association and the Fact-finding Committee, played important roles in this movement. Incorporation was approved in a September 27, 1955 election. Cupertino officially became Santa Clara County's 13th City on October 10, 1955.
Business Begins to Thrive
A major milestone in Cupertino's development was the creation by some of the city's largest landowners of VALLCO Business and Industrial Park in the early 1960's. Of the 25 property owners, 17 decided to pool their land to form VALLCO Park, 6 sold to Varian Associates, a thriving electronic firm founded by Russell Varian, and 2 opted for transplanting to farms elsewhere. The name VALLCO was derived from the names of the principal developers: Varian Associates and the Leonard, Lester, Craft and Orlando families. Today, Cupertino houses some of the largest high-technology firms in the world, like Apple Computer, Inc. , Hewlett Packard and rapidly growing companies such as Symantec and NetManage.
Until the mid-1960s, Cupertino remained largely a town of ranches and estate vineyards. Then two things happened: De Anza College opened, and soon after, computers came on the scene.
The college, named for the great Spanish explorer whose cartographer named the creek from which the city took its name, occupies a 112-acre site that was the location of another winery built at the turn of the last century, called Beaulieu by its owners, Charles and Ella Baldwin. Their mansion has become the California History Center.
With 26,000 students, as well as its popular Flint Center and Minolta Planetarium, De Anza College has become a hub of activity in the city, which has no real downtown.
Apple Computer arrived in Cupertino in the late 1970s, and has remained in the same location through all its ups and downs. It's now spread out over dozens of buildings off De Anza Boulevard, not far from where Apple co-founder Steve Jobs went to high school. The city has since become home to Portal, Hewlett-Packard and many other high-tech firms. Vallco Park, now known mainly as a retail shopping center, was originally a business park developed in the 1960s by Varian Associates.
Vallco is just a few blocks from where the little village of Cupertino sprang up at the crossroads of Stevens Creek Road (now a boulevard) and the old road to Big Basin's redwood mills, now called De Anza Boulevard. Cupertino's growth obliterated not only the original names but many of the old landmarks, replacing them with a proliferation of shopping malls. Mervyn's Cupertino Crossroads now occupies the place where the city's first post office, blacksmith shop and general store once stood, replacing them with chain stores and restaurants.
Today, most nightlife is over the border in less residential San Jose -- which had begun to spread tentacles across the valley in the postwar years. Fear of annexation caused Cupertino to incorporate in 1955, and the population has since grown tenfold, to more than 52,000. Cupertino was motivated to set its original boundaries by residents who were concerned that nearby cities' attempts to incorporate the area would submerge the community's distinctive qualities and diminish home rule. In this way, "community character" has been an integral aspect of Cupertino since it was established.
Today, the private sector in Cupertino is dominated by high-tech electronics and computer corporations. The City serves as a corporate headquarters and center for research and development. Virtually no manufacturing takes place in the City, because land and living costs are too high. Representatives of corporate businesses indicate that their companies enjoy a competitive advantage by having facilities in Cupertino. This is because highly skilled, sought-after employees prefer working and living in the Cupertino area, with its moderate size and unique, balanced mix of high technology firms, retail center, open space, quality schools and residential areas.