The town of Danville is located in the San Ramon Valley of Contra Costa County , California. It is one of the incorporated municipalities in California that uses “town” instead of “city” in its name. The population was 42,039 in the 2010 census. In 2020, Danville was named “California’s safest city.”
The Regional Iron Horse Trail runs through Danville. It was the first railroad to be converted into an 80-foot (24 m) wide corridor of bike and hiking trails as well as controlled intersections. Extending from Livermore to Concord, the trail passes through Danville. Danville is also home to the Village Theater and Art Gallery, hosting children’s theatre, shows and art discussions.
Danville ‘s history has been one of change and growth for over 130 years. Often referred to as the “Heart of the San Ramon Valley,” Danville was first populated by Indians living next to the creeks and camping on Mount Diablo in the summer. Later, it was part of the San Jose Mission Grazing Land and a Mexican land grant called Rancho San Ramon.
Danville was settled and named after the Americans, drawn here by the California Gold Rush. Daniel and Andrew Inman bought 400 acres of Old Town Danville with their mining earnings in 1854, after living here two years earlier in the summer. By 1858, the community had a blacksmith, a hotel, a wheelwright and a general store, and the town people wanted a post office.
But what is the community to be called? In an article years later, Dan Inman said that “a number (of names) had been suggested.” He and Andrew rejected “Inmanville” and finally settled in Danville. According to the modest Dan, the name was chosen as much or more out of respect for Andrew’s mother-in – law, who was born and raised in the vicinity of Danville, Kentucky. Of course, he also recognized the energetic young Dan, who later became the Alameda County Assemblyman and Supervisor.
The Danville Post Office opened its doors in 1860 with the hotel owner Henry W Harris as the first postmaster. In 1862, Harris reported that there were 20 people living in the city, with 200 votes cast in the last general election. Listening to the prosperity stories found in California, people from the Midwest and East began to settle in Danville and the surrounding valleys. Most of the new residents were farmers and observed that the land in the valley was fertile and the weather was benign, an ideal place to settle. The 1869 census counted nearly 1,800 people in the combined areas of Danville and Lafayette. They squatted or bought land from Mexican and other owners and set up ranches,
Settlers raised cattle and sheep and grew wheat , barley and onion. Farms later produced hay, a wide variety of fruit crops (apples, plums, pears), walnuts and almonds. In the 1800s, horses and wagons were transported north to the docks at Pacheco and Martinez, following Road No. 2, which wounded San Ramon Creek and was almost impassable during the rainy season.
Churches, schools, farmers’ unions and fraternal lodges began as the community developed. The Union Academy, a private high school founded by the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, served the county from 1859 to 1868 when it burned down. In 1875, after a vote by the Protestants, the Danville Presbyterian Church was dedicated to what denomination it should be. The new building was described by the writers of the day as the most handsome church building in the county.
In 1873, Danville Grange No. 85 was chartered to Charles Wood as the first Worthy Master. The Grange started as a family farmer’s union and included all the Valley’s ‘movers and shakers.’ It has served as a focal point for community social, educational and political activity for years and still meets at its Diablo Road Hall.
A remarkable number of early Danville buildings remain today, such as those belonging to the Boone, Osborn, Young, Spilker, Podva, Vecki, Root, Elliott and Hartz families. The Danville Hotel and the original Grange Hall of 1874 also exist. Many early pioneer names appear in the streets and schools, including Baldwin, Harlan, Wood, Love, Hemme, Boone, Bettencourt and Meese.
When the Southern Pacific Railroad arrived in the Valley in 1891, Danville changed dramatically. Farmers built warehouses and shipped crops by rail in any kind of weather, and residents traveled to and from Danville with ease they had never experienced before.
John Hartz sold 8.65 acres of his land to the Danville station and granted land access to the depot. He subdivided and sold lots east of the station, shifting the focus of the city from Front Street to Hartz Avenue. Eventually, the bank, the drug store, the saloon, the doctor’s office and the Chinese laundry joined the houses on the street. The Danville Hotel was originally located across from the station and moved to Hartz Avenue in 1927.
After 130 years, the small settlement on the banks of the Creek has grown from a blacksmith shop to a thriving community-still changing, still beautiful and special.