History of Vernon

1905   Merchant John B. Leonis persuaded railroad executives to spur tracks off the main lines leading to and from downtown Los Angeles, and on Sept. 22 Leonis incorporated an adjacent three miles as an “exclusively industrial” city named after Vernon Avenue, a dirt road running through its center.
1907   Leonis and the Furlong brothers believed marketing Vernon as a “Sporting Town” would attract development. Entrepreneur Jack Doyle leased land from Leonis to open the “Vernon Avenue Arena” where 20-round world championship boxing matches were held, starting in 1908.  Next door, Doyle built what was billed as “The Longest Bar in the World” featuring 37 bartenders stationed along a 100’ long bar. A sign advising “If your children need shoes, don’t buy booze!” was an amusing attempt at promoting responsible drinking during a time when most of Los Angeles County was “dry,” not allowing the legal sale and consumption of alcohol.
1909   “The Vernon Tigers” joined the Pacific Coast Baseball League. Team owner Peter Maier, a prosperous local meat-packer, built Maier Park next to Doyle’s bar as the team’s home field.  The Vernon Tigers went on to win three consecutive league pennants. After 1919, Vernon refocused itself to operate as an exclusively industrial city.  Leonis opened one of two giant stockyards and meat-packing quickly became Vernon’s signature industry. A total of 27 slaughterhouses lined Vernon Avenue from Soto Street to Downey Road up until the late 1960s.
1920s-1930s   Industries including steel (U.S. and Bethlehem), aluminum (Alcoa), glass (Owens), can-making (Norris Industries), box and paper manufacturing, pharmaceuticals (Brunswig) and food processing (General Mills, Kal Kan) set up shop in Vernon. Giant meat packers (Farmer John and Swift) continued to grow during these decades. Concurrently, a strong unionized work force developed, leading to excellent middle class incomes for thousands of area families.
1932   City leadership orchestrated a local bond measure to authorize the construction of the city’s own Light & Power plant, to offer businesses low industrial electricity rates. Low-cost power and water, along with low taxes, served to attract many businesses to Vernon. By 1980, economical factors led to a complete transformation of Vernon’s industrial face.

Vernon Today

Throughout its 106-years of existence, the city of Vernon has grown and evolved to accommodate the needs of industry. Today, smaller industrial/commercial establishments including fashion design and manufacturing, food processing, plastics, metal fabrication, warehousing and distribution, and waste recycling can be found thriving in Vernon.

“Vernon holds a unique and important role as a job creator in the region,” stated City Administrator Mark C. Whitworth in a recent letter to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. “Our success at supporting our businesses results in a total regional economic impact of over $5 billion a year.”

In 2008, the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) chose Vernon for its prestigious “Most Business Friendly City” award for cities with populations under 50,000.  The year before, a Kosmont study ranked Vernon at the top of 13 industrial cities it evaluated, including Los Angeles.

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