Newark City Hall is located at 37101 Newark Boulevard, Newark, CA 94560; phone: 510-578-4000.
Newark was initially settled by Native Americans, including the Ohlone Indians. Ancient shell mounds in the area suggest a Native American presence as far back as 4,000 BC. The Ohlone people lived by hunting, fishing, and gathering in an area extending from the coastal Bay Area to the lower Salinas Valley. The Ohlone population declined significantly following the arrival of European missionaries and settlers in the late 1700s. Mission San Jose was established in 1796, 6 miles to the east.
In 1821, Mexico gained its independence from Spain. Alta California became a province of Mexico, with Monterey (California) as the capital. The missions were abolished between 1834 and 1836, and the indigenous population continued to decline. Lands around Mission San Jose were gradually parceled out as ranchos to private landowners, and the mission itself was sold to private interests. The Mexican period came to an end in 1846, as American efforts to acquire California accelerated and ultimately led to war. Gold was discovered in California soon after, leading to the first great increase in the Bay Area's population.
By the time California became a state in 1850, landings had already been established on the shore of San Francisco Bay in the Newark vicinity. In 1853, Mayhews Landing included warehouses for wheat, hay, and coal. By 1856, the nearby Mayhew Ranch included 1,500 acres of farmland. The ranch was eventually acquired by the Perrin brothers, who drew up plans for a town site near what is now the intersection of Thornton and Jarvis Avenues. Following several sales of the property to different owners and an unsuccessful land reclamation effort, the town site was moved to coincide with a bend on the newly constructed South Pacific Coast Railroad. Its owner named the city 'Newark' after the castle "Newark" in Port Glasgow, Scotland. In 1876, the railroad and dairy were purchased by a San Francisco capitalist, Alfred Davis, and a Comstock millionaire, Jim Fair. A railroad station, roundhouse, and railroad shop were erected in the area near Thornton Avenue and Sycamore Street. The railroad was extended south to Santa Cruz and north to Alameda, where it connected to the San Francisco ferry. Service began in March 1878. Completion of the railroad sparked additional development, including a railroad car-building firm, a foundry that manufactured Wedgewood stoves, and salt production facilities. By 1880, Newark had a population of 200 people.
Newark remained a small agricultural and manufacturing center through the late 1800s and early 1900s. The settlement was part of Washington Township, an unincorporated area covering most of southwest Alameda County. In 1953, a group representing the chambers of commerce of Centerville, Irvington, Mission San Jose, Niles, Warm Springs, and Newark commissioned a study to incorporate all six communities into one city. However, participants from other communities asserted that Newark would be the industrial center of the newly formed city, and that its vacant land would receive industrial zoning. The Newark Chamber rejected this push and initiated its own incorporation drive, resulting in the creation of the City of Newark in 1955. The remaining five cities incorporated as Fremont in 1956.
The city grew rapidly in the years following incorporation. The population was 6,033 in 1955. It grew to 9,911 in 1960 and to 27,157 by 1970. The Nimitz Freeway was opened to traffic in 1958, placing Newark within commute distance of the Bay Area's major job centers. New housing tracts such as Lido Faire, Mowry West, Blossom Park, Newark Manor, Parkwood, Los Ranchitos, and the Lake were developed during this time period, and new schools and parks were built to keep pace with growth. Larger industries also began to move in, including Peterbilt truck manufacturing, which became the largest employer in the city by the late 1960s. The Civic Center complex was opened in 1966.
Growth continued at a slower pace through the 1970s and 1980s. NewPark Mall opened in 1980, and much of the remaining vacant land in the city was developed during these two decades. A proposal to build a freeway on the west side of the city was considered during these years. The Shoreline Freeway (Route 61) would have extended north to Oakland and south to San Jose. However, the project was ultimately removed from state and regional transportation plans due its potential environmental impacts.