History & Symbols



The City of Davis sits on land previously settled and inhabited by Patwin Native Americans. After disease decimated most of the native population, many of the remaining Patwins left the area in the 1830s. In the 1840s European immigrants began to settle in this area. One man in particular, William Wolfskill received a large grant from the Mexican government in 1842 that allowed him to settle from where current day Vacaville is all the way to what is now South Davis.

In the decades that followed, new arrivals to the area cultivated the area’s rich soil and raised livestock, such as cattle. Jerome and Mary Davis owned a ranch which at one time covered 12,000 acres, much of which would later be developed into the City of Davis, whose name derives from the Davis ranch.

In the 1860s, the California Pacific Railroad purchased a large portion of the ranch owned by Jerome and Mary Davis. The Davis Junction began operating in 1868, serving as an important stop on the railroad line connecting the eastern Bay Area to the rich farmlands of the Central Valley and Sacramento, allowing much improved transport for agriculture and livestock products. A north-south railroad line also increased the importance of Davisville, as the town was known until 1907, as a transport hub for the regional economy. With the increased railroad activity, the town grew like never before.

1908 saw the opening of the University State Farm near Davis, an education institution run by UC Berkeley’s College of Agriculture. As the university’s program offerings and enrollment grew, so too did Davis.

In November of 1916, a large fire erupted in Davis. Since at that time there was no fire department, this fire was especially devastating. This event showed the Davis residents that they needed to begin creating a more formal town to support needed services. In the following year the City of Davis was officially incorporated as a city commission form of government.

Following the city’s incorporation in 1917, the 1920s saw the development of local governance structures, such as planning commissions and the establishment of a City Council. Paved and lighted streets, as well as sewage and water systems were installed during this period.

In 1962, the university became a general campus of the University of California system. The following decades witnessed a large population and construction boom, reflective of trends observable in many other parts of California. Ultimately however, a more growth-conscious attitude took hold, contributing to the Davis’ reputation as a community highly concerned with finding a balance between environmental considerations and growth.

Today the City of Davis is a university-oriented city of over 66,000 residents. Specific planning decisions made in years past have led to the development of a city widely considered to be one of the most bike-friendly in the country. As the City moves forward, the close relationships between students and city residents will surely continue to strengthen the close college-town community that has arisen over the past 150 years.


Davis Symbols

Highwheel Bicycle

Davis is the only city in the United States that features a high-wheeled bicycle in its city logo. Davis is regularly named as the most “bicycle friendly” town in the United States by the League of American Bicyclists and various publications.

Learn more about how the highwheel bicycle became a symbol of the City of Davis...

Golden Lupine

In the 1970’s, the City of Davis City Council designated the Golden Lupine as the official Davis City flower. Lupinus densiflorus var. aureus 'Ed Gedling' (also referenced as Lupinus microcarpus ;var.densiflorus 'Ed Gedling') is native to the western portions of California.

In 1983, the late Mary Foley Benson, a highly respected scientific illustrator and artist donated an original watercolor of a Golden Lupine to the City of Davis.

Learn more about the Golden Lupine and Mary Foley Benson...

The Davis Song

The Davis Song was originally written by Heidi Bekebrede in 1987 and was pressed on 1000 red-vinyl 45 rpm records. Heidi and some members of Frankie and the Fabletones re-recorded the song 'a cappella' and performed it at the City's 2007 Fourth of July festivities in Community Park.

Learn more about and listen to The Davis Song...