Before roads were carved and houses were built, Milpitas and its surrounding areas were home to Native Americans in the Costanoan and Ohlone tribes. Living off the bounty of the land around San Francisco Bay, the Costanoans and the Ohlones prospered for hundreds of years long before Mexican or Spanish immigrants came to conquer the land.
In the 18th century, Spanish explorers surveyed the land and were the first to give Milpitas its name - milpa - or little cornfields. Three large ranches began, and two families, the Alvisos and the Higueras, built adobes in the mid-1800s which still stand today.
In 1850, the California Gold Rush began, and “American” settlers started taking over the region. In 1852, a settler from Ireland, Michael Hughes, built the first redwood-framed house in what is now Milpitas. Soon after, the first school was built, and by 1857, Milpitas had a hotel, general store and a post office.
Fruit orchards began to spring up in the 1870s, and later the region was known for its hay growing. The population continued to grow into the 1880s and settlers numbered over 1,500. But by the turn of the century, only about a third of those people remained.
Populations would remain low until shortly after World War II, when Western Pacific Railroad bought a 300 acre industrial park within the city and Ford Motor Company announced it would shift its manufacturing plant from Richmond (just north of Oakland) to Milpitas. The population grew to 825. Sewer and water service, and fire protection were set up shortly after, as was one of the country’s first integrated housing communities.
On January 26, 1954, the city was officially incorporated, after fighting off annexation attempts by neighboring San Jose. Ten years later, population grew to 7,000.
Following the computer firm boom of the 1980s and the opening of one of the nation’s largest malls in 1994, the city is now home to 80,839 residents.
Alviso Adobe Park is one of Milpitas’ hidden gems – perfect for a family or small group outing to discover the past. Built on the site of the 1837 José Maria Alviso Adobe, today this peaceful special purpose park celebrates and preserves the community’s ranching and agriculture roots with historic farm outbuildings, public art, interpretive signage, heritage trees, fruit trees, flowers and wildlife visitors. There is an interpretive exhibit – If These Walls Could Talk – that tells the adobe’s story through a dynamic visual and audio presentation that helps visitors learn about the adobe’s significance both locally and regionally.