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Originally the lands of Rancho Buena Vista, Vista was founded on October 9, 1882 with an establishment of a post office. It was incorporated January 28, 1963 and became a charter city on June 13, 2007.

The Vista area was originally inhabited by the Luiseño Indians, who lived on the land until the founding of the San Luis Rey Mission in 1798. The prosperity of the mission-era declined by the 1830s with the independence of Mexico from Spain. The Mexican government began to grant land ownerships to a variety of people, thus beginning the Rancho era of California. Three ranchos were granted in the Vista area: Rancho Guajome, Rancho Buena Vista, and Agua Hedionda Y los Manos.

In the 1850s the ranchos began to fade due to changing political conditions and the scarcity of water. A growing number of settlers came to the area after California became a state in 1850 and began to create smaller agricultural holdings. One settler in the Vista area, John Frazier, applied to open the first post office and after several attempts to name the city (Frazier’s Crossing and Buena Vista were already taken), Frazier finally chose the name “Vista”. With the opening of the first post office in 1882, Vista had officially arrived.

In 1870, Bernard Delpy arrived from France to build what eventually became known as “Delpy Corners” at the intersection of today’s East Vista Way and Foothill Drive. His nephew, Jules Jacques Delpy, joined him in 1879 and together they planted several hundred acres of grapes. In 1886, they built the first successful winery in the country. The winery was shut down by the prohibition era.

Inhibited by the lack of water, Vista grew slowly through the early 1910s to less than 1,000 people. With the vote of the people in 1923, the Vista Irrigation District had the necessary funding to construct a new water supply from Lake Henshaw. New buildings in downtown sprang up almost immediately. Agriculture began to flourish with crops such as tomatoes, celery, and citrus fruits. Some hillsides were also planted for avocados and by 1948, the Vista became the “avocado capital of the world”

Following World War II, agriculture declined with an influx of growth of population and housing. The City of Vista was incorporated on January 23, 1963. The frequent housing booms of the 1970s through early 2000s greatly increased the population of Vista. Numerous apartment complexes were also built in these booms. Many light manufacturing businesses moved into the Business Park area on the south side, starting in the 1980s. In the 1990s, Wal-Mart, Target and Costco opened large stores. In 1993, Vista became involved in a national controversy when the Vista Unified School District board unsuccessfully tried to incorporate creationist, anti-evolution views into the biology curriculum.