History of the City of Lodi

Historic photo of Lodi City HallFounding

Lodi was first called Mokelumne. It was founded in August 1869 when the Central Pacific Railroad chose the site for a station on its new route. The town consisted of a store/post office building, a hotel, and the station. In the spring of 1870, people from neighboring towns moved to Mokelumne until, by October, there were 56 houses. 

Becoming Lodi

In 1874, the name of the town was changed to Lodi. It is uncertain why "Lodi" was chosen. Some people said it was the name of a local racehorse, others claimed that it came from the famous bridge in Italy. A third explanation is that some of Lodi's citizens came from Lodi, Illinois.

Continued Growth

Whatever the source of its name, Lodi continued to grow. The first school in town was built in 1872. The first newspaper, the Valley Review, began publishing in 1878. 

Lodi kept progressing even though a fire in 1887 destroyed the downtown area along Sacramento Street. In 1891, water and gas service was provided and electric service came ten years later. By 1895, Lodi had a volunteer fire department but law enforcement was supplied by the county and the township until 1906. A library was finally established in 1901. 

The Central California Traction Company began electric trolley service through Lodi in 1907. That was also the year of the Tokay Carnival which was held to promote Lodi's most famous product, the Flame Tokay grape. Another major attraction of the carnival was the newly-built Lodi Arch.

George Lawrence, first mayor of Lodi


Probably the most important event in Lodi's history occurred in 1906. By a vote of two to one, the citizens incorporated the city. Prior to this time, the government had been provided by the county and the township. Now the residents of Lodi could make their own decisions about how the town would grow. George Lawrence was elected as the first mayor in 1906.