Corona, founded at the height of the Southern California citrus boom in 1886, is advantageously situated at the upper end of the Santa Ana River Canyon, the only significant pass through the Santa Ana Mountains. The town of Corona once laid claim to the title "Lemon Capital of the World." A museum there presents the lemon's former role in the local economy. The city derived its name (and its nickname, The Circle City) from the curious layout of its streets, with a standard grid enclosed by the circular Grand Boulevard, one mile in diameter. The street layout was designed by Hiram Clay Kellogg, a civil engineer from Anaheim who was an influential figure in the early development of Orange County.
The origin of the city was in May, 1886, when the South Riverside Land and Water Company was incorporated, its members including ex-Governor of Iowa, Samuel Merrill, R.B. Taylor, George L. Joy, A.S. Garretson, and Adolph Rimpau, as a citrus growers' organization, it purchased the lands of Rancho La Sierra of Bernardo Yorba, and the Rancho Temescal grant and the colony of South Riverside was laid out. They also secured the water rights to Temescal Creek, its tributaries and Lee Lake. Dams and pipelines were built to carry the water to the colony. In 1889 the Temescal Water Company was incorporated, to supply water for the new colony. This company purchased all the water-bearing lands in the Temescal valley and began drilling artesian wells.
In 1896, South Riverside was renamed Corona for Grand Boulevard, a 3 mile circular drive that is around the central city and was the site of three international automobile races in 1913, 1914 and 1916.
The city of Corona has been popular among celebrities drawn to its upscale areas and relative privacy compared to Los Angeles. Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball spent time at their ranch, located in south Corona, and played golf often at Cresta Verde Golf Course in the northeastern section of the city. After their divorce, Mr. Arnaz continued to live in Corona.
In recent years Corona has been known as the Gateway to the Inland Empire. Prior to the 1980s, the city was a largely agricultural community, dominated by citrus orchards, ranches, and dairy farms. High real estate prices in Los Angeles and Orange counties made the area's land desirable to developers and industrialists, and by the late 1990s Corona was considered a major suburb of Los Angeles.
Corona has become a bedroom community for Orange County, Los Angeles, and the larger cities of the Inland Empire. The development of commerce and industry in the city has been accelerated by access to the area via the Riverside Freeway, with many firms leaving northern Orange County to be closer to their employees' homes in Corona and Riverside. The construction of the nearby Chino Valley Freeway has linked Corona to the Pomona and San Gabriel valleys.