Earlimart and Pixley are communities located in southern Tulare County, California which were on the original surface alignments of US Route 99. Within Earlimart former US Route 99 was aligned on Front Road whereas in Pixley it was aligned on Main Street. Pictured above in the cover photo is the US Route 99 freeway in Earlimart shortly after it opened.
Part 1; the history of US Route 99 in Earlimart and Pixley
The history of Earlimart and Pixley are both tied to the Southern Pacific Railroad (now Union Pacific) corridor through San Joaquin Valley. The construction of the Southern Pacific Railroad through San Joaquin Valley pushed the main corridor of travel westward from the Sierra Nevada Foothills and Stockton-Los Angeles Road. Previous to the construction of the Southern Pacific Railroad travel through San Joaquin Valley was difficult due to the numerous sloughs and Tule Marshes of the Tulare Lake watershed obstructing overland travel.
What is now Earlimart was founded in the early 1880s along the Southern Pacific Railroad between Deer Creek and the White River under it's original name of Alila (information pertaining to Earlimart provided courtesy Douglas Mclntosh of Sierra Valley Cultural Planning). By 1885 the Southern Pacific Railroad constructed a depot in Alila which led to a small boom in the community. Alila would be virtually abandoned in the 1890s after being stricken by numerous fires and droughts which led to crop failure. Alila can be seen on the Southern Pacific Railroad on the 1892 T.H. Thomson Map of Tulare County.
In 1910 the Earlimart Fruit and Alfalfa Company founded Early Market Farms approximately one mile southeast of Alila. Subsequently a small community known as "Earlimart" soon began to be developed at Early Market Farms. The Earlimart Fruit and Alfalfa Company failed in their bid to convince the Southern Pacific Railroad to build a depot at the original Earlimart town site. Earlimart Fruit and Alfalfa moved their operations to Alila in 1916 which led to the community taking the name of "Earlimart."
Littleton Dalton who was one of the founders of the Earlimart Fruit and Alfalfa Company can be seen in this photo below in 1937 at the Earlimart Rail Depot. The Earlimart Rail Depot was located on former US Route 99 on Front Road.
The emergence of the automobile in the early 20th Century in California led to the 1909 First State Highway Bond Act which was approved by voters during 1910. The majority of the highways approved as part of the First State Highway Bond Act were largely well established routes of travel. One such highway was Legislative Route Number 4 ("LRN 4") which was defined as a highway from "Sacramento to Los Angeles."
The May 1930 California Highways & Public Works cites that US 99/LRN 4 was resurfaced between Pixley south to the Kern County Line. The original 15 foot Portland cement road base surface is cited to have been widened to 20 feet paved in concrete.
Earlimart and Pixley appear on US 99/LRN 4 on the 1935 Division of Highways Map of Tulare County.
The November/December 1954 California Highways & Public Works notes US 99/LRN 4 was budgeted to be upgraded to a freeway between Earlimart and Pixley during the 1955-56 Fiscal year.
The September/October 1958 California Highways & Public Works showcases the recently opened US 99/LRN 4 freeway in Earlimart.