Selma’s walkable downtown is full of tradition and history. What began as a townsite along the railroad has now sprawled into an established city. Located at the crossroads of State Routes 99 and 43, Selma is a regional hub for southeast Fresno County as well as neighboring Tulare and Kings Counties. Selma is rooted in farming and the Southern Pacific Railroad, which began in the 1870s as a branch line of the Central Pacific Railroad. The route of the Southern Pacific through California’s Central Valley gave rise to a string of small towns including Selma. A decade later, four farmers – J.D. Whitson, Egbert. H. Tucker, George Otis and Monroe Snyder – formed a partnership and developed a townsite along the railroad. They began auctioning lots and just three years later the city of Selma was formally incorporated. The town was named for Selma Michelsen (1853-1910), wife of a railroad employee who had submitted her name for inclusion on a list of candidate names prepared by his supervisor. Wheat was Selma’s first economic engine. Wheat fields were quickly displaced by orchards and vineyards. Although raisins soon became the major crop, Selma called itself the “Home of the Peach” and was also known as “A Peach of a City.” Through the 1960s. With 90 percent of U.S. raisins produced within eight miles of Selma, the city adopted the slogan “Raisin Capital of the World” in 1963.
Downtown Selma has gone through some transformations. What was once a passenger terminal is now Selma’s police station. The Park Theatre opened in 1948 next to the J.C.Penney building and had
an 800 seat auditorium with a balcony. The theatre showed first run movies and Spanish-language movies on Sundays. In 1984, the Park Theatre burned down. Today, downtown Selma remains a delightful place to visit. Its historic brick buildings and shaded sidewalks make it a gem of place to spend the afternoon walking and window shopping.