Monday, February 2, 2015

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Congratulations go out to Russ Dahler for being the first to identify last month's mystery spot as one of the north side windows of the Palace Hotel building (Main and Courts streets) looking into the Lunch Box restaurant. Good eye Russ. You really know your downtown.

Now for the next mystery spot.  Here are the clues:

1) There are 11 of these brick recessed rectangular spaces in this building and each is about 1foot by 6 feet.

2) This building was built in 1916.

3) The building has an early connection to automobiles.

4) At one time the building was part of Monkey Wards.

Where is this building? Good luck.  

Mooney Family & Mooney Grove Park

Hugh Baca, part of the Visalia Mooney family, shared this article from the Fresno Bee. In it some of the Mooney descendents are shown by a plaque placed in Mooney Grove on October 26, 1958. The granite/bronze marker stood near the Mooney Grove Park entrance
until 2006 when the Hugh Mooney statue was placed on the site. At that time, the bronze marker was removed from the granite rock and remounted on the new base of the Mooney statue. The park was officially designated a park in 1909 when the county purchased the land from the Mooney family. But the land was being used as picnic grounds for at least 20 years before that. The Mooney family was very generous with their land allowing people to use it regularly. Thanks, Hugh, for sharing this clipping.

A Mysterious Visalia School

Peter Neeley is working on a couple of mysteries. One involves a Visalia teacher named Vera Jones who after marriage became Vera Dice. In about 1909, Vera, shown here on the far left in this 1909 Visalia postmarked class picture, taught school in Visalia. Anyone have any history on Vera? The second mystery involves this school itself. Does anyone
recognize it? Apparently it was near Visalia. There is no indication as to its name, so help identifying it would be nice. (Also shown here is a close up of Vera.) It is interesting to me that these small schools were made up of young and older students. The older students played an important part in teaching the young ones. The older students benefited from their teaching role as well. Thanks for sharing, Peter. Let's see if anyone can help.

Biggest Milk Bottle in the World

It was called the "greatest milk bottle in the world." It stood 21 ½ ' high with a diameter at the base of about 8'. It weighed a ton, literally. When it was placed at the Hyde
Ranch Dairy, it was mounted on a 44' high tower and it was used as a long-time advertisement for the dairy which was located about where K-Mart is today. The giant bottle was a well-known landmark and a helpful point of reference for Sequoia Field airplane pilot cadets circling the area.  The bottle was made in 1926 by Isaac Clark (far left) owner of Visalia Plumbing Co. Thanks to Christine Walker Clark who shared this family photograph. Anyone know what happened to this bottle?

Secret Numbers on the Wall

Kathy Looper recently alerted me to a remodeling project going on downtown. It was at the former Mike's Camera location on the south side of Main Street just east of Court St. James Jessen, the owner of
Tazzaria and the man remodeling the building, invited me to come by for a look. The space is very historical and is part of the Jasper Harrell Building which for many years was the site of the Ernest L. Smith Drugstore and Smith Bros. Jewelry. James took me down into the basement and there he pointed out some numerical records that he found written on a
wall dating from the early 1900s. Why are these apparent financial records written on the wall? Anyone have a clue? By the way, James will be opening his upscale "hamburger joint" (his words) in the old drugstore. With all his work pending, it is obvious James will be establishing a showcase business. I for one am anxious to see what he does with this historical location and will local history play a part?  Thanks Kathy and James for your hospitality.

Directories—A Basic Tool for Historical Research

This is old news for serious genealogists and veteran historical researchers, but there are plenty of folks that are just starting out and can benefit from this information. Directories are books that are basically old telephone books, but they are much more. Yes, they are an alphabetical list of residents with occupations and addresses, and they also give spouses first names. The directories are often called "reverse directories" because in addition to an alphabetical listing of names, they give a listing of streets and identify occupants based on their numerical address on the street. So if you know that someone lived on a certain street in a certain year, but you have forgotten their name, you can search the addresses on the street and refresh your memory on the forgotten name. In later years directories provided a listing of telephone numbers, so if you just have a phone number, you could find out who had that number. Classified ads and types of business listings are included as well. Directories are a very helpful tool in research and they can also provide further investigative leads for a more indepth search. The first directory book for Tulare County is 1888. The History Room at the Tulare County Library has almost a complete set of these directories, so stop by and take a look. Volunteers can help you get started. Guaranteed, you'll have fun with these.

***Well, Judie Fleming helped solve the mystery of the Main Street clock. In Anne Bonacich's obituary, it was reported that Anne's husband and his brother bought the clock for their jewelry store. Thanks for your help on this, Judie. 

Doctors state that Visalia is in a good sanitary condition, and that there is very little sickness prevailing in the city, except in the southern portion, where a stinking slough breeds malaria. Visalia Weekly Delta, October 22, 1891

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

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Thanks for visiting Historic Happenings! If you are not on the email list, and would like to be notified via email when a new posting of this newsletter is made, please email Terry Ommen at I will add you to the list. I will never share your email address with anyone without your permission.   

Well I am amazed! Quite a few of you were able to identify the last mystery spot correctly, but Virginia Strawser was the first. Nice work, Virginia! By the way, the abandoned wooden pole mounted in the sidewalk is on the south side of Oak Street between Court and Church. I am sure this pole with nothing attached to it served a purpose at one time, but I'd sure like to know.

Okay, now for the next mystery spot. What or where is this building?  Here are your clues:
1) The wavy glass in this window could be 138 years old.
2) The window appears to have had a swinging shutter on it, based on the iron hinge pieces still mounted into the structure next to the window.
3) The building that holds this window could be the oldest commercial building still in use in the southern San Joaquin Valley.
4) The building is considered one of Visalia's Centennial buildings.

Where is this building? Good luck

Clark Street
John Clark, great grandson of Isaac Clark, shared that Clark Street was named for Isaac. The senior Clark came to Visalia and opened Visalia Plumbing Co. in the early 1900s. In addition to being a businessman, Isaac served on the Visalia City Council and was mayor from 1919 to 1923. As a result we have Clark Street in his honor.

Two Ladies Flood Picture – Mystery Solved!

For many years this photograph showing two young Visalia ladies standing in 1945 flood waters has attracted attention, but up until now, the ladies have been unidentified. This photo was one of the pictures recently shown at the 210 Café flood presentation and Fresno TV Channel 24 (KSEE) covered the story. KSEE aired this photo on their news coverage and Becky Clark saw it and recognized her mother-in-law as one of the two young ladies. She snapped a picture of the photo from the tv screen
and showed it to her mother-in-law who confirmed that in fact it was her. So thanks to Becky, we can now confirm that the young 17 year old lady on the right is Christine “Chris” (Walker) Clark and to the left is 17 year old Charlene Willaman (unsure of last name spelling.)  Chris, now 86 does not remember this flood photograph but remembers Charlene as her good friend.  She is working hard to try and find her high school friend who she believes might be living in Southern California.  I apologize for the rather unclear photograph I took of Chris and her son John and daughter in law Becky. I am embarrassed to say that the 1945 flood picture is clearer than this one I took in 2015.  Thanks Becky for your keen eye and thanks also to KSEE for being instrumental in solving this mystery.

Griggs Medicine Bottle Discovered
Richard Drath recently uncovered in his garage this A. Griggs Apothecaries bottle. This clear glass bottle is in beautiful condition and stands about 6" high. Embossed on it are the words: A. Griggs & Co. (with the company logo) Apothecaries, Visalia, Cal. Griggs owned his Visalia drug store between 1886 and 1894 in the Holt
Block (north side of Main Street between Court and Locust.) The ad shown here for his drugstore was published in the February 7, 1889 Tulare County Times newspaper. Thanks for sharing this great piece of Visalia history, Richard. By the way, a Griggs connected story unconnected to this bottle has circulated. In 1886 the Griggs family nearly lost their 4-year old son Stewart. The young boy fell into a fast moving Mill Creek near Center and Court, but fortunately was rescued by a passerby who saw the drenched youngster hanging on for dear life to weeds growing in the channel.

Visalia Municipal Hospital – A Product of the Great Depression
During the Great Depression the federal government was looking for public works projects that could put people to work. Visalia applied for several, one of which was the Visalia Municipal Hospital. In February 1936, Visalia received formal approval for funding the hospital and construction began shortly thereafter. It was designed by Fresno architect Ernest J. Kump and built by R. W. Brown Construction Co. of Madera. The building was made up of 4 wings with a rotunda in the center. The one-story brick and re-enforced concrete building (located about where Kaweah Delta Hospital stands today) had 32 beds. The construction cost was $55,000 and Visalia contributed about $29,000 of the total. In 1962 a new hospital was approved and Kaweah Delta replaced the depression era structure.

Home Builders Bring "The Monterey" to Visalia
In 1919 a group of civic-minded Visalians created Visalia Home Builders (VHB), an organization formed to assist buyers acquire and finance homes. Visalia was experiencing a housing shortage at the time and the VHB opened up tracts of land on which home buyers could build. The first tract of land they opened was in 1920 - an area bounded by Watson, Conyer, Noble and what is now the Mt. Whitney High School campus on the south. This subdivision
was called Tract #1and is now a designated historic district. In 1936 Tract #2 was finally started, delayed by the effects of the depression years. This tract of land generally was bounded by Giddings, Mineral King, Divisadero and Sierra Drive. On February 25, 1936, the VHB opened up their model (The Monterey) in Tract #2 located on the northwest corner of Burrel and Dollner. It was a 3-bedroom 1- bath home and the open house attracted over 300 people the first day to tour the state-of-the-art home. "The Monterey" continues to stand today and is in the care of its owners Darwin and Stephanie Greenfield, who have owned the home for the last 15 years or so.

C. T. Kathe – Long Time Visalia Jeweler
In about 1904 Carl T. Kathe came to Visalia and for the next 32 years he was one of the town's respected jewelers. The Missouri native married Lora Parker of Visalia in 1909 and within a few years (probably about 1913) they built their dream home on the northwest corner of Oak and Encina.  The home still stands today, although it has been remodeled a number of times. Over the years, Kathe's jewelry business was  in a couple of locations on Main
Street and one on Court Street.  As a side note, the man from Missouri is probably responsible for the placement of the antique sidewalk clock now in front of Main Street Coin Co. at 204 W Main.  I’d sure like to know more about this landmark clock as it is very iconic. Kathe died at the Visalia Municipal Hospital in 1936, the same year that brothers Charles and Bruno Bonocich bought Kathe's jewelry stores. They renamed the business Bon Brothers Jewelers and it too remained in the downtown business district for many years. The beautiful Kathe home is about 100 years old and still has much of its original charm.

***As I mentioned in an earlier HH post, I was looking for the obituary for David Bice James. Thanks to Marian Shippey Cote, I now have it. If you would like a copy, please let me know. I'd be happy to share.

***Several of you helped to identify the Sunset Apartments that are still standing today. They are occupied and looking good on the north side of W. Main Street,  just east of Hall. Thanks to all of you for your help on this one.

 Street fakirs came in for their just share of opprobrium. During the last few weeks the people of Visalia have been contributing to the support of one of these itinerant peddlers to the tune of $50 to $75 per day, while the city did not derive as much benefit from the itinerant in license fees as she does from the regular merchants. The goods sold by these street venders were declared to be the cheapest of the cheap, and all who purchased them will learn so to their chagrin. Steps may be taken to induce the city trustees to pass an ordinance requiring a license from such fakirs that would be prohibitive.  Visalia Daily Times, January 7, 1913.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

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Thanks for visiting Historic Happenings! If you are not on the email list, and would like to be notified via email when a new posting of this newsletter is made, please email Terry Ommen at I will add you to the list. I will never share your email address with anyone without your permission.   

Congratulations go out to Peggy Bragg who was the first to get the October mystery spot identified correctly. The "spot" was the plaque location commemorating Visalia's first store built in 1854 by Nathan Baker. The plaque is mounted in the sidewalk in front of the Enchanted Playhouse Theater at Main and Garden streets. Nice work, Peggy.

Here's the next one. This one is very unusual and I believe it's going to be a tough one, but I've paid attention to this site for a long time and I'd like to see if anyone else has. Here are your clues:

1) This wooden pole is permanently mounted in the sidewalk.
2) I've wondered whether it could have been connected in some way to the Visalia Electric Railroad?
3) It has a wooden appendage at the top which was used to hold an "insulator."
4) From the top of this pole one gets a birds eye view of a Tulare County Corrections Department.

Where is this pole? Bonus question: Why is it still standing?

Floods of Visalia – Own Some History
Here is an opportunity for you.  On Monday, December 8 from 7:00-8:30pm, I will present a program on the historic floods of Visalia with lots of interesting historic photographs. The 210 Café (Locust and Center streets) will host the event and the evening will include a live
auction of 11 poster size enlargements of classic Visalia flood pictures. Thanks to the generosity of Costco in Visalia, one or more of these 20" x 30" enlargements could be yours for the winning bid. And by the way, they are suitable for framing. Carl Switzer, a Visalia native, will be the auctioneer and although he is not a professional auctioneer, he is good, really good. All the proceeds from the auction will go to the 210 Café and their outreach effort. Hope to see you there. It should be fun! I will also have a few of my books there as well for sale.

Yancy Stokes Comes to Visalia
Recently Lee Coats, son of George Coats, contacted me and passed along this story. Yancy Stokes, Lee's great great great grandfather, was born in Kentucky in 1814. He lived in what was Tulare County at the time (now Kings County) and when Yancy died in 1885, he was buried in the Tagus Ranch Cemetery. On his grave was an
ornate obelisk shaped headstone. Sometime, probably in the 1940s, the cemetery was abandoned and became ag land. The headstones at the cemetery disappeared. Sometime later a ditch tender found Yancy's discarded and damaged headstone, and gave it to George Coats knowing he was a relative. Lee inherited the headstone and made it his mission to get it repaired and back in a cemetery. Visalia Cemetery was accommodating, so today the obelisk headstone is in the Stokes section of the Visalia Cemetery, of course without the body of Yancy. By the way, before coming to California, Yancy fought in the Black Hawk War in the upper midwest in 1832—the same war that young Abraham Lincoln fought in. Just curious, how does a cemetery just disappear?

The Wells, Fargo Co.  Express—A Long Visalia Tradition
Dustin Smith recently discovered some historic Visalia photographs. In the collection were some interesting old timers. One was the Wells, Fargo & Co. express office here in Visalia believed to have been on the east side of Court Street between Main and Acequia.
Zane Steuben, shown standing in this circa 1890 photograph, was the local agent and several Steuben family members had worked for Wells, Fargo over the years. Notice the wooden boardwalk. The Wells, Fargo envelope shown here originated at the Visalia Wells, Fargo office as you can see. Notice the Visalia cancellation. Thanks, Dustin, for making Wells, Fargo part of Historic Happenings.

Fox Marquee Gets Upgrade—Stays in Character
Thanks to the generosity of Visalia Heritage, Inc. and San Joaquin Valley College, Visalia's Fox Theatre has a new marquee. The old replaced one was not the original, and had been installed years after the building was built. It was somewhat modern looking, and it did not fit the character of
the 1930 building. In my opinion, the upgraded new one looks more like the original and has taken advantage of modern features, for example, LED light bulbs. To me the new one has maintained the character of the old movie house. The amazing talent of volunteer, Rich Manley and the leadership of committee chair, Dana Berry, helped make it possible. So many other people and companies had a generous hand in making this upgrade a reality. My compliments to all who recognized the importance of keeping, the original "feel" of the old theater. To see what I mean, take a look at the marquee in this 1932 picture and compare it to the new one (black background, white letters.)

George W. Stewart and His Delta Office
For many years, the Visalia-Delta newspaper was in the heart of Visalia. This ornate building sat on the eastside of Church between Main and Center streets. Proud of its newspaper's beginning, the top of the building advertises its start as "1859." The upstairs was occupied by Dr. J. J. Gussenhoven, physician and surgeon. George W. Stewart, owner of the newspaper, is the man standing in the doorway fourth from the right. By the way, Stewart is called the Father of Sequoia National Park. Thanks again go to Dustin Smith for reminding us of this important building that was torn down in the late 1960s.

Harvey House – Could it be a Fred Harvey Original?
For over six decades, Visalia was home to the Harvey House. Built about 1904 on the northeast corner off Garden and Main streets, it was a Spanish style, ornately decorated structure. Later it had a name change and it became the Hotel Harvey. It had quite a past, including rumors of ladies of the evening occupying rooms
there. Built over Mill Creek it was vulnerable to high water, and in January 1956, after Mill Creek became plugged, water bubbled up into the interior of building. I have often wondered if this old lodging house could have been one of the famous hotels in the Fred Harvey chain. Fred Harvey hotels tended to be close to the Santa Fe Railroad and our Harvey House was only about two blocks from Visalia's Santa Fe Depot. The architectural style seems to fit the Fred Harvey hotel design. This building was torn down in 1971. Could this have been a Fred Harvey built hotel? Share your thoughts.

***Still looking for more information on David Bice James, a Tulare County man and Visalian who reportedly died in Fallon, Nevada in 1907.

***In the October HH, Debbie Harland asked for information about what she remembered as the Allen Way Market by Highland School. Several of you responded including Jim Drath who wrote, "I used to ride my bicycle past there every day while attending Houston and Green Acres Schools. Allen Way runs between Stevenson, north of Grove, westbound to Turner Street, where it actually ends at the east gate to the Visalia Cemetery. The Allen Way Market was located on the north side of the road between Stevenson and Conyer. It was attached to a residence where the owners lived. When you walked into the store, they would literally walk out of their house into the market and help you. The store was a great place to get a 5 cent Snickers bar for a guy's lunch bag."

***Does anyone remember the Sunset Apartments in the 1400 block of West Main? In 1929 I learned that Dr. Lipson traded property on East Main Street for the apartments. I went by the area, but did not see anything that looked like apartments.

"The pretty school marms have captured the town." Visalia Morning Delta, December 2, 1896.