Saturday, March 7, 2015

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Pete Cowper is the winner! He was the first to correctly identify the last mystery spot as the 210 Café building or the Studebaker building as it was called in its day located at Locust and Center streets. Nice work, Pete!

Okay, here are the clues for the next one:
1) This building was built in 1921.
2) It started as a health related facility and it continues so today
3) The local architect for this Main Street structure was Harry Michaels and the contractor was Noble & Toothacre.
4) Mrs. Medda V. Keener lived here.
Where is this building? Good luck.

Sandy Warren—He Made Lots of Sweet Music
Recently I met with Lee Otto Warren to talk about his father who is also Lee Otto Warren. Senior was born in 1910 and was probably known more by his nickname, Sandy Warren. Sandy was quite a musician and he lived on Center Street near Taylor's Hot Dog Stand. He attended Visalia High School but dropped out in his senior year to join Augie Schultz and the Hayseed Band. He played multiple instruments over the years, was artistic and at various times, worked as a ranch cowboy. During his years as a musician he played with various local bands including
the Sleepy Heads, Smokey Mountain Rangers, Hayseeds and Rolling Stones (no, not those Rolling Stones). Sandy performed frequently at the KTKC radio station in Visalia. By the way, Sandy entered the military service in 1939 and was discharged in 1943 with a full disability. He died in 1966 and his family has kept his musical instruments. In this group photo, Sandy is on the far left and the band is called the Smokey Mountain Rangers. The other photo is Sandy working the microphone solo. Does anyone recognize any of the other band members? Thanks Lee for sharing some of the story of your father.

The Waste of War – A Civil War Veteran Visalia Doctor
Native Visalia Carole Mathewson (now of Payson, Arizona) has recently gone to press with a Civil War novel based upon the lives of her great-grandparents who served in the Civil War. Dr. Harley P. Mathewson, a graduate of Dartmouth Medical School, served as a Union surgeon from the beginning of the war until several months after the war had ended. His wife, Mary Sanborn Mathewson, a nurse, was beside him throughout the war. In order to write story lines, Carole has researched all the
battles, campaigns and hospital in which the duo served. Dr. Mathewson and his wife joined his brother Arthur in Visalia in about 1893. He practiced medicine in Visalia from 1893 until his death in 1901. He and his wife were interred in Arlington National Cemetery. The writer's background includes many years as a secretary (executive and legal) and a number of years as a newspaper reporter/copy editor. The Waste of War by Carole Emma Mathewson is available online through and in printed form and as an e-book. In printed form the book sells for $17.99. The doctor's shingle is shown here (circa 1897) on the Main Street side of the Elias Jacob Building at Main and Church streets where he had his office.

2nd Floor Archaeology Reveals Hidden Sign
Some time back, Michelle Wiebe, owner of Pacific Treasures in downtown Visalia, alerted me to an interesting discovery she made on the second floor of her building at 219 W Main Street.  The building appears to have been built before 1912, however, I cannot find its construction date.  Over the years the front of the building has been modified. At one time the second story had windows facing Main Street, but they are now
covered with a façade. Since at least the 1940s, it has been known as the Cross Building where Robert F. Cross had has real estate and insurance office. By the mid 1950s the upstairs rooms were called the Cross Apartments. At that time Lloyd F. Fletcher, a local architect, had his office on the second floor. And his name could be seen painted on the window advertising his services. While Michelle was looking in the vacant upstairs, she discovered the window painted sign showing his name, now covered with the facade. This is what she found with the partial name of Fletcher. It's not visible today from the outside. Thanks, Michelle, for your attic archaeology.

John Bergman Discovers A Rare Mooney Grove Postcard
John Bergman recently found this neat old postcard. The front shows a grove of oak trees and the caption says, "An oak grove owned by the county, purchased for a park site, near Visalia, Cal." The back says: Published by Newman Postcard Co., Los Angeles and it says Made in Germany. The unused postcard gives no direct clue as to where  this grove was located, but given
the fact that the land that is Mooney Grove Park was purchased by the county in 1909, it really has to be Mooney Grove.  The other park possibility is Cutler Park, however the land that it is located on, was donated by the Cutler family to become a park. The county did not purchase the land. Since the caption on the postcard says "purchased," it leads me to believe the postcard is Mooney Grove Park.  Thanks John for sharing this postcard – one I had never seen before.

Wunder Bar—A Wunderful Discovery
As everyone knows, Link's clothing store in the old Sweet building downtown, has closed its doors and that part of the Sweet building is going through a remodel. In the course of the construction, Tom Link
noticed that the workers had unearthed a piece of early Visalia history. The Link's store was pretty much on the exact location of the Wunder Bar—a Visalia "watering hole" for many years. As you can see, the entrance to the saloon/restaurant had Wunder Bar printed in tile on the floor at the entrance. If only these tiles could talk. Thanks Tom for your good eye for history.

Verfurth—A New One for Me
Recently I was looking in the 1926 Visalia Directory classified section when I spotted this picture. The name Verfurth is not a local name that I am familiar with, so when I saw it, it caught my attention. The building at one time housed the local Dodge
dealership. The structure still stands today, I believe as part of Kaweah Delta on the southwest corner of Acequia and Locust streets. The unique 3-diamond pattern at the top of the building clearly identifies it as the same old timer that is there today. The more contemporary photo of the building included here is one I took in 2009. Does anyone recognize the name Verfurth in Visalia history?

***I was recently contacted and asked about a pioneer who the inquirer says was born in Visalia in 1855. His name was Jerome Frank Reno. Anyone know anything about him?

***For those interested in history of the old and long- gone Visalia House, you can go to the February 2015 Lifestyle Magazine page 12 and read about it. It can also be found on line at

***In the last HH I featured a photograph of an old school allegedly near Visalia. A few of you suggested it might be Venice Hill School before the bell tower was added. I haven't been able to confirm this, but if anyone can help in doing that, I'd appreciate it.

***Dennis Whistler, an architect here in Visalia, is looking for an older photograph of the R. A. Mahoney brick building, later the Mooney and O'Dell Ford dealership located at Center and Garden streets. Anyone have a photograph to help Dennis?

Mrs. King, the woman hobo who was arrested in Goshen, was arraigned in Justice Buckman's court yesterday morning and pleaded guilty. She was given a floating sentence. She left on the evening train for Goshen. Visalia Daily Morning Delta, November 18, 1893

Monday, February 2, 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.   

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.