Monthly news & updates
January 1, 2022
Louise Mosesian's New Year's Eve Party, December 31, 1936.
Courtesy of Pop Laval Foundation.
Tune in on the first Monday of every month at 3:00 PM to Central Valley Today on KSEE 24 to see Emily Erwin interview FCHS President, Elizabeth Laval about the local history featured in the Monthly Grapevine Newsletter.
A Message from the President

Dear Friends, Supporters and Members, 
Thank you, thank you, thank you for helping us make 2021 transitional, impactful and even a lot of fun! As we added new opportunities, such as our virtual curriculum, Time Travelers, a wide-reaching and ongoing video Oral History Project, Fields of Fresno Agricultural Tours and Mystery at Kearney Mansion events, as well as revived our favorite Christmas at Kearney Holiday display, your response has been tremendously encouraging. I think it is fair to say that people in the Valley truly do LOVE HISTORY, especially when presented in engaging and unique ways
With that in mind, we will be crafting our 2022 initial Calendar of Events to help with your planning. We will also be instituting a Members’ Early Bird Opportunity so that our donors have first selection of our events that have literally been selling out. Oh, yes, you will need to become a member of the Society. May I suggest you visit THIS LINK and become a History Hero monthly donor right now? Start 2022 with a generous deed that will be good for you AND the FCHS. We have some big goals to reach in the new year.

I have spent the last few days researching Fresno County in 1921 and getting to know what the prognosticators thought would be happening in 1922. What were the issues of the day a century ago? What was the outlook for the year ahead? Since COVID-19 became a part of our global vocabulary, the Fresno County Historical Society has been crafting, as you may know, a LIVING ARCHIVE for the current pandemic. This involved researching the 1918 pandemic and the parallels put so many pieces of the puzzle together for us. So, I thought it was a perfect time to scope out what the newspaper we would have been reading on this New Year’s Day had to say. Radio was still several years away but inching closer. Still, the print media ruled the world – as hard as THAT is to imagine a mere ten decades later. 

Here is the Editorial that ran in The Fresno Morning Republican newspaper on New Year's Day 1922. And please remember, as always, spelling, grammar and punctuation has been left as published…

Farewell to 1921 and welcome to 1922 comes to the citizens of central California at a time when they can be glad of themselves and of their neighbors and of the world. We have been a blessed people both in what we have had in 1921 and what we have reason to expect we shall have in the coming year.

It has not been a year of unalloyed prosperity. But it has been a year for our communities in which the fruit of our labors has been multiplied by a fair combination of good fortune from conditions over which we have had no control and of a large measure of good will and energy that we have contributed by ourselves.
In a material way, the year that we have just gone through has been marked by a notable expansion of business. The people of central California are demanding more for their money than ever before. They have been getting by their labor more out of the soil. And they have been demanding better living as a fruit of their toil. There has been in the last five years a manifold increase in the facilities for distributing in central California the goods that we get from other parts of the state, the United States and the world. We expect to have a better assortment of goods, presented in a more convenient way. And we are getting there.
We are fast increasing transportation facilities. In Fresno county, our general road system is virtually completed, with only the need in the next few years of extending and strengthening it. While road building has been at a standstill, we have practical evidence that there will be an increase in mileage in the next few months that will make transportation as nearly perfect as feasible. In all parts of the San Joaquin Valley, the need of perfection in transportation has been realized, and the people have approved the investment of public capital in roads wherever a return on them is apparent.

In the matter of cooperative undertakings, the year shows renewed support to the raisin, the peach and fig and other institutions. A most notable development was the expansion of the sales department of the California Associated Raisin company’s activity into the retails trade, so that the steady food faith of the producers of raisins is extended into every city and village where raisins are to be produced. The popularization of the five cent raisin packages has created a demand that we have not been able to fulfil. The development of new and attractive methods of marketing figs has been a notable step in the promotion of central California industry. The determination of the Sugar Pine Lumber company to develop new areas of timber and to manufacture the logs into finished products here in the valley has been a step toward the larger humanization of industry as well as adding much to the total capital of the district.
Incidentally, the fact that the City Commission of Fresno is now in course of completing the paving of every foot of street within the triangle formed by the Southern Pacific railroad, the Divisidero street and Angus street, the ‘old city,’ is an indication of how far and how fast the capital value of the city has advanced. There has been marked events in the growth of education and the establishment of the new State Institution of high rank and of distinct standing. High school education all over the valley has been carefully enhanced everywhere by the number of well equipped and overflowing schools.
We shall sing a hymn of rejoicing for our prosperous, ambitious and thriving valley. In the year 1922, we shall continue to be prosperous and focus on the fulfillment of old goals that have not yet been put over. Of the needs of central California, two stand out preeminently.

One is the stabilizing of our water supply. Toward the perfection of the Pine Flat enterprise, many steps have been taken. The reality of the project is almost withing sight. This is a principal measure in the effort to equalize our water supply, for irrigation from the Kings river. The dozen irrigation districts must get together, in their several proportions and with their relative present supply of water, to finance the building of this great storage enterprise.
And secondly, we must make real use of the capital value we possess in our Sierras. The mountains to the back of us are the highest elevation in California. They possess the greatest area of grandeur in scenery, they have the most beautiful parks; they possess the greatest opportunity in water and power development.

There is no day like today, and there will be no year like 1922. It is ours, if we will but possess it and make use of it. Let’s Go!

Chase S. Osborn, Jr., Editor
My research into life at the New Year 100 years ago also produced these fascinating historical nuggets:

  • Civilian flying was on the rise with a 20% increase in 1921 to over 1,200 aircraft flying that year.
  • Airmail advanced in both volume and efficiency with letters sent from California to New York arriving in a mere two days.
  • Theo Pennington was starring in Robin Hood at the White Theatre and Tom Mix was debuting in Tralin' at the Liberty Theater.
  • Vaudeville featured Six Australian Kangarosters Dancing Review at their first appearance in the United States.
  • Prohibition was in full force with officers dispatched to seek out "hip pocket" violators who chose to ring in the New Year with a flask of illegal gin.
  • In business at the start of 1922, nearly every industry was suffering from excess capacity developed during WWI and from a burdensome overhead. It would take time to correct these unfavorable influences in the economy. We know from history that the 1920s were about to ROAR.

Now, I will take this opportunity to welcome everyone to 2022. We look forward to seeing you soon – especially if you become a member. Oh, and mark your calendars for Friday, March 25th – our Night at the Cocoanut Grove Gala – tickets available here. Have a wonderful January!
Warmest wishes,  
Elizabeth Laval
President, Fresno County Historical Society
Fresno County Historical Society's Night at the Cocoanut Grove
Friday, March 25, 2022
Celebrate the Golden Age of Hollywood; a decade that gave voice to films, filled the radio with fireside chats and saw America tested and our country rise to accomplish more, be more and do more than any decade before. Party like a movie star, rub shoulders with gamblers, dance to big band jazz and swing all night long at the Fresno County Historical Society’s Night at the Cocoanut Grove on March 25, 2022 at The Grand 1401.

This special evening features dinner, dancing, live entertainment, gaming tables, custom cocktails and a chance to step back in time to experience an old Hollywood party full of glamour and excitement. Don't wait - secure your tickets today! All proceeds benefit your Fresno County Historical Society.

Made Possible by: Sayre Miller, John Chandler, AGAPE Planning Partners, INC. and The Grand 1401.
Our Valley is home to a number of incredible sites and buildings. However, there is a lot of confusion over which historic designations actually prevent a structure from being demolished or even substantially altered in appearance. Let’s start at the top.

The nation’s official list of cultural resources is called the National Register of Historic Places. In 1966, the National Historic Preservation Act was passed authorizing this list. In order to be considered for the list, a property, site, or object must be at least 50 years old. The criterion for listing falls into several categories: significance in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, and culture; association with a noteworthy event or person; representative of a type, period or method of construction or the work of a master; or may have given or may yet give, information from prehistory or history. 

There is quite a process to be qualified to use this designation and a daunting number of steps. Most nominations to the National Register are made through a State Historic Preservation Office. Applications can be submitted to a SHPO from property owners, historical societies, preservation organizations, governmental agencies and other individuals or groups. The journey onto the register is quite arduous Fresno County is well represented. We’ll start with a few and share more in future newsletters.

Oh, and, by the way, our own beloved Kearney Park and Mansion was proud to be successfully selected and listed on March 13, 1975!
Fresno City Water Tower at O and Fresno Streets - listed October 14, 1971
In 1894, this structure was designed by George W. Maher in an American Romanesque style. From its completion until 1953, the tower was an integral part of Fresno’s water system. Built of brick, its water tank had a storage capacity of 250,000 gallons.
George Washington Mayer, a Chicago architect, based the design on the Chicago Water Tower. Mayer recalled that the Chicago fire of 1871 had destroyed the Chicago Public Library but not the Chicago Water Tower which had been used as a temporary library until a permanent one was built. Mayer's original plan for the Fresno Water Tower included a public library, but this part of the plan was not adopted. The second floor of the tower was built, but the planned third floor was never added. The Fresno Water Tower was in constant use until 1963 when the pumping machinery was no longer adequate.
In 2001, the building became the Visitors’ Center for the City and County of Fresno and is now being utilized as a cafe. Photo: September 1926 - Pop Laval Collection
Southern Pacific Railroad Depot – Tulare and H Streets – listed March 21, 1978
The Southern Pacific Railroad Depot, more than any other building in the city, represents the growth of Fresno from a barren plain into the agri-business capital of the world. The Central Pacific Railroad, which became the Southern Pacific in 1884, began a line through the Central Valley from San Francisco to Los Angeles shortly after completing its part of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869.
In November 1871 Leland Stanford, one the "Big Four" of the Central Pacific Railroad, saw A. Y. Easterby's Banner Ranch for the first time. There he saw two thousand acres of lush grain on what once had been a dry desert plain. Water had been brought to this area from the Kings River by Moses Church through a system of canals. Stanford, overwhelmed by this accomplishment and the potential of the area, said "there we must locate the town." The station at Sycamore (now Herndon) on the San Joaquin River, a few miles to the north, was moved to within two miles of the Banner Ranch. Shortly thereafter, a small wood-framed depot was constructed, and a community began to grow.
With the establishment of the City of Fresno in 1872, merchants and residents began moving from the foothill community of Millerton, settling around the depot. The railroad had laid out the townsite, naming streets and providing property for a courthouse and park. The final blow to Millerton came in 1874, when Fresno County residents voted to move the county seat to the City of Fresno. By the 1880s Fresno began to thrive. The Southern Pacific, seeing the need for extended freight and passenger service to this area, decided to construct a grander depot. In 1889, the Southern Pacific designated Fresno as its main Central Valley freight terminal; it removed the 1872 depot and replaced it in October 1889 with a spacious new passenger and freight depot. The Daily Evening Expositor on July 6, 1889, reported that "from San Francisco to Los Angeles there is no depot that can be compared with the one to be constructed in Fresno. It will be a model building of the latest style of architecture."
The 1889 depot effectively served the growing city, providing farmers and merchants accessibility to larger markets. Here the Chamber of Commerce had a special exhibit room showing the traveler what Fresno was like, and here immigrants left the train seeking a new life in a new land. Truck transportation and decreasing passenger traffic forced the depot's closure in 1971. One of only two Queen Anne-influenced stations in California and a symbol of Fresno's founding in April 1872, it remains one of Fresno's most significant historical and architectural landmarks.
The Southern Pacific Railroad Depot is an unusual departure from the traditional Southern Pacific architectural style. Evidence suggests that citizens of Fresno in 1888 rejected the original plans for the depot, which may explain why it was not constructed in the rectangular box style prevalent throughout the rest of the San Joaquin Valley. However, a major expansion took place sometime between 1914 and 1929. Other alterations occurred during the first half of the 20th century that changed the structure’s look significantly. The interior of the depot was remodeled concurrently with the exterior, and very little remains of the original 1889 interior. The waiting room contains decorative ceiling molding, oak door and window framing, and an inlaid tile floor. The only original brick walls still visible are in the freight section.
Photo: September 9, 1917 - Pop Laval Collection
Fresno Brewing Company Office and Warehouse – 100 M Street – listed January 5, 1984
This two-story brick building, built in 1907, is all that survives of the Fresno Brewing Company, originally a complex of buildings occupying twenty acres. The six-story brewery proper was considered a skyscraper when it was built in 1900 by Ernst Eilert from Wisconsin. The Eilert family brewed beer from 1900 until the beginning of Prohibition in 1919. During Prohibition, Eilert Products bottled non-alcoholic drinks, but returned to beer production upon Repeal in 1933. In 1942, the brewery complex was purchase by Grace Brothers Brewery of Santa Rosa, California.
In 1955, the brewery building was demolished. The surviving Fresno Brewing Company Office and Warehouse building is one of the oldest industrial buildings in Fresno and one of the few surviving early 20th Century buildings constructed entirely of brick, a construction technique once common in Fresno. Designed by Eugene Mathewson in a Romanesque style, the structure contained a speakeasy during prohibition, which was enacted less than one month after this photograph was taken. Photo: December 12, 1919 - Pop Laval Collection
San Joaquin Light & Power Corporation Building – 1401 Fulton Street – listed January 3, 2006
The San Joaquin Light and Power Corporation (SJL&P) Building, designed by Richard F. (R.F.) Felchlin, was constructed between 1923 and 1924 in the Italian Renaissance Revival style. The structure symbolized the significance that the pioneering power company had attained by the early 1920s. When ground was broken for the SJL&P Building with an elaborate ceremony on September 27, 1922, The Fresno Bee called it "Fresno's Champion Skyscraper." A monumental anchor to the northeast end of Fulton Street, the building is symbolic of the culmination of the SJL&P's success in distributing hydroelectric power to the San Joaquin Valley.
The building was distinctive in that, during its early years, it was brilliantly illuminated with colored floodlights, making it highly visible throughout the city. Forty-six different varieties of colors were arranged to create striking effects. They supposedly were the brightest illumination in the Pacific Southwest. In addition, the rooftop sign with the company name was lit. This was a monumental and significant building for the city. The SJL&P Building was erected during the building boom of the 1910s and 1920s, when Fresno was prosperous and growing rapidly. The agricultural industry was flourishing, thanks in large part to the SJL&P, which provided the required power via their transmission lines.
During this era Fresno grew from a small town to a city with a significant number of new high-rise buildings. The property boasts many architectural features Although its name has changed several times, the building continues to be a landmark of Fresno’s downtown. Photo: March 4, 1924 - Pop Laval Collection
There are lots more listed Fresno County buildings to introduce and we will continue to untangle the historical designation process in future issues and, hopefully, even find better ways to protect properties and their features through our own city and county governing bodies. 

Get your tickets now for our Fields of Fresno Ag Tours! 

Based on the sold-out success of the Fields of Fresno Ag Tour held this past September, we have scheduled a full slate of monthly tours from February to October this year. Each outing includes three stops based on what crops are in season making each excursion unique. Guests will enjoy an elegant Mansion Tour, highlighting the deep agri-business roots of the original Fruit Vale Estate, followed by a curated motor coach ride that will bring to life the Roots of our Valley. A catered lunch and tastings at designated locations are included with your ticket. Every tour also features a chance to hear directly from the farmers and business owners who work the land and grow the products that we rely on each day. Plan to join us for one or all of the series. Visit to secure your tickets today.
Call Tour Director, Candice Hill Troutman, at 559-777-4091 for large group reservations of eight or more people.
Made Possible By:
Preserving the Stories of our Diverse Communities
Video Oral Histories and the Community Photo Project

One of the most important roles of the FCHS is to ensure our local history is captured and shared for all to learn from - now and for the generations yet to come. For the past 24 months, we have been working to tell the rich and colorful tales of Italian immigrants to Fresno County - much of this display can be seen in the Fresno County Historical Museum at the Fairgrounds - and there is more to come. We were also thrilled to receive a small grant from California Humanities to help teach teens in the Sikh community how to prepare for, interview, film and edit Video Oral Histories from members of their families and elders - that project is getting underway now.

But how many of you have boxes of photos under the bed or in the closet or, even worse, in the garage that are 30 or 50 or 75 years old? You know they are family treasures but what do you do with them? The FCHS is excited to launch our Community Photo Project where, each month on an ongoing basis, we will have opportunities for people to bring some of their most prized pictures to be digitized at no charge, teach about preservation and so much more. This endeavor will launch in February in partnership with the Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce.

Visit regularly for further details.. Sponsors are welcome - if you are interested in being part of this Making History Every Day, project, please reach out to Elizabeth Laval - By saving the incredible and irreplaceable family photos and Oral Histories from across our county, we guarantee history is being told from multiple viewpoints through the eyes and images of those who were actually there. Your History Hero membership works to support this unique and unending endeavor!