Monday, December 26, 2011

The “Christmas Festivities” Display at the Hattie Weber: As Much About Us As About 1898 Davisville? (32)

For a number of years, a snippet from a Davis Enterprise story dated December 30, 1898 has been prominently displayed at the Hattie Weber Museum of Davis during the holidays.

Titled “Christmas Festivities,” the Christmas Eve scene and performance at the Presbyterian Church are described, as can be read in four reproductions of it in this post (images 2 through 5).

This year, the large-size version of it has even been placed in a kind of altar to the holidays. (Image 1)

Its long-term veneration and the resonance it seems to have prompts me to reflect how items do or do not achieve such iconic status.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Davis & Yolo-Solano Life in the 1910s as Glimpsed in Two Booster Publications (31)


I recently acquired a “commercial encyclopedia” of four western states that was published in 1910. The title page is reproduced in Image 1.

Measuring 12 by 15 inches and running to 196 pages, it is a lavish booster compendium featuring photographs from the Southern Pacific Railroad and Sunset Magazine (which is pretty much the same thing).

In addition to capsule profiles of counties and towns, the volume has an 18 by 26 inch foldout map of Northern California.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Slideshow History of Davis Biking Is Now Online (30)

In 2007, Ted Buehler, a graduate student in UCD transportation studies, completed an M. A. thesis titled “Fifty Years of Bicycle Policy in Davis, CA.” (Image 1)

At 159 typescript pages, it is a quite fine description and analysis of the bicycle in Davis life over an extended period.

The exposition is made all the more interesting by Buehler taking advantage of the new ease of placing digital images on word processor pages. This practice is illustrated in image 2, which is page 35 of the thesis.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A History Plaza Is Not a Sprinkler System: Confusing Technical and Value Decisions in the Central Park Remodel Process (29)

In reflecting on the history of the proposal for a history plaza in Central Park, I have begun to think the problem is that a history plaza is not a sprinkler system, but that it has been treated like one.

This is to say, the history plaza idea got defined as a technical decision of park remodeling when it should have been viewed as a serious issue of values in public policy.

Let me explain this distinction and then apply it to the case of the history plaza.

Decisions in government matters are--simplifying for clarity--of two types.   In one type, an official policy is forged out of diverse viewpoints. There is open presentation of divergent alternatives and conflicting values are accommodated. A course of action is achieved by some manner of voting.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

California Women Suffrage Centennial Exhibition at City Hall (28)

The display case near the City Manager’s office in City Hall currently has an exhibition titled “Celebrating California Women Winning the Vote.”

I call attention to this exhibition because it features events in Davis that were part of that campaign. It is thus “Davis History” and not simply history.

We read, for example, that Jeanette Rankin herself spoke in Davis “to an audience as large as was ever drawn by either one of the great parties . . . .”

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Posts on the Central Park “History Plaza” Delivered to the City Council (27)

Monday morning, I hand-delivered to City Hall one hard-copy for each Council Member of each of my three “History Plaza” posts. (These are posts numbers 18, 22, and 24.)

The posts were assembled under a cover-memo explaining why I presented these to them and the two requests I make of them. That cover-memo is reproduced here.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Questions & Answers About the History of the Proposed Central Park “History Plaza” (26)

In thinking about the odd “history plaza” being proposed for installation next to the Hattie Weber in Central Park, I began to wonder about the manner in which it proceeded through the City process of review and evaluation.

To help figure this out, I formulated some questions about that process and sent them to Anne Brunette, one of the lead city staff in the overall Central Park project.

Very promptly, she sent me an account of the process.

Because of the bearing these questions and answers have on the status of the “history plaza,” I publish both of them here.  

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Vanished World Along the Tracks North of the Depot (25)

None--I mean none--of the structures originally next to the Davis railroad tracks north of the train depot are there today. Everything in that area was demolished and replaced by the early 1970s.

This makes it hard for me--and I assume other people--to make sense of photographs taken of that area prior to, broadly, World War II. With no current points of reference visible in old photographs, we have no anchors, so to speak. Instead, we are peering into a virtually foreign country.  

For this reason, I have been especially interested in the three photos of the Thorne army of the unemployed taken on March 18, 1914. They give us a rare “ground level” perspective on what was along at least some of the track north of the depot. Correlated with other images and maps, we can begin to form a firmer sense of the early world along the tracks.

I published two of those March, 1914 images in post # 21, November 13th. Recently, David Herbst graciously sent me a scan of a third photo taken that same day in that area.
3. (David Herbst)

Now, all three can be looked at in geographical sequence. Numbered 1, 2, and 3, they move northward up the track from north of Second Street toward Fourth Street.

4. (UCD Special Collections)
Image 1 is taken just south of Third Street. We are looking west at the backs of buildings fronting G Street in the 300 block. The building that looms large on the left in Image 2 is just glimpsed to the right in Image 1. In Image 2, the train is turning at Third Street. In Image 3, we are fully into the 300 block. Fourth Street is in the distant right of the image.

5. (David Herbst)
All of this should begin to make more sense when you see at all the buildings on the right of the track (from our viewer perspective) from the air. Such a view is provided in Image 4 (which was taken in 1939). Most of the buildings seen in Images 1-3 are still there in this photo.  We are looking east with Fourth Street on the left and Third Street on the right. The buildings seen in Images 1 through 3, run from right to left across the image.

For further orientation, look now at image 5. This is a 1910 Shinkle postcard looking north up the tracks. Third Street crosses the tracks in the middle-distance. The main buildings in the first four images are seen lined up on the left along the tracks.

6. (CA State Archives)
Yet a different view is provided by Image 6, which is an excerpt from a 1909 map drawn by the Southern Pacific Railroad. Third Street is at the bottom, Fourth Street is at the top. The buildings to the left of the track between Third and Fourth streets are those glimpsed or seen in the previous five images.

For completeness, here is the reverse side of
Image 3 (David Herbst)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Toward an Authentic History Plaza in Central Park, Part II: Design Objectives & Actions (24)


This is the second of a two-part post. The first part (#22, Nov. 19, this blog) focused on design aspects of adaptively reusing the historic WPA building as a signal feature of an authentic History Plaza. This post focuses on design of the area more generally.

I think there are at last three design objectives of an authentic History Plaza and at least seven actions that can be taken to achieve them.  

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Earliest Images of the WPA Building In Central Park (23)

1. (UCD Special Collections)

One of the meanings of Davis being a tiny, rather no-place, town before World War II is that visual records of what it “was like” are available but not abundant. Some few things were rather lushly documented, certainly, in particular, the train depot, which was (and is) something of a photographer’s obsession (this blog’s post # 8, September 4, 2011).

But, many other places and buildings that have been of interest in recent years are difficult visually to document.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Toward an Authentic History Plaza in Central Park: Part 1, The WPA Building (22)

1. East Side
This is the first of a two-part post proposing an authentic, not hypocritical, history plaza north of the HW Museum in Central Park. The plaza would feature adaptive reuse of the WPA building there now. This post focuses on the building. Part II will focus on the plaza.

The other day I went over to Central Park and walked around the WPA building (aka restrooms) with the “problem” of that structure in mind.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

An Army of the Unemployed in Davis, March, 1914 (21)

I post here a second passage written for but not included in the book, Davis. The account uses Davis Enterprise editor William Henry Scott’s report to provide a summary of dramatic events in Davis on March 18 & 19, 1914.

As chance would have it, a couple of years ago I happened onto two “real photo” postcards made at the events on March 18 and that someone named Alex acquired and sent to a Mildred Moore in San Francisco.  (Making and selling such picture postcards at events was apparently not unusual at that time, although few such cards have, seemingly, survived.) They are reproduced with this post.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Davisville & the Pullman Strike of 1894 (20)

I am a member of a listserv focused on the life and works of Jack London. Recent events in Oakland have inspired London fans on that list to recall that 800 participants in Kelly’s Army (a western wing of Coxey’s Army) occupied an Oakland plaza in April, 1894.

Making Oakland’s current mayor look meek, the 1894 Oakland mayor called out the militia, deputized 1,200 new police deputies, and deployed a Gatling gun. The 800 protesters were rousted onto boxcars heading east.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mayor Krovoza Supports Postponing WPA Building Demolition (19)

This video is a 2 minute 19 second excerpt from Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza's City Council remarks in support of postponing demolition of the WPA building in Central Park.
For a full screen view, click in the lower right-hand corner.
This video can also be seen on YouTube at: 

Hypocrisy Plaza: The Plan to Replace Authentic With Sham History in Central Park (18)

We have all heard variations on the joke describing developers destroying authentic, historic places in order to replace them with ticky-tacky housing and strip malls.

The joke part is that developers sometime--in an ironic perversion--name a development for the place they have just destroyed. A demolished real thing is exploited to legitimize a shoddy new thing.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Big Bike at Russell & Anderson: Once Proud But Now Virtually Invisible Icon (17)

In 1976, a metal shop class at Davis High built a some 12-foot tall metal sculpture of a high wheeler (“penny-farthing”) bicycle that was installed in the median of Russell Boulevard just west of Anderson Road.*

The landscape there was open at that time and the sculpture was therefore a quite dramatic object. So dramatic, in fact, that a post card company made a card of it titled “The Big Bike,” as shown here.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Dingemans & Thomson Letter to the Rec & Park Commission Regarding the Central Park WPA Restroom Building (16)

October 20, 2011

TO:  Parks and Recreation Commission (please distribute to commissioners).

FR:  Dennis Dingemans, Assistant Director of Hattie Weber Museum of Davis; Mary Lee Thomson, Projects Director of Hattie Weber Museum of Davis

RE: October Agenda Item – Retain WPA Restroom Building Including Additions

Why are we writing this memo?  We are the two HWMD board members most involved in creating exhibits and managing the material artifacts of the Museum. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Davis Odd Fellows Dubiously Claim To Be the “Oldest Organization in the City” (15)

1. Excerpt from the DavisWiki

I. Some years ago, the fading chapter of the Davis Old Fellows Lodge (DOFL) was taken over by a new set of people who began, among other things, to claim that the DOFL was the oldest continuously existing organization in the Davis area, or at least in the city.

Based on my research, I think this claim is dubious at best and almost certainly false. There are at least five older such organizations in the city and six older when considering the wider area.  In August, 2010, I researched the list of the seven seen in image 1, checked it for accuracy with specialist historians, and posted my findings on the Davis History and DavisWiki websites.*

Monday, October 10, 2011

Addendum to the "Pugh Beer Letters," Post #9 (14)

In post number 9 (September 12), I published detailed scans of three of the four known Pugh "beer letters." Having now acquired the fourth letter, here is a detailed scan of it. (A calculation on the back of the letter shows through.)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Reflections on Reading the 1977 Davis Senior High School Yearbook (13)

Recently, a 1977 Davis High yearbook was auctioned on E-Bay. I collect DHS yearbooks and, not having that year, I bid on it and won.

I find it helpful to peruse the senior class pictures of these books in terms of who is later seen in Davis public life.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Davis Heritage Building Demolition/Survival Report Now On This Blog (12)

The booklet in which I report the year 2000 demolition/survival rates of 1945 Davis buildings  is now a slide-show appearing in the right side-bar of this blog.

This is a step forward in making it accessible. The booklet is out of print and previously stored online deep in the site. At that location, it is in an “assemble-your-own-booklet” form.*

All 20 pages are now separate and in sequence.

For purposes of speedier loading, the  slide-show resolution is reduced, which means less detail in the photos. But the version is still there & has higher resolution. The physical booklet is available in local libraries and at the Hattie Weber Museum. (The photos themselves are viewable--with scans available--at UCD’s Department of Special Collections.)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Collecting Davis History Artifacts: Some Vicissitudes (11)


One of my hobbies is collecting artifacts of Davis history.  I look for such items in several places, including “antique” paper shows and shops, estate sales, and E-bay auctions.

I have found that I am often the only person who cares to own such arcane items and prices are therefore low--mostly in the range of a few dollars or less.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Reminder of the 1950’s “Out With The Old” View of the Built Environment (10)

Browsing at an estate sale recently, I happened onto an original copy of the August 27, 1953 issue of the Davis Enterprise.  I bought it for 25 cents.

I like to waste my time reading this sort of thing and in doing so I encountered an editorial by Chelso Maghetti, the fellow who bought the Enterprise from William Henry Scott and appears also to have purchased Scott’s outlook.

As you can read in the graphic, Maghetti thinks the historic California governor’s mansion--which is now a state park-- is a “gingerbread high-ceiling” “monstrosity” and “eyesore.”

Monday, September 12, 2011

History By Dribbles: The W. R. Pugh Beer Letters (09)


A couple of weeks ago, a seller of “antique paper” in Michigan put a 1913 letter by W. R. Pugh addressed to the El Dorado Brewing Company of Stockton up for auction on E-bay.

I bid the required minimum, no one else bid, and I got the letter. It is reproduced here as Image 1.

Several aspects of this letter are interesting to me.

>>  I asked the seller how he came to have this letter (and three others by Pugh addressed to the same company, also buying beer or returning empties). He told me they came from a trunk in a basement in a Michigan house. He had bought the truck for “the paper” and he knew nothing more.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Davis History Art (08)


I am sometimes intrigued by the idea of “Davis history art,” by which I mean art objects that display Davis history in some fashion.

>>  I use the term “art” in two ways, narrowly and broadly. Narrowly, “Art” with a capital a is about such objects as paintings, sculptures, photographs, short stories, poems, and other such productions labeled art by credible claimers.

More broadly, art is about “crafts,” or objects of ordinary life rendered especially well, as in pottery, apparel, and various other utilitarian or decorative objects.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Davis Autobiographies as Davis History Resources (07)

Members of the large cohort of Davisites who are growing older have begun to write autobiographies. Most recently, we have Joan Callaway’s It’s An Ill Wind, Indeed. Somewhat earlier, there was Howdy Howard’s, Saved By Bedbugs!

These authors likely do not conceive their books as “Davis history,” nor do Davis history buffs ordinarily see them as works of Davis history.

Even so, I think there are at least two angles from which such autobiographies are important resources in writing Davis history, especially as regards perceiving deeper structures and larger patterns in that history.

Monday, August 22, 2011

New Exhibit at the Hattie Weber Museum (06), by Mary Lee Thomson

Photo courtesy Shilling Robotics. Their equipment
helped locate & explore the Titanic & was used in the
mapping of the bottom of Lake Tahoe.
On Saturday, August 27th, the volunteers at the Hattie Weber Museum of Davis will open a new exhibit: 
Davis Industry: Windmills to Robotics, Phase II
The exhibit will feature Davis industries, large and high tech to small and artistic, from Armco Steel to Z-world.  
An opening reception will be held at the Museum from 2 to 4 pm and will include wine tasting from local wineries.  All are invited & admission is free.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Tragic Story of the Dresbach Tank House: Better Demolition Than Degradation? (05)

1. Excerpt from Eastman B-4705, 1946
Some people seem pleased that the Dresbach Tank House has moved to a commercial establishment on a county road near Davis.  I am not.

To me, this move is another sad episode in a long series of degrading events. And that series adds up to a tragic, degradation story.

The Dresbach Tank House story reminds me of the King Kong story.  A creature minding its own business is captured, enslaved, and paraded in chains on a stage for the amusement of ticket-buying audiences.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Davis Welcoming Arch Lives! (04)

I recently received a request from an historian of Northern California, Mike Lynch, for images of, and information on, the Davis Arch. He is preparing a publication on welcoming arches on Route 99, of which there appear to have been many, and wants to include the Davis Arch.

Davis history buffs will be interested to know that Mr. Lynch’s publications include California State Park Rangers (Arcadia, 2009) and Auburn Images: The Mel Locher Memorial Photo Collection (2004). He is a 35-year veteran of California State Parks as a field ranger, supervising ranger, and superintendent. The California Law Enforcement Historical Society named him Police Historian of the Year in 2006.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Yolo County Archives Needs Your Help (03)

Yolo County is required by law to retain certain records, which is why it has a unit called an “archives.” However, and like good packrats everywhere, many years ago interesting items not required by law also began to accumulate at the archives. Some were county records whose retention dates had expired. Others were items citizens donated and officials accepted.

Monday, August 1, 2011

2nd Street 600s History (02)

An exhibit by me titled The 2nd St. 600s Over 15 Decades is currently on display at the Hattie Weber Museum of Davis (5th & C streets). 

Using varied photographs, the display strives to show major moments in that block's transformation from only four homes into a complex retail mecca.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hattie Weber Museum Profiled in the July 31st, 2011 Enterprise (01)

In its July 31, 2011 issue, the Davis Enterprise publishes a very positive and informative account of the Hattie Weber Museum of Davis.  

Written by Museum volunteer Mary Lee Thomson, the account is certainly a “Davis History Today” event and properly signaled as such on this blog. The complete text appears after the jump. JL