Sunday, December 30, 2012

Review of Preservation Politics by Bill Schmickle (93)


Several months ago I received an ad from AltaMira Press for a new book titled Preservation Politics: Keeping Historical Districts Vital.

Curious but uncertain about its quality, I asked the publisher to send me a gratis copy for possible review in this blog. To my surprise, it did.

As it turns out, I am happy to have the book and to review it favorably.

I am happy because Mr. Schmickle rejects the doctrinaire piousness and denial that has characterized much writing (and action) on historical preservation and starts to come to grips with the fact that the American historic preservation enterprise is in decline.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Unique Historic Preservation Task of the College Town: Commemorating Scholarship Not Only Citizenship (92)

In most and ordinary communities, historic preservation is very much about commemorating outstanding residents (as well as, of course, signal events and remarkable architecture).

The commemoration of residents focuses on their citizenship, which typically means contributions to political, educational, charitable and other local community institutions. Thus, long-time elected government officials, educators, and workers in charitable endeavors figure prominently in historic preservation commemorations.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Researching Early Davis Buildings and People: Two Lists of Search Actions (91)

In the course of doing Davis history I have sometimes found it important to assemble the story of a particular older Davis building. A similar need has on occasion also arisen regarding the biography of an early Davis resident.

At first, I pretty much poked around in the dark with regard to both buildings and people. But over time I have developed routines of a sort for both tasks and these often achieve reasonable results.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Historical Commission Declares 315 D Historically Insignificant: Do the Facts Support that Action? (90)

At the November 26th meeting of the City of Davis Historical Resources Management Commission (HRMC), city planners asked that commission to declare that the 1913 home at 315 D Street “does NOT meet . . . criteria for historical significance.”
The Planning Department’s written evidence in support of this action consisted of four unnumbered pages termed an “evaluation” written by a contract-research organization hired by that department and dated June 10, 2008. These four pages and the larger document can be read online here:

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Davis Tower Then and Now (89)

Several weeks ago, a seldom seen Shinkle postcard of the “Davis Tower” went on Ebay auction.

Two aspects of this event were and are of particular interest to me.

One, the card presented such a clear, c. 1915 view of the Tower I thought it might feature in a nice “then and now” photo-pair. So, I took a screenshot of the card and went over to the train station and photographed the Tower.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Ben Madson One More Time: Pragmatic Realist or Inclusionist Champion? (88)

The question of how to characterize Ben Madson’s action in the City Council Anti-Japanese Resolution of 1943 was, in my view, unresolved in the exchange between Rich Rifkin and myself in this blog’s posts 82 & 83 (October 28, 2012). There was simply not enough evidence to decide between a portrayal of his action as “pragmatic realist” or “inclusionist champion.”

Still curious, I have tried to identity other materials that might bear on this question. So far I have not found anything that is directly “on point.” My search has included reading press accounts (actually, lack of them) in the Sacramento Bee, the Woodland Democrat, the Dixon Tribune, and various other press and university-published reports on Madson, including obituaries.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Erie Coincidence Department: Sutter Medical Foundation Benefactors and the Davis E-500s (87)

Over a period of years I have been in numerous parts of several Sutter Davis medical buildings.

In walking those halls, I noticed that Sutter puts up wall plaques honoring people who have made substantial donations to support a particular activity.

One day some time ago, I realized that four of the people named on those plaques had lived on the block where I reside. The plaques containing their names are shown here.

More eerily, all four had at one time lived in the same house on my block--although not all at the same time.

This house was (and is) 512 E Street.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

First "Farm" Teaching Effort: The Postponed 1907-08 Short Courses (86)

The UC Ag College circular of June, 1907 announced Wednesday, October 2, 1907 as the first day of instruction at the brand-new University Farm in Davisville, California.

Alas, according to Ann Scheuring in Abundant Harvest, because of construction delays the planned instructional program had to be "postponed for a year." (p. 27.)

October 2 was, specifically, the first day of the first of seven “short courses” planned for 1907-08. This course was called “Dairy School” and ran from October 2 to November 28.

This and the six other short courses are described in some detail in that June, 1907 circular, which is reproduced here in its entirety.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Boy Scout Cabin in 1930 (85)

Nearing Completion, May, 1928 (UCD Special Collections)

The Davis Boy Scout Cabin was built in May, 1928. In a September 19, 1930 story, the Davis Enterprise declared the structure as a “landmark.”

According that status to a building that was well less than two years old suggests a phenomenal response to a seemingly modest structure.

This and other aspects of the now fabled cabin are described in that 1930 Enterprise story, which is reproduced in this post.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Davisville in 1874 (84)

 Reading early issues of the Dixon Tribune at the Dixon Public Library I came onto a December 4, 1874 article titled “Davisville” that I reproduce in this post.

An unsigned profile of the town in that year, we do not know that everything reported in it is true. But we do know that aspects of Davisville we know about from other sources are described correctly. So, I think we can have reasonable confidence in the accuracy of assertions made here not documented in other sources.

Of particular note is the building of the “Solano Bill” Dresbach “mansion” still standing at the southeast corner of 2nd and E Streets. It’s year of construction has been uncertain, but this report places it in the winter of 1874-75.  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Thoughts on "The . . . Anti-Japanese Resolution of 1943," by Rich Rifkin, with a Response by John Lofland (83)

Preface: Rich’s thoughts are expressed in a complexly formatted email that has seemed best to publish intact as screenshots, of which there are three.

The Davis City Council Anti-Japanese Resolution of 1943 (82)

Preface: Posts numbers 82 and 83, published back-to-back today, deal with aspects of the 1943 Davis City Council Anti-Japanese Resolution.

This post, number 82, consists of my account. I asked Rich Rifkin to comment on it prior to publication. He did and his observations are published in post number 83, which follows this post. Post 83 also includes my response to his observations.

This post is in two parts.

Part One tells the story of the Davis City Council’s “Anti-Japanese” Resolution of 1943.

Part Two reports conflicting characterizations of Ben Madon’s role in that matter.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Variations in the Degree to Which Groups Celebrate Their Histories: Reflections Prompted by Co-op History Festivities (81)

Recent history-marking celebrations of co-ops by co-ops in Davis prompt me to recall that this is not the first time these groups have organized a major period of history celebration. Davis co-ops seem, indeed, especially active in (and adept at) history celebration.

Having noticed this possibility, I began then to wonder if groups in general might vary in the degree to which they “do history”--that is, regularly celebrate their pasts.  

1. With regard to Davis co-ops doing history, in 1997-98 considerable effort was put into creating a “Davis Cooperative Centennial.” There was a major exhibit at the Hattie Weber Museum of Davis. The plaza in front of the Davis Food Co-op was outfitted with a symbolic reference to the Toad Lane co-op founding location and a “Cooperative Century” clock was installed. On the same day as the dedication of the 5th & G Federal building, which drew high-level federal officials, these

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A 1910s Postcard Album of State Farm Views (80)

In the 1910s, a San Francisco publisher named Edward H. Mitchell published staple-bound booklets of ten post card formatted “views” of various places.

One could tear out each perforated card and send it individually or, better yet, send the entire booklet to someone in the envelope in which the booklet came and that was configured for mailing.

As shown in the photo named “Album,” one of these booklets was an “Album of Views of the State Farm at Davis, California.”

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The University House/Hotel, 1915-71, by John Lofland with a Comment by Rich Rifkin (78)

"Farm Rodeo" Advertisement
Below, Rich Rifkin comments on this post.

Many if not most innovations in Davis life have been the handiwork of brash newcomers rather than old-timers. Bowers Addition and Acres were, for example, the inspiration of recent arrival C. W. Bowers.

So, also, the landmark University House, formerly at Second and B Streets, was the creature of a Dr. Edwin Liebfreed. Unlike Bowers, though, Liebfreed did not even yet live in Davis the day in early 1915 when he was visiting here and he decided the town needed a three-story hotel.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Another Academic Treatment of Davis: Davis-Reared Gordon Douglas Asks Why Covell Village Failed and Target Succeeded (77)

'99 DHS Yearbook Photo

I guess it is inevitable that in a town with thousands of academics at least a few of them will practice their trade on the town itself. And this extends to the children of these academics who become academics.

Adding once again to the growing body of scholarly treatments of aspects of Davis, we now have a contribution by Davis-reared son-of-a-professor Gordon Douglas, a 1999 Davis High grad who earned a BA at USC (International Relations, ’03) and an MA at each of LSE (Global Media, ’04), USC (Global Communication, ‘05), and Chicago (Sociology, ’08).

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Scarcity of Dynastic Families in Davis (76)

One image (and perhaps stereotype) of community functioning asserts that a town’s pioneer families develop economic and social advantages that are passed down through generations of their children. These descendants come to dominate their communities as “family dynasties.”  

I do not know the degree to which this image accurately describes American communities. But I am struck by how little it seems to apply to Davis.

In the second part of her book Davisville ‘68, Larkey provides lists of pioneer families. Phyllis Haig once told me that considerable effort was put into identifying and profiling all the earliest families both in the town and in the surrounding countryside. Those lists are reproduced here.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Davis History Timeline (75)

The history of a community--or of most any human social organization--is an amorphous and sprawling thing. Getting hold of it can be like, as is said, wrestling with a marshmallow.

Such features prompt the use of crystalizing devices, of stratagems that forge clarity through imposing simplicity.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

History Promotion Conference in Woodland Oct. 18-20 (74)

The California Council for the Promotion of History will hold its annual conference in Woodland, October 18-20. Particulars are on the web at:

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Major Shapers of Davis: Early Draft (73)

When I read the ordinary lists of prominent and important people in the history of Davis, I am struck that a number of indiividuals I think have been important in shaping the physical and social landscape of the place are commonly not included.

For example, I do not recall seeing housing developers such as Stanley Davis or land developers such as C. Bruce Mace or Frank Ramos on such lists.  

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Preservation and Heritage Values in Woodland and Davis (72)

As part of the current discussion of a joint water project with Woodland, we hear it alleged that Davis and Woodland have different “values.” This story from the Daily Democrat of August 28, 2012 might be construed as an example of how values of at least one kind do indeed differ. It is difficult to imagine anything like what is described in this story taking place in Davis. As David Wilkinson put it some years ago, Davis is, instead, “futuristic.”

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Illegal Alcohol & Student Behavior in 1938 (71)

I ran across a small item on student drinking and alcohol sales in the 1938 Davis Enterprise that prompts a number of observations and questions.

The item, reproduced here, concerns two students allegedly purchasing too-strong beer from a retailer in Davis and Dean Knowles Ryerson complaining to the Chamber of Commerce directors about it.

First, the implied alcohol consumption scene in Davis is certainly light years away from Davis today. A mere two students make a “brawl” and get themselves dismissed from the college. Talk about “things have changed.”

Second, drunken behavior among students was an on-going reason for dismissal? What would we do for students if we applied that standard today?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Pena Physical Legacy Survives Demolition of 337 D (68)

The impending demolition of the structure at 337 D has prompted my fellow Davis history buff Rich Rifkin to lament that there will be “no more physical legacy of the Penas in Davis” and that 337 D is “the last physical record of the historic Pena family in Davis.”

Let me set Rich’s mind at ease. The fact of the matter is that the “physical legacy” of the Pena family survives 337 D in at least four ways.

First, several members of that family are buried in the Davis cemetery. As I understand it, burial of the kind seen there is what physical legacy is very much about.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Sporadic Existence of the Davis Chamber of Commerce (67)

DE, 1-3-63
The current conventional reckoning is that the Davis Chamber of Commerce began in 1905 and has been a continuous and active entity since then.

But, the other day I happened upon a January 3, 1963 Davis Enterprise article reporting how that organization was started in 1925.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Major Shapers of Davis, #2: Calvin Covell (66)

Second in a series on people who have significantly altered or elaborated the physical or social character of Davis.

This post features an article from the Davis Enterprise published on November 26, 1962 celebrating the 90th birthday of Calvin Covell. I reproduce it as evidence of the esteem in which Mr. Covell was held at that time and the role he was seen as having in Davis history. It is followed by a reproduction of the February 4, 1944 Enterprise report on Mr. Covell receiving the Chamber of Commerce’s first “doing the most for Davis” award. At the same time, the award was also named for him.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Gordon Anderson & the 1930s Davis Elite (65)

The obituary of Gordon Anderson posted last week (# 64) mentions that he was a charter member of something called the “63 club” that organized an annual fishing trip.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Major Shapers of Davis, # 1: A. Gordon Anderson (64)

This is the first entry in a now-and-then series of posts on people who have significantly altered or elaborated the physical or social character of Davis. Such people can be thought of as “major shapers.” Of course, virtually everyone associated with Davis has shaped it to some degree. Even so, some few people have had very large and wide impacts. Such people are the focus here. 

This post is on Gordon Anderson, who died in 1937 at age 61. The post consists of his obituary published in the Davis Enterprise on August 27, 1937 and a photo of Bernard Rogers and him posed in their general merchandise store circa 1915. (Anderson is on the right.)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Slatter's Court Remembered: History So Near Yet So Far (60)

A few weeks ago, the Sacramento Bee ran a “human interest” story titled in part “Sacramento sisters are 90 and Identical twins.” It was organized around the themes of “being twins” and the marvel of being 90-year-old twins.

Glancing through the story, I almost missed what was important about it from a Davis history point of view: The sisters in question are two of the five children of the Slatters who ran Davis’ Slatter’s Court.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

“Redevelopment in Davis” Presentation Is Yet Another History “Crystalizing” Document (58)

You Tube Video

I have previously blogged about how recent documents by thoughtful Davisites  “crystalize” Davis history so well that they are making future Davis histories much easier to write  (#48, March 25, 2012 and #07, August 28, 2011).

These crystalizing documents keep on coming! Now we have one addressing a very large change in Davis over the last quarter century.  

Sunday, May 6, 2012

“Track Work Patriots” From Davis: White Collar Guys “Working on the Railroad” (57)

WWII military mobilization created acute manual labor shortages in the U. S. Among other programs, efforts were made to recruit “white collar” men too old for the military into hard-to-fill manual labor tasks.

One such program was organized by the Southern Pacific Railroad for the purpose of moving freight piling up in rail centers and maintaining and repairing tracks.

As a town with a train depot and SP station agent, Davis was an obvious and easy target for such recruitment. This was especially so since the agent was long-time Davis resident Sam Brinley who had married into the pioneer Weber family and who had become a prime mover-and-shaker in local affairs.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

On Davis Elected Leaders Passing Through: Reflections Prompted by the Obituary of Miles Nicholson, Davis City Council, 1957-64 (56)

A few days ago, the Enterprise carried an obituary on one Miles Nicholson who recently died at age 94. It includes the text that he “was mayor of Davis for two terms in the 1950s and ‘60s.”

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The 1919 Sewage Crisis, Part II (55)

This two-part post on the Davis sewage crisis of 1919 focuses on items in the October 17, 1919 issue of the Davis Enterprise. That issue of the paper had four items on this topic, one of which I reproduced in Part I (post #53, last week).

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The 1919 Sewage Crisis, Part I (53)

In a letter dated September 23, 1919 Dr. Walter Bates, the Davis public health officer, responding to urgings from the Women’s Improvement Club asked the California Bureau of Sanitary Engineering to inspect and to help correct certain sanitary conditions in Davis.