Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Softening the Great Depression: Touting Civic Organizations and Other Woodland Democrat 1930s Feel-good Stories (251)

In the same January 28, 1932 issue of the Woodland Democrat as the story on Davis crime previously posted (#250), Hiram Jackson also discovered an approving account of civic organizations in Davis.

It is a valuable depiction of such entities in Davis at that time.

We do not know what prompted the Democrat to assign reporters to work up this and other “feel-good” stories on Davis in this period.  (DHT posts 249, 250, and 251 are among a larger number of such stories.)

But, if I had to guess, I would call attention to the 1929 crash of the American economy and the possible efforts of the Yolo County privileged to respond with a campaign of “many things are still just fine” stories.

This effort to blunt--or even to deny--economic collapse appears also to have been embraced by the Davis Enterprise and others in Davis itself (discussed in Davis: Radical Changes, Deep Constants, pp. 109-110).

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Crime in Davis c. 1931 (250)

Hiram Jackson continues his browsing for Davis stories in the early 1930s Woodland
Democrat. This time we have a January 28, 1932 report on crime in Davis and the vicinity.

It is amusing to notice that already in 1932 Davis was perceived as a “regional center” of sorts that drew “hundreds of pleasure and joy riders from the nearby large cities . . . .” But, equally of note, this activity did not appear to generate the kinds of crimes of concern in Davis in the recent period (or much crime at all, for that matter).

Friday, December 18, 2015

1931 Rotary Club Comedy Show at the Varsity Theater (249)

Thursday evening April 23, 1931, the Davis Rotary Club staged a comedy show at the Varsity Theater on Second between G and F. The apparently all-male cast consisted of pretty much “everyone who was anyone” in Davis at that time, including Calvin Covell  and Chester Roadhouse attempting to perform other than their usual gender. 

A rather detailed account of the event was printed in the Woodland Democrat of April 24, 1931 and discovered by the indefatigable Hiram Jackson, who sent me a copy. I have segmented, enlarged and “enhanced” the microfilm image for publication here. (A few sections are still difficult to read and may be upgraded.)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Puzzle of 44 Years of Davis High Senior Class Photos (248)

About a year ago, I contacted a Davis school district official about older color photographs of its facilities. As an incidental part of that conversation, I was told the District has in storage large-scale mounted photographs of the graduates of the first 44 graduating classes of the Davis High School. This would be, it seems, the classes of 1928 through 1972. Because they were not in color, I did not inquire further about them.

I did, though, mention a vague memory of that exhibit being the subject of Davis Enterprise stories some years ago. I was asked to give this official a copy of those stories. I could not recall where I saw them, so I did nothing further.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

From New Resident Optimistic and Inviting to Pessimistic and Uninviting (247)

The February 15, 1888 issue of the Sacramento Daily Union-Record reprints an article from the short-lived Davisville Signal extolling the virtues of Davis and the surrounding farmland and inviting people to come and “assist in building up our schools, churches and public institutions.”  “We want every class of good citizens -- those who are in earnest about making homes, and we will assure all such a hearty welcome to this hospitable portion of the Pacific coast.”*

Such articles and related statements were not uncommon in civic life and discourse for more than a hundred years of Davis history -- from its start in the late 1860s up to the early 1970s.

Indeed, only a few weeks ago I featured a leaflet published by the Davis Chamber of Commerce in 1939 aimed at much the same immigration task (post number 237, September 11, 2015).   

Reading such statements today, they seem remarkably remote and even quaint.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Looking West Over Far West Davis c. 1980 (246)

In reviewing portions of the Al Smith Collection recently, I came onto an eight by ten inch color photograph that looks west over far west Davis in about 1980.*  

I was struck by it and I thought Davis history buffs might like to see it. The Westwood subdivision is in the foreground. Village Homes is in the mid-distance. Smith’s Stonegate is beyond it.

The image provides reasonable detail on the Village Homes and Stonegate subdivisions and I have thought it worthwhile to enlarge and reproduce the sections containing those two areas.  After the jump, there are three enlargement images showing Village Homes and four showing Stonegate.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

“Historic” 238 G Street: From Sunny Retail to Dark Cave (245)

The building constructed at the southeast corner of Third and G streets in 1936 has an especially interesting history regarding the contrasting ways it has appeared and has been used over the decades. In the following twelve images and captions, I try to exhibit some of those contrasts. 

1. 238 G Street, 1936

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The 2015 Survey of Davis “Historic Resources” Is Now Public (244)

Without fanfare, the 2,166 page “update” of a survey of Davis’ “historic resources” was recently posted on the City’s website.

It can be viewed by clicking just below or by clicking on the first item in the right-hand sidebar.

The report is in eight parts, which the City depicts in list form on its website (#1) and I portray in text-icon form here (#2).

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Only in Davis, From Historic Potholes to Historic Shacks: The Imperious Treatment of Two Homeowners In the Recent Historic Preservation Survey (243)

In the previous post, I described the current curious situation in which City of Davis decisions in classifying homes as historic “contributors” (or not) are not reviewable by neutral third parties in the way we are accustomed to government decisions being appealable. Instead, one can only appeal to the people who denied one’s appeal. It is of course no surprise when these same people turn down one’s appeal.

This is not a theoretical exercise. Such a case is being played out here in Davis at this time. Here are specifics that I can relate within the constraints of somewhat protecting the homeowners who are being subjected to this injustice.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

State Office of Historic Preservation Says Historic Preservation Survey Classifications Are Not Reviewed for Accuracy (242)

The recently conducted “update” of the survey of historical resources in Davis classifies hundreds if not thousands of Davis buildings on the degree to which they are “historic.” The two prime categories of these classifications are “designated historical resource” (or not) or “contributor” to a possible historic area (or not).

If your house is coded an instance of either of these categories, you are likely subject to restrictions or limitations when you want to sell your home or to change its appearance.

Such restrictions and limits have long been recognized with regard to the category of Designated Historical Resource, of which Davis has 39 at this time (Davis History Today, post 229, September 28).

What is now more fully coming to light is that the previously unnoticed category of “contributor’ can engender similar restrictions.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Neglected Moment in the Davis Bike Saga: November 1, 1965 (241)

Davis history enthusiast Hiram Jackson has sent me a copy of an op-ed letter by Frank C.
Davis Enterprise, November 1, 1965 (continues)
Child appearing on the front page of the Davis Enterprise on November 1, 1965.

Hiram rightly remarks that this document appears to be a neglected moment in the history of the advent of bike lanes in Davis.

The standard history of bike lanes features mention of the reluctance of officials to support lanes and their slowness in finally doing so.

But this letter suggests that the standard history may even underplay just how foot-dragging officials appear to have been.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Julie Partansky Papers in UCD Special Collections (240)

Researching a Davis history topic, I wondered if the UCD Partansky Papers collection might
contain information on it. So, I looked at the list of the collection’s contents, which is in 23 boxes, and requested a half dozen of them for inspection in the Special Collections reading room.

But, while looking for information on my topic, I got interested in the collection per se.

I was so struck by it--or at least by the six boxes I examined--that I decided to share what caught my attention with readers of this blog. 

One, she was something of a packrat regarding her political activities. I cannot say she saved every note or card or letter any political figure sent her, but she certainly saved a great many of them. So, still living and active political folks who ever sent her anything written might be interested to learn that their missive or missives are likely in this collection.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Historical Resource Designation Disputes and You (239)

The Historical Resources Management Commission (HRMC) is nearing completion of a 2015 “update” of an inventory of “historical resources” in Davis.

This is the fourth such inventory and update. The earlier ones were in 1980, 1996, and 2003 (available on the web via # 5, below).

Their completions have sometimes occasioned a flurry of “designations” of new historical resources in the form of “listing” particular buildings as “merit” or “landmark” resources or entire areas as “conservation” or “historic” districts (described in reference # 2).

I think there is a tendency to assume this surveying/designating is “natural” or “inevitable." It is an immutable aspect of the natural order of social things in Davis.   

But it is, in my view, neither natural nor inevitable. Instead, “historical resources” and “preservation” are central advocacy ideas in a particular political point of view regarding the human built environment and its management.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The 1931 Advent of the Church of St. James (238)

September 11, 1931
“Redevelopment” affecting historic structures is stirring in several places in Davis, including the large holding fronting Fifth Street between C and D streets.

The Church of St. James, built in 1931, is at the northeast corner of Fifth and C and is a piece of that larger holding.

Prompted by an inquiry, I looked at my photocopies of 1931 Davis Enterprise pages and found three stories on the advent of that church that I reproduce here.

I cannot say this is all the coverage of this building in 1931, but if it is, it is oddly minimalist relative to the attention the Enterprise gave to the advent of the church just across Fifth Street from it.

Friday, September 11, 2015

1939 Leaflet Promoting Settling in Davis (237)

Some years ago, I acquired and posted on another website a 1939 leaflet promoting
settlement in Davis. 

It was apparently worked up and distributed by the Davis Chamber of Commerce. I say “apparently” because the source is not explicit and there is no specific address to which to write or a phone number to call for more information.

It has been posted at the URL given in the accompanying text, but it is so charming I thought it deserved a second run--so to speak.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Edwin McBride’s “LIttle Black Book” of Homes Built 1911-38 (236)

Serious students of Davis history keep needing to consult a list of homes built in Davis 1911-38 created by one Edwin McBride. Despite its key place in such historical studies, it has apparently never been published.

So, I am going to remedy that neglect in this post. That act in turn requires explaining the list---“the little black book.” To that end I include here an adaptation of the text on this matter I published in my Davis: Radical Changes . . . (2004, pp. 102-03.).

In addition, I reproduce a graph I made of the number of houses built each year based on the list. It is also page 14 in my booklet Tiny Davis; Small Size and Slow Growth from Founding to WWII, which is here:

Friday, September 4, 2015

Ink Blotter Ads From the Davis 30s-40s (235)

Once upon a time, people wrote with “ink” or “fountain” “pens” that created wet lines of ink
on paper. This wetness took time to dry and “blotters” were used to hurry the process along.

The use of the ink “blotter” created a space for printed business advertising on its reverse side.

That is what we see here in three reproductions of the advertising sides of blotters used in Davis in the 1930s-40s.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The New Alfred F. Smith Collection at UCD Special Collections: A Trove of Historical Material on Stonegate and Later 20th Century Davis (234)

1. Stonegate looking northeast, c. 1977

Alfred F. Smith, the developer of Stonegate, died in 2008 and his heirs donated his papers to the UC Davis Department of Special Collections. That department recently completed the inventory and box storage of those documents and the corpus is now available to the public (image 3).

Mr. Smith appears to have been something of a pack rat (aka hoarder) and his collection is quite amazing. It fills 265 storage boxes and the list of files in those boxes runs 163 pages (image 4).  That list can be viewed or downloaded here.

The purpose of this post is to draw attention to this extraordinary new source of information on the development of Davis after World War II. These 265 boxes contain detailed records on Mr. Smith’s various completed and proposed but never built Davis developments and, as important, a wide range of information on development in general in Davis over the 1960s-90s.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

From Gritty to Clean Labor Along the Davis Tracks (233)

Some years ago I was browsing the California State Archives and happened onto a several
foot wide by a foot or so tall map of a 1964 Southern Pacific Davis “station plan.” In addition to plotting SP property in detail, adjacent and nearby Davis structures are shown. I purchased a 178MB digital copy of it and put it aside after a brief review.

The recent brouhaha over a project called “Trackside” has prompted me to look at it again and more closely.

In that examination, my main impression is that as late as 1964 Davis was a place where work of a meaningfully real physical kind was still performed along the tracks--a type of human activity no longer found there to any significant extent. Put differently and more broadly, there has been a long-term shift from gritty to clean labor along the tracks.

The more recent phase of this long-term shift can be seen in the 1964 map, which I present in its original form as item A. It is difficult to read so I have also rotated it and broken it into four main segments, numbered 1 through 4. (High resolution files of all these images can be downloaded from  You must, though, be patient.)

Starting with excerpt 1 and running from top to bottom of each of the four segments, here is a list of 21 locations featuring “gritty” and “real physical labor.”

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A Glimpse of Davis Politics in 1964: A Banker Pledges to Manage Explosive Davis Growth and is Elected to Council (232)

Current and recent Davis City Council members might eat their hearts out about Davis politics in 1964.

In that year, Davis was a town of public abundance and explosive growth in which--gasp!--a banker was elected to the Council, running second in a field of six with 55% voting for him.

Equally as odd in current perspective, a Davis junior high school teacher finished first with 61% (and served as Mayor) and a pharmacy owner was elected in third place with 52%.

A little of the tenor of that time is conveyed by a campaign letter and platform card published by the banker, one Robert M. McChesney, that I reproduce here.

I came onto these two items accidentally. They are so startling to me that I can not resist sharing them on this blog.

Not least among the many notable aspects of Mr. McChesney’s platform is the mater-of-fact obsevation that “Davis will triple in size by 1970.” Today such an assertion would snap heads around, but then, apparently, it was a mundane truth.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Public Policy Proposals in Davis in 2003 (231)

In the course of looking for something else, I came onto a December, 2003 Sacramento Bee report on Davis civic leaders meeting to discuss public policy actions needed in Davis at that time. These included creating “space for labs and a business or research park.”

The ensemble of these proposals was so similar to what one can read in current such accounts that I wondered, for just a moment, if I had stumbled into a Groundhog Day time warp.

Here is the report. (The red markings are notes to myself made a decade ago.)

Sacramento Bee, December 12, 2003

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Old East Davis Residents Conduct Exemplary Protest Against Blindsiding Developer (230)

Recently, the Davis Enterprise reported that a group of Davis investors had just submitted a plan to the City for building an almost six-story building next to the railroad tracks at the 3rd Street crossing.

According to Old East Davis residents speaking in the Public Comments segment of the June 16, 2015 City Council meeting, this news report was the first time that virtually anyone in that neighborhood had heard of this plan.  Aside from issues of the height and other aspects of the buildings itself, residents felt “blindsided” by the seeming stealth character of the process.

Fifteen Old East Davis residents spoke. Holding the substantive aspects aside, I was impressed with the civility, cogency, intelligence and sheer civic vigor of all the speakers.

I think they showed us what citizenship can be at its best and we should look to such people as exemplars of the kind of civic life we should strive to carry on in Davis.

I also thought they carried the day on the substance, but that is a matter for other times and places.

Anyone interested in seeing civil and intelligent democracy in action (as well as in issues of redevelopment in historic areas) can view the 15 commenters and their comments on YouTube here:

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

1951 Advertisement for Oeste Manor Unit No. 2 (229)

Note: I am told that Paul Kloster conveyed a copy of this advertisement for Oeste Manor Unit No. 2 to Ellen Pontac, who then gave a copy to Bob Bowen. Responding to my publication of the advertisement for Oeste Manor Unit No. 1, Bob sent a copy of the No. 2 ad to me. I am delighted to thank all these folks for passing this advertisement on.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Circa 1950 Leaflet Promoting Oeste Manor Unit No. 1 (228)

Hattie Weber Museum Director Dennis Dingemans recently received a photocopy of a circa 1950 leaflet promoting new homes in Oeste Manor subdivision Unit No. 1 and has graciously provided a digital copy of it for publication here.

The leaflet was received in the form of the four photocopied pages we see, but it appears originally to have been a single large sheet printed on both sides and designed to be folded into a brochure. For example, the bottom portion of page 3 seems also to appear as the top portion of page 4. In addition, the pages have traces of vertical "fold" marks where the sheet would have been folded into three vertical panels. The panels themselves are seen on pages 2 & 3.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Davis Civic Center Block From the Air in 1960 and in 2000 (226)

This is the third in a series of posts on aerial photos found in the archives of the Davis School District (posts 224 and 225).

The photo featured here departs from most of the others in not focusing on a school. Instead, we are given what appears to be a circa 2000 view of Davis’ Civic Center block. That block contains a school, of course, but it is rather hidden in the upper-right hand area.

The view in this image prompted me to remember that the 1960 Davis High yearbook contains a two-page image of essentially the same area. In black and white, that image is also reproduced here.

The context is that 1960 was the last year the high school operated in the building on this block. So, the yearbook was memorializing that fact.

The point of this post is, of course, to encourage comparison of the blocks in 1960 and in 2000. In my view, the differences are profound and any alert observer does not need me to list them.

I want once more to thank Davis School District officials Penny Pyle and Maureen Poole for their excellent help and cooperation in making these photos available to the public.