More History to be Destroyed?

It was around 1890 that Andrew Mattei, an Italian immigrant by way of Switzerland, Continue reading More History to be Destroyed?

A Gem Restored

The Helm family in Fresno was certainly one of influence.
William Helm made Fresno his home on a five-acre tract of land at the corner of Fresno and R streets. Because of a growing family, William, bought the block where he built the family home in 1881; it stood for 71 years.
As the children married, William gave them lots to build their own homes, along this block that is now the site of Fresno Community Hospital. William’s son, Frank born in 1877, went on to start the Helm Ranch Dairy out near Kearney utilizing the most cutting edge equipment for his heard of registered Holstein cows.

Around 1901, Frank Helm chose to build a home in the city on the oldest residential street; L St. What he built was anything but typical for the day.
Its Mission Revival style adapted elements from early California missions. This was rarely seen in Fresno in that day. With its magnificent wood paneled foyer the home was clearly meant for a family of considerable means.

By 1980 the building was designated a historic resource and the city began working with the family to preserve it.
A local neighborhood ministry had begun locating its offices on the historic L street just doors from Frank Helm’s old house. long They saw an opportunity for outreach in the neighborhood and bought several homes on the street, including the Helm house, with the intention of using them as a campus for their neighborhood work. Yet by 2009 the economy had taken a toll and the dream collapsed.

The battered piece of local history now has a rescuer with deep pockets — the Fresno Housing Authority, its owner. Helm Restoration Scaffolding is up, security fencing is in place, backhoes are digging up the yard. And the exterior restoration just got a new coat of paint. The interior work is expected to be finished soon.
We can hardly wait to see this gem buffed to its original state! Once finished the plan is to use the old Helm house for offices and we are already working on gaining access for our Taste of Graffiti adventures. Meanwhile we still stop on by to see the progress during construction and you can join us this Saturday morning 11am (3/9). Be sure to get your tickets at

…….. now, drum roll.. It’s completed! qsJl7.AuSt.8

Land of Sunshine and Flowers

Unlike other California cities, Fresno did not get its start during the gold rush, as prospectors simply passed through the area on the way to the Sierras. After the gold rush land was used for cattle grazing. 002

Along came Anthony Easterby in 1867, purchasing land bounded by present day streets Chestnut, Belmont, Clovis and California avenues. Unable to grow wheat for lack of water, he hired Moses J. Church to build an irrigation canal. And on our little patch of California a community developed.

In 1872 when the railroad staked a claim along the edge of Easterby’s property; the town of Fresno was born. Our name is derived from the Spanish word for ash trees, native to the Central Valley. With the coming railroad all were provided the economic push needed to start a town in the frontier lands of the Old West. 1882 Fresno

The bright prospects held forth by the fertile valleys of California allured many an ambitious young man to the land of sunshine and flowers.

Those who contributed to the establishment of our city were drawn to Fresno following the Civil War and brought with them talent and experience in the lumber industry, railroads and agriculture.

Church’s ditch and irrigation transformed us from dry desert into one of the most fertile and agriculturally diverse regions that produces most of the world’s supply of fresh fruit and vegetables. Fresno’s history is as rich and diverse as the people who live here, with over 30 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Today, Fresno’s urban core is again drawing interest as it re awakens in a new wave of business boom. Why not take a closer look on Saturday morning (2/2/13) when we step out on the next Urban Taste walking adventure?
There are some delicious tastes ready for us along with the great art, all found downtown.
Tickets available at

Historical Source: California History & Genealogy Room, Fresno County Library

Hate to Healing & Hope

An early outpost in the Valley, Pinedale grew up to have a somewhat tarnished history. Established as a town for the Sugar Pine Lumber Co. employees, there was great potential. At the time, the Sugar Pine Lumber Mill of Pinedale was the largest and most modern mill around. Then came the dark years.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor the closed lumber mill was converted into a temporary assembly center to hold Japanese Americans. The story of hate starts with the policy of exclusion and the forced removal of Americans of Japanese ancestry. Facilities such as Pinedale were intended to confine Japanese Americans until more permanent concentration camps could be built in isolated areas of the country.

Following the transfer of the Japanese prisoners to concentration camps, the induction center became Camp Pinedale receiving soldiers selected for training as military communication technicians for the war effort. By war’s end, the post had trained thousands of soldiers as electronic specialists for allied army assignments.

The story comes full circle with healing in the Remberance Plaza, an interpretive memorial telling a truly American story of a these Japanese Americans triumph over adversity. Today, Camp Pinedale has a special memorial honoring Japanese Americans processed through there (625 W. Alluvial Avenue).

The Valley also has a few more gems of Japanese heritage and an expression of hope for the future.
August brings the Toro Nagashi Lantern ceremony. Also at the Shinzen Garden in Woodward Park, fall colors will soon paint the gardens with nature’s crisp colors.

A short drive or train ride to Hanford will bring you to the largest Asian community in the valley. Reopening in September, be sure to check out the Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture
While you’re there, you should not miss China Alley in downtown Hanford featuring 11 historic buildings. China alley served as the hub for Hanford’s Chinese population beginning in the late 1800s. Near 7th & Green Sts.

Carrying on the thread of healing and hope, this fall around Fresno, you will find many cultural exhibits from reading lists to film screenings to upbeat jazz nights and even college students’ artful tribute to their ancestors who lived here in the Valley but were forcibly moved into the camp at Pinedale. Fresno County Library is presenting the Manzanar project sharing the compelling story of the Japanese experience through World War II. The events begin in August and run through September; join the discussion and pick up a detailed flier at any library.

Happy Birthday Clovis!

Clovis M Cole came to the area a young boy with his family, resettling after the Civil War. By the age of 25 after his father gave him his first team of horses, he farmed 50,000 acres of wheat earning the nickname the ‘Wheat King’.

Donating land to the San Joaquin Valley Railroad for right of way on first railroad in this area, Cole built his first home among his wheat fields in 1903. The home exists to this day as a private residence.

In in honor of his donation and civic leadership, railroad officials named the growing city Clovis. Clovis Cole went on to become a school trustee and public-spirited citizen finally ending his days at his new home, in Fresno among its wealthy citizens.
Now that you’ve had a ‘nibble’ of the story why not get the rest of the story next Saturday (3/17) on the Nibbles & Bits walking adventure? Join others as we tread through historic Old Town tasting as we go.
$49 per person day or for half off go to Brown Paper Tickets!