Tomorrow is the 36th annual Stockton Chinese New Year Celebration, the parade starts at 10am from City Hall and the festival is in the Civic Auditorium until 5pm.
Our rich Chinese history in Stockton is best documented by Sylvia Sun Minnick in the book, Samfow: The San Joaquin Chinese Legacy. The book can still be purchased at various places and the Stockton-San Joaquin County Public libraries has 14 copies.
A few years ago I wrote about the significance of Stockton’s Chinatown for the Alliance downtown newspaper and concluded with “…we must remember the early Chinese pioneers for their courage to persist and thrive in Stockton and for their vast contributions to the city.” Let’s celebrate our community’s culture, as well as heritage.
A few years ago I wrote about the significance of Stockton stereoviews as a guest blogger for the San Joaquin County Historical Society and Museum. This past week I came across this high quality stereoview of Stockton from 1870-1890. The image was taken from Channel Street looking north across Miner Channel towards the Baptist Church (1861-1909), which was located on Hunter Street at Lindsay Street. Along the banks of the channel are small one-story wooden cottages, some with fenced backyards and outbuildings. The Insane Asylum used Miner Channel as a transportation route.
San Joaquin County Courthouse, late 1950s (Ron Chapman Postcard Collection)
February 22, 1888 was the official laying of the cornerstone for the second San Joaquin County courthouse which was designed by Elijah E. Myers, a noted architect of several state capitols and many county courthouses. The stately structure was built from local bricks and faced with high quality granite from Placer County. This granite was used in many California landmarks and can still be seen at the State Capitol.
The courthouse was created in the neo-classical style with a dominant entrance that extended to the full height of the façade. The building had spacious hallways with tall columns and high ceilings. The floor was made of tiles imported from Belgium.
The interior was adorned with intricate mahogany and walnut woodwork.
The dome of the courthouse dominated the Stockton skyline for over seventy years and afforded visitors with panoramic views of the city. Landscaped with palm trees, the courthouse block displayed two eight-foot long cannons used by Commodore F.Stockton in his conquest of California.
As the building deteriorated, the controversial decision was made in 1961 to demolish and replace it with the current courthouse. The second courthouse was one of Stockton’s grandest and noblest buildings, reflecting both elegance and authority. It was a measure of the wealth, pride and aspiration of one ofCalifornia’s most important cities of the time.
In 1877, the Pacific State Asylum (also referred to as Clark’s Sanatorium) started by Samuel Langdon and Asa Clark moved from Woodbridge to the intersection of Center and Charter Way in Stockton, currently the location of Edison High School.
The new modern facility illustrated with this 1908 postcard was built on a 40-acre parcel, originally the location of the Helvetia Gardens. It served many patients from Arizona and Nevada, up until the 1800’s when they built their own. In the early 1900’s it merged with the Stockton State Mental Asylum, whose Superintendent now was Asa Clark.
It was a couple of years after Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded the National Woman Suffrage Association that they traveled to California for a lecture tour which started in San Francisco on July 9th in 1871. They traveled on to Stockton having determined that it served as the perfect base for a two-week outing to Calaveras Big Trees and Yosemite.
Along the way, they continued to promote the Suffrage movement and lectured on women’s rights in both Murphy’s and Sonora, returning to Stockton on August 2nd from a challenging and rewarding Yosemite trip. Traveling to Yosemite on a horse carriage was quite treacherous and only a couple of thousand people traveled to Yosemite in 1871. The women were escorted by famous Yosemite Pioneer, James Hutchings, who showed them such beautiful landmarks as Nevada Falls, Glacier Point and the Mariposa Big Trees.
Back in Stockton, Ms. Anthony and Ms. Cady-Stanton stayed at the Yosemite House on Main Street, considered to be one of the Central Valley’s finest hotels at the time. Elizabeth Cady Stanton gave a lecture in Stockton, while Susan B. Anthony gave the next lecture in San Jose.
Susan B. Anthony returned to Stockton twice in 1896, almost 25 years later, at the age of 76. She stayed at the Commercial Hotel, still located on the corner of Main and California Street. In her May trip, Ms. Anthony spoke on women’s suffrage at a state convention of the newly formed Prohibition Party. Although she was not considered a prohibitionist, she had her start in the Temperance movement. She held a reception in the parlor of the Commercial Hotel after her speech and was later entertained at the homes of prominent Stockton women.
Ms. Anthony returned in September to speak for the Republican Party which was opening its local campaign. At a packed Masonic Hall, located on Main Street, she spoke to promote the 11th amendment which was in favor of woman suffrage and went to the California voters that November, but did not pass. It would be another 24 years before women won the right to vote, something Susan. B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton did not live to experience.
A 1912 postcard of Fremont Park from the Stockton in Vintage Postcards collection
A few days ago the Stockton City Limits blog discussed the proposed plans for revitalizing Fremont Square. Now referred to as Fremont Park, it is one of the ten parks dedicated to the city in 1850 by Stockton’s founder, Charles Weber.
In George Tinkham’s (1880) book “A History of Stockton” Weber’s parks are described as “The public gardens of a city may be said to be the great breathing spots of the people, where they can rest from their toil and enjoy the smiles of nature. Here the children of the poor, confined in cheerless tenement houses, are permitted to engage in their childish sports uninterrupted.”
Fremont Square was named after Weber’s friend and contemporary John C. Fremont who was an explorer, military officer and politician. Fremont was instrumental in conquering California and developing the West for settlement.
The granite drinking fountain in the center of Fremont Park was dedicated on July 5, 1909 by the Women’s Auxiliary of San Joaquin Sons of Pioneers.
I was saddened to hear that the Philomathean Club sign was stolen last week. The copper sign dating back to the club’s very beginning was located to the right of the front entrance. The Philomathean Club is located on the corner of Acacia and Hunter Streets and the building dates back to 1911, the club itself started in 1893. The National Register of Historic Places application highlights the building’s architectural merits and the organization’s contribution as a women’s club. More on the significance of the Philomathean Club building here.
One can spend hours perusing the on-line digital collection of historic Stockton photographs, which are part of the Holt-Atherton Special Collections at the University of the Pacific Archives. This collection of more than 1,200 images documents the history of downtown Stockton and its waterfront from as early as the 1860′s.
Hunter Square Plaza - Vintage Postcard from the 1960s
As demolition crews clear out Hunter Square Plaza in preparation for the building of the new courthouse, a reflection of one of Stockton’s most historic sites is important. The land was donated by the city’s founder Charles M. Weber in the early 1850’s who envisioned a plaza in the tradition of Mexican and Spanish towns. This public space became the location of farmers’ markets, street fairs, concerts and carnivals during the late 1800s.
The plaza’s location next to three different courthouses made it the center of county government. It was during Stockton’s golden era in the early 1900’s that the plaza was surrounded by important banks and popular retailers. It also became the location of many public meetings and numerous political rallies.
Water features have always been part of the square beginning in the 1850s when a beautiful fountain was built from an artesian well. It was awarded a blue ribbon at the State Fair, but was eventually demolished when the well dried up. In 1891, a tall granite drinking fountain known as the “Mail Fountain” was constructed on the side of the Plaza facing Main Street.
The fountain removed last week was built in 1967 as the centerpiece for the redesigned Hunter Square during the city’s West End Renewal Project. That project also closed Main Street to create a park while the north end of the plaza was dedicated as a parking lot. As we prepare for the new courthouse, the historic significance of Hunter Square Plaza should not be lost.