Preserving History: Weber and Allen Awards

Leslie Crow receiving the Weber Award in 2005, Robert Holzer and Gary Giovanetti

Leslie Crow receiving the Weber Award in 2005, Robert Holzer and Gary Giovanetti

The Charles Weber Award was named after Stockton’s founder and recognizes those individuals, organizations, or businesses that have done extraordinary volunteer work in celebrating our community’s past or furthered the understanding of our collective cultural heritage. The work should enhance our understanding of those values that define Stockton’s past history and have demonstrated a positive commitment to our community in an exemplary manner.

Here is a listing of past recipients and the nomination form, due April 30th.

The Glenn Allen Award is named after Stockton’s most famous architect Glenn Allen (1868-1952), whose architecture still stands today). The award recognizes those individuals, organizations or businesses that have done extraordinary work in the field of historic preservation, designed, constructed, rehabilitated or renovated a structure, district, site or street scape in an effort to enhance the historic character of Stockton. They have demonstrated a renewed commitment to our community’s heritage through the successful completion of the nominated project.

Here is a listing of past recipients and the nomination form, also due April 30th

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Fire Alarm Station: An Architectural Jewel

Central Police and Fire Alarm Station (1960s), photo courtesy of Haggin Museum

Central Police and Fire Alarm Station (1960s), photo courtesy of Haggin Museum

In a secluded corner of McLeod Lake Park, across from the Civic Auditorium, is a structure all but forgotten by the very city it protected. The Central Police and Fire Alarm Station was built in 1925 to house a fire alarm system linked to pull boxes on every corner of the city. Stockton’s Gamewell system was “superior to any other city on the Pacific coast” according to the local paper. The building, most recently home to the Stockton Symphony, was designed to blend in to the surrounding architecture and consequently has never impressed itself upon Stockton’s collective memory. The building was used by the Stockton Fire Department until the 1980’s.

The Fire Alarm Station is an important architectural contribution to Stockton’s Civic Center, one of northern California’s finest Civic Centers built during the City Beautiful movement.  The Classical Revival Style concrete structure has two massive Doric columns with architectural detailing matching the Civic Auditorium and City Hall. A wide staircase enhances the recessed front entrance that leads to the double brass front doors.  Above the entrance, below the detailed cornice and frieze bands, is the inscription “Police and Fire Alarm Central Station – 1925.”  Currently behind plywood, the caption will someday be uncovered to identify the building’s original purpose and place in history.

Alice van Ommeren and Stockton Fire Department’s Kevin Taylor and Toby Trana nominated the Central Police and Fire Alarm Station for Stockton Historic Landmark designation in 2009.  

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Remarkable Women of Stockton

A few weeks ago the Record highlighted the release of a new history book, Remarkable Women of Stockton by Mary Jo Gohlke. The book profiles the historic contributions of twenty-two women, including Tillie Lewis, Harriett Chalmers Adams and Edna Gleason. The former librarian turned historian will be talking about the book, as well as selling and signing, at the following venues about the book:

  • Monday, April 7 at 6pm, Cesar Chavez Central Library
  • Tuesday, April 8 at 5pm, Weston Ranch Library
  • Saturday, April 12 at 1pm, Philomathean Club, 1000 N. Hunter (includes clubhouse tour and refreshments).
  • Monday, April 28, 6pm, San Joaquin County Historical Society meeting and dinner, $10 for dinner, 331-2055 for reservations.
  • Saturday, May 3 from 8:30am-1pm, The Spa at Southern Exposure (book signing only).
  • Saturday, May 10 at 3 pm, Troke Library

The book is also available at the Haggin Museum bookstore, and through online retailers such Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

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Today in History: Sperry Mill Fire (April 2, 1882)

 

Sperry Flour Mills in the 1880s, postcard was reproduced by the Haggin Museum

Sperry Flour Mills in the 1880s, postcard was reproduced by the Haggin Museum

“One of the most spectacular fires ever seen in the city was that which destroyed the City Flouring Mills of Sperry & Company on Sunday afternoon, April 2, 1882.” The tall burning structure along the south shore of the Channel on Levee (Weber) and Beaver (Madison) Streets was right next to a grain storage facility which is referred to as the Waterfront Warehouse today.

The brick Sperry Flour Mill was built in 1852 and was an important part of Stockton’s earliest and most significant industry. The company grew into a company with seventeen mills across three states and becoming one of the nation’s most famous milling companies. Initially, the mill’s wheat supply was imported from Napa and Martinez, but by 1856 wheat became the San Joaquin Valley’s main crop.

The Sperry Flour Mill found itself in the center of one of the largest grain growing regions in the nation. The company expanded in 1860 and became famous for its flour labels, such as “Drifted Snow Flour.” The waterfront location allowed Sperry to ship flour throughout the country and the world. 

Source: History of the Stockton Fire Department, 1850-1908 by the Firemen’s Pension and Relief Fund (1908).

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All the King’s Men was Filmed in Stockton (1948)

 

Hotel Stockton used as Willie Stark's campaign headquarters (Columbia pictures)

Hotel Stockton used as Willie Stark's campaign headquarters (Columbia pictures)

In December 1948, Colombia Pictures spent three weeks in Stockton filming “All the King’s Men.” Based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Robert Penn Warren, the movie is the fictionalized account of the rise and fall of a southern politician. Upon arriving in Stockton, the cast and crew checked into the Hotel Stockton before being escorted to a large gala party. The director, Robert Rossen, chose Stockton because it resembled a real American town, had beautiful buildings suitable for a capital city and was close enough to Sacramento to be a politically aware community. 

Most of the filming took place in Stockton, much of it downtown. The courthouse, with its impressive architecture both on the interior and exterior, portrayed the state capitol. The Hotel Stockton served as campaign headquarters and there are several memorable scenes of Hunter Square. The Channel provided the perfect backdrop for a story taking place in Louisiana. The wide staircase and neoclassical columns on the north side of City Hall became the perfect setting for the last scene of this political drama. The cast often dined at On Lock Sam’s on Washington Street and the leading actor, Broderick Crawford, was known to frequent Tiny’s on Sutter Street. 

For authenticity, Stocktonians were used as extras for such roles as police officers, restaurant waiters, political assistants and legal attorneys. Locals were also used in several crowd scenes, mostly political rallies. Downtown Stockton turned into an exciting and busy movie set with blocked streets, large banners and blaring loudspeakers. The film received three Academy Awards in 1949, including Best Picture and Stockton’s landscape of the 1940’s was forever preserved on the big screen.

This article was first published by the Downtown Stockton Alliance in September 2011 

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Opening on the Stockton Cultural Heritage Board

 

Loss of courthouse (1961) inspired the local preservation movement

The City of Stockton Cultural Heritage Board (CHB) was created in 1966, soon after the demolition of many historic buildings during the West End Redevelopment project, including the courthouse. Today this volunteer advisory body continues to identify and preserve architecturally and historically significant buildings by following the Cultural Resources guidelines specified in the in the Stockton Municipal Code (Chapter 16-220). 

The CHB recognizes various community efforts through the Award of Excellence, Charles Weber Award and Glenn Allen Award. Their website also has some informative resources, including a listing of the historic districts, landmarks, sites and plaques. It also has one of my most valuable resources, the Downtown Stockton Historic Resources Survey (2000)

If you have a commitment and an interest in promoting and preserving Stockton’s history, applications for the board openings later in 2014 are due April 8.  The process includes a screening by the Planning Commission who makes a recommendation for appointment to the City Council. The board applications are available here.      

 

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On This Day in 1850, Stockton’s First Newspaper

It was on this day in 1850 that Stockton’s first newspaper was printed, the Stockton Weekly Times. The first edition was eight pages, much of it devoted to advertising including Davis & Smith, wholesale merchants; Marshall E. Nichols, auctioneers and Buffington & Lum, house carpenters. The paper sold for 25 cents a copy or a $12 a year subscription.  The newspaper included such articles as “Routes to the Southern Mines” and “Rich and Important Discovery of Gold.” It was published three times a week until April 25, 1851 at which time the Stockton Journal became the more popular paper.

Source: A History of Stockton from its Organization Up to the Present Time by George H. Tinkham (1880)  

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America’s First Wine Tanker in Stockton (1957)

 

Vintage postcard of the SS Angelo Petri loading cargo of wine at Port of Stockton

Vintage postcard of the SS Angelo Petri loading cargo of wine at Port of Stockton

Arrival of the Google barge to Stockton made me wonder if there have been other interesting vessels at the Port in the past, which might have created similar media frenzies. 

The S.S. Angelo Petri’s conversion from a World War II tanker to a wine ship in 1957 by Louis Petri of local United Vintners comes to mind. The conversion included the building of stainless steel tanks capable of holding 2.5 million gallons of wine, never been done at that scale.

The vessel’s purpose was to ship wine for bottling from the surrounding Stockton area to Texas and the East coast, by way of the Panama Canal. As one of the two largest and most influential winemakers in the region, the other being the Gallo Brothers, the Petri’s were constantly looking for efficiency.

It was considered to be the largest wine tanker ever built and created quite a buzz at the time of its 1957 maiden voyage at its base, the Port of Stockton. It was in commercial service until 1972, and most likely sold for scrapping a few years later. 

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Stockton’s Chinese New Year Celebration

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.

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Stockton in Vintage Stereoviews

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.

 

 

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