This tour visits all National Register of Historic Places sites in Fresno. Total driving distance is about 33 miles.
The tour begins at the Fresno Brewing Company at 100 M Street (corner of M and Heaton). Since this building is located on the southern edge of downtown Fresno, most people will find it easiest to get there from Highway 41 South. From the freeway, take the O Street exit. Cross O Street and proceed southwest on Santa Clara Street. Turn left on M Street and go to the end of that street. The Fresno Brewing Company Building (1899) is on the left.
The Fresno Brewing Company offices and warehouse remains one of the oldest examples of industrial architecture in Fresno. The design appears to be the work of Eugene Mathewson based on the architectural style, materials, and elevator contract records. It is one of the few remaining turn-of-the-century buildings in Fresno built entirely of brick, which was once a common construction material. Founded in 1900 by Ernst Eilert, the brewery remained in operation until 1919, when Prohibition went into effect. Under the new name Eilert Products, the plant bottled soft drinks and other beverages. Production of beer resumed in 1933 and continued until the brewery was sold to Grace Bros. of Santa Rosa in 1942. The brewery was demolished in 1955 after a series of ownership changes. All that remains of the original brewery complex is the brick office and warehouse building, an attached storage shed, and an adjacent wood shed.
Return in the opposite direction on M Street. Turn left on Los Angeles Street and right on Van Ness, crossing under Highway 41. Turn right on Ventura Avenue. The Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church (1914) is on the right at 2226 Ventura Avenue.
Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church was the first church built in the tradition of Armenian church architecture in the United States. It additionally is the first designed by an Armenian architect, Lawrence Karekin Cone (Condrajian). Cone was Fresno's first Armenian architect. Although there are older churches in the United States used for Armenian services, these facilities either were existing church structures not built for Armenians, or built by Armenians with no reference to Armenian church architecture. In designing this church, Cone followed very closely the style of old Armenian churches in Armenia and Turkey from the fourth to seventeenth centuries. Armenian church architecture has long been recognized as the first church architecture to reflect a unique style, which was perfected in its various forms after the seventh century A.D. It is believed that this style and the method of construction influenced the later European Romanesque and Gothic architecture. The church's unique dome characterizes this building as Armenian more than any other single design feature. The Holy Trinity Church was located at the center of "Armenian Town," a ten to twelve-block area in downtown Fresno. This area remained predominantly Armenian until the mid-1950s, when many Armenians there became financially and socially successful and moved out.
Proceed northeast on Ventura. Turn left on P Street. The Warehouse Row Buildings are on the right at 702, 754, and 764 P Street.
The Fresno Consumers Ice Company (702 P Street) was begun in 1903 under the name San Joaquin Ice Company. It was advertised at that time as the largest such facility on the Pacific Coast. The company changed its name to Fresno Consumers Ice Company in 1904. It concentrated solely on the manufacturing of ice, the first plant in Fresno to do so. It also was the first ice company in Fresno to make home deliveries. Horse-drawn wagons were used until 1924, when the company made the transition to trucks. At its peak, the Fresno Consumers Ice Company had a production capacity of thirty tons a day. In 1946, the company made the transition from ice production to cold storage, but by then it already had made its mark in the commercial development of Fresno. In August 2008 the brick portions of the Consumers Ice Company were declared a public safety hazard and demolished. The only section of this building that remains is the 1928 three-story concrete structure.
The Western Meat Company packing plant (754 P Street) was built in 1910. In 1932 the company was sold to Swift and Co., and concentrated primarily on poultry production. In 1945, the plant was converted completely to turkey production. A hatchery was constructed at 745 P Street, directly across the street from the Swift plant. During the next decade the Swift Company became an integral part of the turkey industry in the San Joaquin Valley. The company would buy eggs, hatch them, and then sell them to valley farmers to raise to maturity. Swift then bought the turkeys back and processed them at their plant. Until 1960, when the Swift Company relocated, the processing plant was a focal point for the turkey industry in Fresno and the San Joaquin Valley.
The Wormser Furniture Company (764 P Street) was begun by Sigmund Wormser, a noted Fresno business leader who arrived in Fresno in 1889. Established in 1903, the company was an immediate success. It eventually became one of the largest businesses of its kind in California.
Turn left on Inyo Street, right on L Street and left on Kern Street. The Fresno Republican Printery (1919) is immediately on the left at 2130 Kern Street.
The Fresno Republican Printery building, designed by Edward Glass and Charles Butner, housed the job printing division of the Fresno Morning Republican newspaper. Published from 1876 until 1932, the Republican was a major force in the social, cultural, and publishing history of early California. Changing technology eventually rendered the printery obsolete, and it was closed in the 1970s. In 1982 most of the building was converted into a private dining facility known as the Downtown Club.
Continue southwest on Kern Street. As you reach Van Ness Avenue, the Hotel California (1923) is on the left side of Kern Street across Van Ness at 851 Van Ness Avenue.
The Hotel California was constructed in downtown Fresno as a luxury hotel for city visitors and as a meeting place for city residents. Designed by H. Rafael Lake and constructed by R. F. Felchlin & Company, the Italian Renaissance Revival building immediately became a symbolic landmark for the growing prosperity of the City of Fresno. In the ensuing years, the Hotel California gained a reputation as the best hotel between San Francisco and Los Angeles, and hosted many famous individuals and important events. It remains emblematic of Fresnos prosperity in the 1920s and is an outstanding example of the type of development that occurred in Californias Central Valley cities wishing to promote a strong sense of their success and urbanization during this period.
Turn right on Van Ness Avenue and left on Tulare Street. The Bank of Italy Building (1917) is on the right at the corner of Tulare Street and Fulton Mall (1101 Fulton Mall). There isn't any easy street parking near this building, though there are a variety of lots and parking structures in the area.
At the time of its completion, the Bank of Italy building was the epitome of optimism and confidence in the future of a growing Fresno. It was designed by architect Charles Franklin in the Renaissance Revival style. Eventually the Bank of Italy changed its name to Bank of America. Though currently vacant, this beautiful structure is one of the most structurally significant commercial buildings in the area.
Continue southwest on Tulare Street to the Southern Pacific Railroad Depot (1889) on the right at 1713 Tulare Street.
The Southern Pacific Railroad Depot, more than any other building in the city, represents the growth of Fresno from a barren plain into the agri-business capital of the world. The Central Pacific Railroad, which became the Southern Pacific in 1884, began a line through the Central Valley from San Francisco to Los Angeles shortly after completing its part of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869. The Fresno Station was established on that line in 1872, and a wood frame depot constructed. In 1889 the Southern Pacific designated Fresno as its main Central Valley freight terminal; it removed the 1872 depot and replaced it with a spacious new Queen Anne-style passenger and freight depot. The Daily Evening Expositor on July 6, 1889, reported that "from San Francisco to Los Angeles there is no depot that can be compared with the one to be constructed in Fresno. It will be a model building of the latest style of architecture." Truck transportation and decreasing passenger traffic forced the depot's closure in 1971. One of two Queen Anne-influenced stations in California and a symbol of Fresno's founding, it remains one of the city's most significant historical and architectural landmarks.
Because of high-speed rail construction, it currently is impossible to follow the most direct route to the next stop. Reverse direction on Tulare Street, turn right on H Street, turn right on Ventura Street, and turn right on F Street. The Azteca Theater is on the right at 836-840 F Street.
The Azteca Theater opened in 1948. It provided a steady diet of films made during the Golden Age of Mexican cinema, and was also a venue for personal appearances by many of the leading actors of Mexican film. From 1948 to 1980 the theater was the only venue to show Spanish-language films catering to the largely immigrant Mexican American community in this region. When in March 1966 César Chavez led striking farmworkers on their march from Delano to Sacramento, they held a rally in the Azteca.
Continue on Tulare Street and turn right on Fresno Street. Take the H Street ramp to the right, then turn left on Tulare Street. The Fresno County Hall of Records is on the left at 2281 Tulare Street
The Fresno County Hall of Records is a masterly example of PWA Deco Moderne architecture with stylized Neoclassical design elements, and exemplifies superior quality in aesthetics and workmanship throughout its exterior and public spaces. It is embellished with bas-reliefs manufactured by the internationally-renowned terra cotta firm of Gladding, McBean & Company. Though credited to Allied Architects, a Depression-era consortium of Fresno architects, the building was actually designed by draftsman Henry P. Villalon. Ernest J. Kump, Sr., one of the Allied Architect partners, had recruited Villalon to join him in Fresno. The traditionally-trained Kump harbored disdain for the modernistic styles being promoted by the Public Works Administration during this period, and relinquished the task of designing the Fresno County Hall of Records to Villalon.
Continue on Tulare Street. The Maubridge Apartment Building (1912) on the right at 2344 Tulare Street.
The Maubridge Apartments' name came from combining the names Maupin and Trowbridge. It was built in 1911-1912 by Dr. J. L. Maupin and Dr. D. H. Trowbridge, Sr., prominent local medical doctors at the time. It is the earliest substantial apartment building in Fresno still standing. It was advertised in 1912 as a prestigious and exclusive address. The structure was designed by Benjamin G. McDougall, who designed many residences in Fresno.
Continue northeast on Tulare Street. Turn right on Santa Fe Street. The Santa Fe Railroad Depot (1899) is to the left on the corner of Tulare and Santa Fe streets at 2650 Tulare. The Santa Fe Hotel (1913)is across the street at 935 Santa Fe Street.
The Santa Fe Railroad Depot was completed in 1899 as a station for the San Francisco and San Joaquin Valley Railroad (later the Santa Fe Raiload). The San Francisco and San Joaquin reached Fresno in 1896, breaking the monopoly of the Southern Pacific on Fresno's railroad traffic. Alterations and additions were made to the south end of the Mission Revival building in 1909, and an office unit was added in 1912. Additional alterations and additions were made in 1917. The waiting room, ticket office and baggage room were completely remodeled in 1940. In 1966 the station was abandoned for passenger use and the waiting room was converted into a communications center for the railroad. The entire second floor was converted into electronic and computer control areas along with related offices. The railroad later completely abandoned the building and it stood vacant for many years. In 2005 the building was renovated for use as the Fresno Amtrak Station.
The Santa Fe Hotel, built by Telesfuro Jance, is one of the oldest and most important Basque institutions in Fresno. Historically, Basque hotels constituted a network of ethnic establishments through which Basque immigrants could enter and move about the United States with a maximum of protection and a minimum of culture shock. As was the custom, the Santa Fe Hotel was built near the railroad station. For its old-world clientele, the Santa Fe Hotel was both a way station for the newly-arrived immigrant and a haven for the unemployed. The hotel also was the base of operations for the Basque sheep herders in town on business.
Return northwest on Santa Fe Street to Tulare Street. Turn right on Tulare Street. The Meux Home (1889) is on the left at 1007 R Street.
The Meux Home was built in 1889 by Dr. Thomas Richard Meux (1838-1929). During the Civil War he enlisted in 1861 as a private in the Ninth Tennessee Volunteer Regiment of the Confederate Army. After four years he left the service as an assistant surgeon with the rank of Captain. The Meux family moved to Fresno in 1887, and Dr. Meux chose the corner of Tulare and R streets as the family's homesite in March of 1888. Meux established his medical practice in 1889 and served as a physician from his office and home the rest of his life. The home was continuously occupied by the Meux family for eighty years. It was later acquired by the city of Fresno and is presently open to the public as the Meux Home Museum.
Continue northeast on R Street, turn right on Mariposa Street, and then turn left on S Street. The H. H. Brix Home (1911) is on the left at the corner of S and Fresno streets (2844 Fresno Street).
The Brix Mansion was constructed for Herman H. and Helena S. Brix in 1910-1911. Herman Brix made a pioneering contribution to the development of Coalinga and was influential in the commercial expansion of Fresno. Born in Germany in 1862, Brix immigrated to the United States in the early 1880s, eventually arriving in California. He and his wife were among the pioneering settlers of the Coalinga area, on the western edge of the San Joaquin Valley. After an unsuccessful attempt at grain farming, Brix left to seek his fortune in the Alaskan gold rush. Meanwhile, Coalinga underwent an oil boom. Returning with a modest stake from his Yukon endeavors, Brix formed a water company on his homestead and made a fortune investing in oil properties. By 1915, Brix and his associates owned 1400 acres of west-side oil lands. He was associated with the Confidence Oil Company, was President of the B & B Oil Company, President of the San Francisco Oil Company, a director of the St. Paul & Fresno Oil Company, and a one-sixth investor in the Coalinga Syndicate. Having relocated to Fresno by 1903, Brix invested heavily in properties in that city after 1909. Not only did he commission his magnificent Italian Renaissance mansion on Fresno Street, but he was an important stockholder in the Hotel Fresno development. He also was responsible for the construction of the attractive four-story Brix Apartments in 1912. Though Brix died in 1915, his dream of a multi-story office building was accomplished by the Brix Estate in 1922 with the construction of the imposing Brix Building on Fulton Street. In addition to its historical associations, the Brix Mansion possesses considerable architectural significance. Designed by architect Edward T. Foulkes, it represents a brilliant example of a period-inspired Italian Villa, the only residence in Fresno built in this lavishly-embellished style.
Turn left on Fresno Street and cross the railroad tracks. The Physicians Building (1926) is on the right at 2607 Fresno Street.
The Physicians Building, designed in the Spanish Revival style by architect Charles Butner and built in 1926 for six Fresno physicians and surgeons, was the first such building in the Central San Joaquin Valley conceived for the exclusive purpose of housing medical examination offices and laboratory facilities. The practitioners in the Physicians Building were involved in a variety of professional specialities, including general surgery, pediatrics, obstetrics, and internal medicine.
The next three stops are within about one block of the Physician's Building, so you might want to leave your vehicle and walk to them. Immediately across P Street is the Twining Laboratories Building (1930), on the right at 2527 Fresno Street. Immediately across O Street is the Old Fresno Water Tower (1894), on the left at 2444 Fresno Street. The Fresno Memorial Auditorium (1935) is across the street at 2424 Fresno Street.
The Twining Laboratories Building is significant as a Depression-era work of regionally important architect Charles E. Butner. It is a solid example of a small commercial office designed in a variation of the Mediterranean Revival style not otherwise seen in downtown Fresno. The building also is associated with the scientific contributions of Frederick E. Twining (1874-1945), a prominent pioneer chemist in Fresno and the greater San Joaquin Valley. The firm's slogan was "We Test Anything," and Dr. Twining was widely consulted on such diverse subjects as food and drug testing, sobriety testing, and the analysis of California brandy quality compared to imported products. At the time of Frederick Twining's death in 1945, the lab he founded was described as "the most diversified laboratory for scientific research and testing in the United States." Twining's son, Frederick W. Twining (1895-1976), also a chemist with vast experience in the petroleum industry, managed the business after his father's death. He expanded the operation into Bakersfield, Visalia, Modesto, Stockton and Long Beach. Twining Laboratories continues today to be a major source for the testing of soils and materials in the central San Joaquin Valley.
The Old Fresno Water Tower was designed by George Washington Maher, a Chicago architect. Completed in 1894, it was in constant use until 1963, when the pumping machinery was no longer adequate. The original design called for a library on the second and third floors, but it was never installed. For several years the first floor was used as a parking meter repair facility. In 2001 the second floor was removed and the interior of the tower remodeled to become the visitors' center for the City and County of Fresno. As part of this remodeling a landscaped plaza and separate restroom building were built adjacent to the tower. The water tower today remains Fresno's most distinctive and enduring architectural symbol.
The Fresno Memorial Auditorium was designed by Allied Architects, a Depression-era consortium that included several of Fresno's most prominent architects of the time. It was, until 1966, Fresno's most significant cultural facility. The building's Art Deco exterior was outstanding for its time, and is unchanged from its original construction. The building has additional significance because of the many political and entertainment personalities who have appeared before its audiences. Today the building is still used for performances and is the home of the Legion of Valor Museum.
Return to your vehicle and continue southwest on Fresno Street. Turn right on Broadway. The Hotel Fresno is on the left in one block.
The Hotel Fresno, constructed in 1912 and designed by Edward T. Foulkes, is the oldest extant hotel in the city, having been the largest and most lavish at the time of its construction. The hotel was a popular location for conventions, citizen groups' meetings, weddings, the city's New Year's celebration and a choice locale for socializing after an evening at downtown theaters. It is perhaps the earliest extant example of Classical Revival commercial architecture in Fresno, reflecting the city's architectural transformation when it began modernizing architecturally, moving away from the "rambling asymmetrically-massed buildings of the high Victorian era of the late-19th century" and expressing instead the classically inspired tripartite commercial architecture which was emerging throughout the nation.
Return to Fresno Street and then return northeast. Turn left on Van Ness. The Fresno Bee Building (1922) is on the left at the corner of Calaveras Street and Van Ness Avenue (1545 Van Ness Avenue).
This Renaissance Revival building, designed by architect Leonard F. Starks, was original headquarters of The Fresno Bee, which was established in 1922 as a challenger to The Fresno Morning Republican newspaper. More recently, it was for many years the home of the Fresno Metropolitan Museum.
Turn left on Calaveras Street and left on Fulton Street. At the corner of Fulton & Tuolumne streets you will find the Pantages (Warnor's) Theatre (1929) on the left at 1400-1430 Fulton Street, and the San Joaquin Light & Power Corporation Building (1923) on the right at 1401 Fulton Street.
The Pantages Theatre was constructed in the Moorish Revival style by Alexander Pantages, one of the most prominent managers of vaudeville entertainment and a renowned theater magnate. Before he retired, he owned sixteen large theaters outright and controlled forty more. All of the houses owned or operated by Pantages, including this one, were designed by architect B. Marcus Priteca. In 1929 the theater was purchased by Warner Brothers, and its name changed to "Warner's Theatre." Fresno thus became the second West Coast city to have a Warner Brother's motion picture theater. The theater was used primarily for motion pictures until 1973, when it was sold to the present owners. Since that time it has been used mainly for concerts. Its name was changed to "Warnors Theatre" in the 1960s.
The San Joaquin Light & Power Corporation had its beginnings in 1895 and then expanded to serve the rapidly-growing light and power needs of the San Joaquin Valley. The construction of this building in 1923-1924 is symbolic of the prestige and significance the company had attained. Also at this time, the City of Fresno had grown from a small town to a major city. A building boom during the 1910s and 1920s resulted in construction of a sizable number of significant buildings. This building was and still remains a significant visual landmark in the city, and is an excellent example of the Italian Renaissance Revival style. In addition, it was constructed by R. F. Felchlin Co., an important local architectural, engineering and construction firm.
From Fulton Street, turn left on Tuolumne Street, left on L Street, right on Calaveras Street, and left on M Street. The Louis Einstein Home (1913) is on the right at 1600 M Street, immediately followed on the right by the YWCA Residence Hall (1922) at 1660 M Street.
The Einstein Home was designed in the Craftsman English Cottage style by architect Edward T. Foulkes for Louis Einstein (1847-1914), pioneer merchant, banker and civic leader in Fresno County. In 1874 Einstein and H. D. Silverman opened a store in Fresno under the name Silverman and Einstein Company. After Silverman's death in 1877, the name was changed to the Louis Einstein Company. Einstein moved from storekeeping to banking when he founded the Bank of Central California in 1887. He served as president of the bank until his death. He also served as president of the Einstein Investment Company and the First National Bank of Coalinga. Active in nearly all the early economic developments of Fresno, Einstein supported the city's first irrigation, gas, and street car ventures. He helped in organizing the free library movement and for several years served as a member of the Library Board. A patron of the liberal arts and music, Einstein was active in the formation of the Unitarian Church in Fresno. Louis Einstein died in his home in 1914. His widow, Eda, and other family memberes continued to live in the house until her death. The Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) bought the house for their activities building in 1950. It has been in continuous use by the YWCA since then.
The YWCA Residence Hall was designed by Julia Morgan, one of America's foremost women architects. Morgan was the official architect in the West for the YWCA, one of her best clients. She designed YWCA buildings in most major cities in California, Utah, Hawaii, and in Japan. Built in 1922, the Fresno YWCA Residence Hall is the last such building designed by Morgan that is still used for its original purposeproviding moderate-cost housing for young women.
Turn left on San Joaquin Street. The Romain Home (1905) is on the right at the corner of Van Ness Avenue and San Joaquin (2055 San Joaquin).
The Romain Home has been closely associated for some seventy-five years with individuals who have made significant contributions to the City of Fresno, the San Joaquin Valley, and the State of California. It was designed by Eugene Mathewson and constructed in 1905 for Frank Romain, one of the pioneering agricultural developers in the central San Joaquin Valley. The erection of his fine residence in 1905 is an indication of Romain's early success and of his position of responsibility in the development of the local economy. Following Romain's death in 1928, the residence functioned as the Sullivan, Burns, and Blair Funeral Home from 1929 to 1959. All three partners were involved in local community affairs, and Hugh Burns was also a prominent member of the California legislature from 1936 to 1970. When Burns retired in 1970, he was credited with having held the second-longest record of continuous service in the State Legislature in the history of California. The Romain Home's association with prominent members of the community continued after William Whitehurst leased it in 1959 for use as a funeral home (he purchased it in 1970). In addition to his activities in the local community, William Whitehurst served for seven years on the State Highway Commission. The Romain Home also possesses architectural significance through its representation of a typical house form and style of architecture that once was very prominent but that has all but disappeared in Fresno. Its honest, non-eclectic approach to housing for upper-middle-class society is representative in form and material of much of early Fresno.
Proceed north on Van Ness Avenue. Continue on Van Ness for 1.1 miles. Turn left on Olive Avenue. The Tower Theatre (1939) is on the right at the corner of Wishon and Olive avenues (1201 N. Wishon).
The Tower Theatre is the most dramatic example of the Streamline Moderne style in Fresno. It is an example of late-1930s suburban theaters designed by Los Angeles architect S. Charles Lee (1899-1990). The Tower was Lee's only completed project in Fresno. A complete restoration of the exterior facade, ongoing tenant improvements in the retail wings, and modifications to allow the adaptive reuse of the theater auditorium for the performing arts was honored with a California Preservation Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement in Restoration, and an Award of Honor from the San Joaquin Chapter, American Institute of Architects.
Return east on Olive Avenue to the Paul Kindler Home (1929), on the right at 1520 E. Olive Avenue.
This impressive French-Norman Revival dwelling was the personal residence of one of Fresno's most accomplished masonry craftsmen, Paul Kindler. It is a prime example of the quality work produced by the man who was the masonry contractor on most of the major commercial buildings erected in Fresno during the 1920s. Not only does this home exemplify the quality construction and architectural design of its era, but it also preserves the techniques and talent of Fresno's leading mason during the time of the city's most rapid growth. Kindler is credited with the beautiful and often ornate brick and terra cotta construction on many of Fresno's most noteworthy buildings. Kindler's best known projects were, no doubt, the San Joaquin Light and Power building in 1922, and in 1923-24, the Pacific Southwest Building.
Return west on Olive Avenue. Turn right on Van Ness Avenue, which becomes Maroa Avenue soon after it crosses McKinley Avenue. The Fresno City College Old Administration Building (1916) is to the right on the Fresno City College campus (1101 E. University Avenue). It's difficult to see this building well from the street, so you may wish to park and view it on foot. Be aware that parking may be difficult to find if classes are in session.
Fresno City College Old Administration Building (1916) Last Updated by kevin < 1 minute ago 1101 E. University Avenue. The Old Administration building is the only surviving complex remaining from the Fresno State Normal School, the first institution of higher education for the training of teachers in the San Joaquin Valley. It was designed in the Spanish Renaissance style by architect George McDougall. Construction began in 1915 and was completed in 1916; it was the first permanent building on the campus. The building originally contained administrative offices, classrooms and a library on the second floor. After standing empty for many years and threatened with demolition, the building was restored and re-opened in 2011.
The last three stops involve more driving distance than all the previous stops combined. Two of them require an admission fee to see in any meaningful way, and the other is a landfill. Consider yourself warned.
From the FCC Administration Building, continue north on Maroa Avenue. Turn left on Clinton Avenue and proceed 2.1 miles to Highway 99. Take Highway 99 North 3.7 miles to the Shaw Avenue exit. Turn left on Shaw Avenue. The Forestiere Underground Gardens (1906-1946) are on the right at 5021 W. Shaw Avenue. Virtually nothing of the gardens is visible from the street, since almost all of the historic elements are below ground. The Underground Gardens are open to the public (admission fee required), and are well worth a visit. Hours vary throughout the year. Check here for information.
The Forestiere Underground Gardens were designed and hand-sculpted by Baldasare Forestiere, a Sicilian immigrant. A vineyardist and horticulturalist, Forestiere began in the early 1900s to carve and sculpt a thoroughly unique underground retreat to escape the San Joaquin Valley's excessive heat. After nearly forty years with hand tools and persistent effort, he succeeded in creating a cool subterranean complex fashioned after the "visions stored in my mind." Forestiere worked without blueprints or plans, following only his creative instincts and aesthetic impulses. He continued expanding and modifying the gardens throughout his life. Baldasare Forestiere died in 1946 at the age of sixty-seven. After his death, the Underground Gardens were opened to the public as a museum.
Return to Highway 99 South, and proceed approximately 9 miles to Highway 41 South. From 41, take the Jensen Avenue exit and drive west on Jensen for approximately 2.5 miles. The Fresno Sanitary Landfill (1937) is on your left. Enter the parking lot for the Fresno Regional Sports Park, which runs parallel to the landfill.
The Fresno Sanitary Landfill (the only Fresno National Register property to also be designated a National Historic Landmark) is the oldest "true" sanitary landfill in the United States, and the oldest compartmentalized municipal landfill in the western United States. It is the first landfill to employ the trench method of disposal and first to utilize compaction. The man responsible for developing, implementing and disseminating the sanitary landfill in the United States was Jean Vincenz (1894-1989), who served as commissioner of public works, city engineer, and manager of utilities in Fresno, California, from 1931 to 1941. The Fresno Sanitary Landfill is an important historical site because it established the prototype for the modern sanitary landfill in the United States, particularly in the developmental stages of that technology from 1937 to 1950. Vincenz's design, incorporating the trench method, layering of waste and dirt, and daily covering of the fill area introduced a method of disposal that for its time provided a systematic and hygienic method of disposal through the use of the best technology available. No other solid waste disposal option was as widely utilized in the United States and elsewhere as the sanitary landfill.
Continue west on Jensen Avenue and turn right on Marks Avenue. Drive 1.5 miles and then turn left on Kearney Boulevard (or Madison Avenue, depending on which side of Marks you read the sign). Immediately after turning left, make another diagonal left to stay on Kearney Boulevard. The landscaping on either side of the boulevard is part of M. Theo Kearney's original design for the boulevard leading to his home. Travel west for 4 miles to the Kearney Park entrance on your left. Enter the park ($5 admission fee per car) and follow the signs to the Kearney Mansion (1903). The home is a museum operated by the Fresno City & County Historical Society.
Martin Theodore Kearney (1842-1906) was a substantial contributor to the agricultural development of both Fresno County and the state of California. He began his career in Fresno by managing the Central California Colony development. Kearney devised a subdivision system whereby fencing and irrigation for all the lots in the colony were provided cooperatively. This enabled middle-class purchasers to start farming without the tremendous financial outlay otherwise necessary. Kearney later promoted several developments of his own, including the Easterby Colony east of Fresno, and the Fruit Vale Estate to the west. He advertised Fresno County far and wide, using various attractive promotional brochures that described Fresno as a veritable Garden of Eden. The mansion consists of two buildings, a main residence and an adjoining servants' quarters. The two buildings are designed in the French Renaissance style, simulated through the use of materials indigenous to the area and through the use of Victorian stock moldings, all built by workers employed by owner M. Theo. Kearney. Both buildings have a basic rectangular form with walls of two-foot-thick unstabilized adobe brick, covered with a thin coat of plaster for waterproofing. The Kearney Mansion is located in the 225-acre "Chateau Fresno Park" (now Kearney Park), begun by Kearney in 1892. Rudolph Ulrich, the noted American landscape architect from New York, laid out the design for this park and the boulevard leading to it. Over the next fourteen years, Kearney turned a flat, barren landscape into one of the most beautiful parks in the United States. At the turn of the century the park may have contained more species of trees, vines, shrubs and roses than any equal area in the United States. The San Francisco Chronicle called it the "most beautiful park on the West Coast." The eleven-mile boulevard leading from downtown Fresno to the park was lined with alternating eucalyptus and palms, interspersed with 18,000 white and pink oleanders.
This ends the tour. Exit the park and turn right onto Kearney Boulevard. Turn left on Hayes Avenue and then right on Whitesbridge Road (Highway 180 East). This will lead you back to the 180 East freeway in Fresno.
View National Register of Historic Places sites in Fresno, California in a larger map