Walking Tour: Historic Architecture in the St. John's Cathedral District

This walking tour is slightly less than one mile in length, and visits all of the significant historic properties in the area defined by Fresno, R, Tulare, and U streets. It begins at the intersection of R and Mariposa Streets. Free two-hour street parking is available throughout the tour area.

This area is the far eastern corner of the original Fresno downtown street grid. It was not among the earliest areas of that grid to be developed, and was perceived by some early residents of Fresno as somewhat distant from the city center. The structures for which the district is best known today were mostly built during the first two decades of the twentieth century. In its earliest years this neighborhood was best known for its proximity to the original Fresno County Hospital and Burnett Sanitarium. This and the fact that the land in the vicinity was slightly elevated caused it to be known as "Hospital Hill." The connection to the medical profession continues today with the presence Community Regional Medical Center immediately to the north.

Begin the tour at the corner of R and Mariposa Streets. On one corner of the intersection stands St. John's Cathedral, the most imposing structure in the district and the one for which the area is named today. Two other buildings on or near this intersection are closely related to the cathedral: the St. John's Hall School (directly across Mariposa from the front of the cathedral) and the St. John's Rectory (next door to the cathedral) On the corner opposite the cathedral stands the Collins Home.

Considered by some parishoners to be too far from town when it was constructed in 1902, the St. John's Cathedral soon became the heart of prestigious residential neighborhood. Today it is the oldest surviving church building in Fresno. It was designed by Thomas Bermingham in the Gothic Romanesque style. In 1922 St. John's became the cathedral for the newly-established Diocese of Monterey-Fresno, and in 1967 for the Diocese of Fresno.
St. John's Hall School served as Fresno's parochial school from its construction in 1926 until the 1960s. Today it is used as a community hall for St. John's Cathedral. It is an excellent example of brick Collegiate Gothic architecture, an unusual style in Fresno. The architect was Emmet G. Martin.
St. John's Rectory was designed by Julius Fabel, who is perhaps best known as a builder of amusement park roller coasters, including those in Santa Cruz and Long Beach.

Proceed on R Street toward Tulare Street. On the right at 1007 R Street is the Thomas R. Meux Home. It is open to the public as a museum.

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 in 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. The varied decorative treatments on the exterior walls is typical of the Queen Anne style.

From the Meux home, turn left onto Tulare Street. You will walk almost three blocks without passing any significant historic structures. The drought will end as you approach T Street. On your left at 2983 Tulare Street is the F. K. Prescott Home. Currently used as a funeral home, the grand residence had a very unsympathetic annex added to the Tulare Street facade, which significantly detracts from the home's original historic fabric. You will get a much better sense of the original home design as you turn left on T Street.

F. K. Prescott was a pioneer in the Fresno lumber industry. His 1906 home was built in the Colonial Revival style.

Directly across T Street from the Prescott Home is the Martin Home at 1002 T Street.

The Martin Home, designed by Lee Duncan and completed in 1912, is one of the largest homes in the Craftstman Bungalow style in Fresno. It is a particularly fine example of the use of river rock as a decorative element. Such "natural" decorative features were a common element of Craftsman design. Of particular interest is a tiny "doll house" made of river rock and built against the home's foundation along the Tulare Street facade. See if you can find it. This home has been a mortuary since 1960.

Proceed on T Street away from Tulare Street. At 1025 T Street is the Ewing Home.

The Ewing Home was designed by Eugene Mathewson and built by Frank Rehorn in 1916. We will see Rehorn's home later in the tour. Red clay tile roofs are typical of the Spanish Revival style, though this house otherwise does not exhibit elements of that style.

Across the street is the Gundelfinger Home at 1020 T Street.

This home was built in 1910 for Henry Gundelfinger, a prominent business and civic leader in Fresno for many years. The home possesses elements of both the Prairie and Colonial Revival styles. The strong horizontal lines, hipped roof with wide overhanging eaves, and the "ribbons" of repeated vertical windows that create the illusion of single large horizontal windows are all typical Prairie design elements. The porch pillars, however, are much more typical of Colonial Revival.

Continue on T Street. The Goodman Home is at 1060 T Street.

This is an excellent example of the Colonial Revival style with Georgian detailing. It was designed by Eugene Mathewson, and completed in 1906. The decorative chimneys add an interesting note, as do the four prominent attic dormers. Sol B. Goodman was in the clothing business in Fresno for over fifty years. He was a charter member of Temple Beth Israel and largely responsible for the home's construction.

Turn right on Mariposa Street. The Living Faith Evangelical Church will be on your left at 1115 U Street.

This building was occupied by the Emmanuel Lutheran Church from 1929 until the mid-1960s. In 1968 it was purchased by the Carter Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church. Today it is the Living Faith Evangelical Church. The building represents an outstanding example of the Collegiate Gothic style.

Return to T Street and turn right. The Anderson Home is on your right at 1120 T Street. Directly across the street is the Van Valkenburgh Home at 1125 Street, and next door to it are the Sunset Apartments at 1129-1135 T Street.

The Anderson Home, built in 1913, is severely plain except for jig sawn applique on the pediment of gabled front porch. Downtown Fresno once had many such homes, known as the American Foursquare type, but very few remain today.
The Van Valkenburgh Home was built in 1903 in the Dutch Colonial Revival style. Its unusual roofline and juxtaposition of forms set this house apart from other residences in downtown Fresno.
The earliest history of the Sunset Apartments, designed in a vernacular Prairie style, has not yet been adequately researched. It had been completed by 1906, though it is not clear if it was always an apartment building or rather a single-family dwelling later subdivided into separate units. By about 1917 it was definitely functioning as an apartment building. In 2008 the owners of the building received a Historic Preservation Award from the City of Fresno for their renovation of it.

Continue on T Street until you reach Fresno Street. Directly ahead on the other side of the street is the City Fire Alarm Station.

This distinctive building was designed by William D. Coates and Harrison B. Traver in the Renaissance Revival style. It is one of the only buildings in Fresno designed to fit on a triangular lot. It is used today as a 911 call center, a function very much in keeping with its original use as city fire alarm station.

Turn left on Fresno Street and walk for one block. The H. H. Brix Home is on the left at 2844 Fresno Street.

This lavish Italian Renaissance home was designed by Edward T. Foulkes. It was constructed for Herman H. and Helena S. Brix in 1910-1911. Herman H. Brix made a pioneering contribution to the development of Coalinga and was influential in the commercial expansion of Fresno. Much of his wealth came through oil holdings in Coalinga.

Turn left on S Street. The Aten Home is on the right at 1133 S Street.

This Crafstman bungaloid home is one of finest examples of shingle-type Craftsman architecture in Fresno. The building remains, both inside and outside, much as it was constructed in 1914. While true Craftsman "bungalows" are always single-story stuctures, houses such as this one designed in that style with two full stories are called "bungaloid."

Continue on S Street to Mariposa Street. The Rehorn Home is located at 1050 S Street.

The Rehorn Home, designed in the Georgian Revival style by Alexander C. Swartz, was completed in 1906. It was one of several mansions built in the Cathedral District by prominent members of the lumber and building industries. Frank Rehorn (1862-1916) was a pioneer building contractor who figured heavily in the growth of Fresno from its early days as a shack town to its emergence as the San Joaquin Valley's first high-rise city. After Rehorn's death, the home was sold to H. H. Holland (1872-1941). The Holland family sold the residence to the Roman Catholic diocese in 1941, and it was used as a convent until 1970. By 1973, the home had been in use for several years as the Villa Carmel Home for unwed mothers. By 1974, it was used for communal student housing, which left its own set of hallucinatory markings on the old residence. Architects Allen Y. Lew and William E. Patnaude purchased the Rehorn residence in 1976, and launched an ambitious rehabilitation project to restore the dilapidated structure for use as their architectural office.

This completes the tour. From S Street, turn right on Mariposa to return to the starting point.

The tour is partially based on "A Tour Guide to Historic Architecture: Civic Center and Saint John's Cathedral Districts," originally published by the Fresno City & County Historical Society (1990).



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