Madera will have an important anniversary this fall. It was 120 years ago
that the first lots of the proposed village were put on the auction market
and the future Madera County seat had its beginning.
Madera's birth certificate was printed in the October 11, 1876 issue of the
Fresno Expositor. It read, in part: "The new town of Madera laid out by
the California Lumber Company in this county (then Fresno County) at the
point where the company's flume intersects the railroad has been graced
with the name of Madera-the Spanish term for lumber. It promises to be
quite a flourishing town and the demand for its lots is great.
Within a few weeks the paper's reporter was astounded by the progress.
From the sands of the Fresno Plains, a town had arisen where formerly
only the jackrabbits and antelope played.
One of the first buildings was Captain Mace's Saloon, 24 feet by 56 feet,
on Yosemite Avenue. Soon afterward it was transformed into a first rate
hotel. Next door was another saloon and across the Southern Pacific
tracks, a "public house."
Within two months, the residents of Madera were thinking about the
education of their youth and on March 21, 1877, the decision was made to
build a 50 foot by 30 foot school building on two acres of land that was to
be fenced and planted with numerous shade trees. Upon completion of the
school, plans were made for the first church.
By April, 1877, it was reported that C.H. Evans had built a handsome
veranda in front of his saloon and planned to cover it with an awning.
Meanwhile, Dr. Brown had purchased Standford's Saloon, poured out the
whiskey and fitted up the building as a drug store. The same issue of the
newspaper noted that a drove of antelope crossed the railroad tracks near
In 1896, Madera became the county seat of newly created Madera
County. During the same year construction on a new courthouse, jail, zoo,
and county park began.
Madera soon moved into the 20th century and continued to grow with the
main part of town being three blocks long. Until paving in 1912, those
three blocks and the rest of the wide main street named Yosemite Avenue
were chuckholed and billowing with dust in the summer, thick with mud
miring wagons to their axles in winter. The only relief from the dirt were
several lengths of wooden sidewalks.
Several grocery stores including Rosenthal-Kutner, at the corner of
Yosemite and E Street, sold general merchandise; everything from a
pocket handkerchief to a harness as well as groceries. Others were
Franchi's Grocery, Rochdale, Wehrman-Meilike, Moore-Plate, Petty's
and Friedburger and Harder.
Lacy Robertson's Saloon at the corner of D and Yosemite had a swinging
door on the corner. Depending on which report is read, it was one of 14...
or 21 or 23...saloons on Yosemite Avenue. There were two banks on the
same block, First National on one end and the Commercial Bank on the
other end of the 200 block.
Other businesses included several Chinese restaurants, Mugler's Harness
Shop, several blacksmiths, McCabes Rooming House, Curtin's Livery
Stable, which took up a quarter block, and Brammer's Shoe Store.
Preciado's where Wells Fargo Bank is today, was a family store. Sporting
goods, newspapers, millinery and stationery were available and ice cream.
It was also where most Maderans gathered to listen to national radio
broadcasts of important happenings such as elections, prize fights,
baseball games and horse racing. Next door was the large
Tighe-Breyfogle Company, a department store with yardage, shoes and
men's and women's clothing.
Hunter's Drugstore was the cool spot to be in the summer heat. They had
ceiling fans over the front door and inside, ice cream.
Mace's Yosemite Hotel, the largest in town, catered to the railroad
passengers who spent the night before traveling on to Yosemite Valley.
Others were the Southern Hotel on North B Street and Barsotti's
advertised meals for 25 cents.
The arrival of passenger trains usually attracted a large number of people
watching to see who got off and who was getting on.
There was a skating rink on the second floor of a South D Street building
which swayed when it had a crowd in it. It was the home of the Madera
Polo team which became the State Champion Roller Polo Team of
Such was downtown Madera through the first two decades of the century
and now we look toward the first decade of a new century, with these few
remaining years of the 1900's a period in which more "history" will be
created, then described in some future period. It's all just a matter of time!
Courtesy of Alan Brown, Madera Historical Society
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