Book collects early Davis history in photos

April 23, 2000
Elisabeth Sherwin -- gizmo@

John Lofland and Phyllis Haig have teamed up to produce a wonderful book of old photographs about one of their favorite places, Davis.

Lofland, a UC Davis professor emeritus, and Haig, a local historian, each brought special skills to the venture, which resulted in the publication of "Davis, California 1910s - 1940s."

Lofland previously published "Old North Davis" with the Yolo County Historical Society. Haig is active in history projects at the county level and at the Hattie Weber Museum here in Davis.

In the course of putting together "Old North Davis," Lofland was introduced to many photos of bygone Davis. And as curator of the museum, Haig, too, had many old photographs.

The two decided to collect only photos from one early approximately 40-year period and to show photos that concentrated not exclusively on people and events but on places and buildings, preferably buildings that still exist so people currently living in Davis can experience a sense of historic place.

They decided not to include UC Davis, which has its own history and photos (and will be the subject of a forthcoming book).

The result is a photographic chronicle of the town period in the history of Davis. It was during this era that much of what is thought of as classically Davis (the Richards underpass, for instance) was created. The population of Davis in 1940 was about 1,700.

The authors have recorded aerial photos and streetscapes including what Lofland calls the most photographed street scene in Davis: G Street looking north from Second Street. He includes 10 images of this corner showing changes through the years.

Another chapter records early businesses. Many of the original businesses are gone (like the Davis branch of the Bank of Yolo at the corner of Third and G streets), but new businesses remain in those buildings (Bank of Yolo is now Noodle Express).

There also are chapters on local government buildings, on the depot and railroad tracks, on churches and schools, volunteer organizations, celebrations, and neighborhoods.

One of the most famous photographs combines the railroad and government. It's a shot of Harry Truman's "whistle stop" campaign by train at the Davis depot in June of 1948. For many years an enlargement of this photo greeted visitors at the entrance to the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Mo.

One of Lofland's favorite photos was taken in Davis during World War II. It captures an event that Lofland heard about but never saw a photograph of until a museum volunteer brought one in.

It's a photo of a woman, Violet Gordon, watching for enemy aircraft from a not-very-tall Davis observation tower at the corner of Fifth and B streets in 1944. In the photo, the high school gym is visible behind the tower.

One of the structures that looks the same today as it did in 1952 is the Davis Townhouse Apartments. This apartment building covers most of the block bounded by University Avenue, Russell Boulevard, B and Fourth streets. It replaced a turkey farm on this site. This complex was among the first of what would be a wave of apartment buildings in Davis.

For those who are confused because the Hattie Weber Museum is plainly marked "Library" at its entrance, a 1924 photo is included of the Davis Free Library building, which was built in 1911 at 117 F St. After a new Davis branch of the Yolo County Library opened on Fourteenth Street in 1968, the city of Davis purchased the free library building. It was moved to its Central Park location in 1988 where it opened as the Hattie Weber Museum of Davis in 1992.

Lofland said the Arcadia publishing firm hit upon the idea of publishing photographic histories of small towns across the United States, a venture that would likely be too expensive for many towns to do on their own. While Arcadia has published books on many towns in the East, Davis was one of the first towns in California. The book, which costs $18.99, is available at local bookstores.

To inquire about ordering any of the above mentioned books from an independent bookstore,
Bogey's Books at discounted prices [ Click Here ]

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