Sale Prices Nothing Less Than Marvelous…

July 20, 2022

Source: California Library

This is just a great photo that offers another view of the Gross Building, which suffered a fire in 1923 and other buildings (some now gone) along F Street (please click on the picture to enlarge to see more detail).

Note that you can see the (now) restored Carson Block Building on the right…

And then, of course, I found this “marvelous” ad to go with it…


One of Many Lucys- Sign up now !

July 16, 2022

Click HERE to register.


The Canal that Never Was…

July 16, 2022

In the 1870s, Ferndale resident Harry Nieber, using the nom de plume “White Alder,” started writing what he hoped were persuasive letters to the Humboldt Times, advocating for a canal to move goods and people more quickly and efficiently between the Eel River Valley and more populated communities to the north. Others advocated for a rail line but Nieber pointed out that railroad from Singley’s Ferry (near Fernbridge) to Eureka would cost upwards of $150,000 (or about $3.3 million in today’s dollars), while he believed a canal cut between the Eel River and Humboldt Bay would cost about a third of that. Freight costs, he predicted, would be cheaper, too.

When some argued against the idea, Nieber dismissed their skepticism as “silly nonsense.” At the time, steamers traveling from the coast into and out of the Eel were slow and subject to the weather and tides. A canal, Nieber argued, could move timber and people efficiently and be used all year. 

By 1880, Eel River Valley farmers joined the call for a cheaper, faster and easier means of transportation. Moving timber was expensive and transferring produce from wagon to steamer to wagon and more took time, which meant damage, a shorter shelf life and lost profits. While some supported rail, others pushed for a community owned steamboat to make regular trips to San Francisco.

White Alder stubbornly pushed for a canal, convinced it would allow Eureka businesses to “join hands with the farmers of Eel River and … speedily build up a new standard of prosperity.” Nieber’s persistence finally paid off when he convinced a powerful ally. Of all the transportation projects that had been proposed, the Humboldt Times finally conceded in January of 1880 that building a canal around Table Bluff was the most feasible. In February, the Ferndale Enterprise publicly agreed.

Citizens organized and in December of 1881, the Humboldt Times reported that a petition advocating for the canal had been sent to Congress “but Congress had other fish to fry.” The community defaulted to rail and by November of 1883, grading for the new line between Field’s Landing and Springville (Fortuna) was all but complete and workers were making the “hole through the bluff” (now known as the Loleta tunnel). 

It wasn’t until the steamer Weott was “bar bound” in the Eel River in October of 1895 that support for the canal reemerged, no doubt pleasing Neiber. The Humboldt Times reminded readers that a canal would allow loaded vessels from the Eel and Salt rivers to reach Eureka — and the sea with markets north and south all year long. The savings in transportation costs could pay for the canal within a few years, the editorial said. The idea gained no traction, though, until 1904, when a letter from a Port Kenyon resident appeared in an issue of American Lumberman.

 “You may not be aware that by building a small canal, less than 2 miles in length, connecting a slough from Eel and Salt river with Humboldt Bay at Fields Landing it is possible to increase commerce … at a comparatively little outlay, and at a saving in freight and fare for the inhabitants of a large part of this county…” the letter said. A canal would also shorten the trip from Arcata to Ferndale by 20 miles, the writer added, and could be cut with a suction dredge. 

This time the idea took hold and in 1905, another Ferndale resident took up the cry. Otto Neuhaus argued that salmon and other Eel River Valley goods went to waste lacking easy transport to larger markets. He also pointed out that quicker, cheaper freight costs would drive down the price of goods in Ferndale – which were generally higher than those same supplies bought in Eureka and Arcata.

By 1906, these arguments convinced the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce and Humboldt Chamber of Commerce to form a joint committee to explore the idea but they decided driftsand, construction costs and other barriers made the project infeasible. When Nieber died Sept. 13, 1906, at age 73, he must have thought his dream was dead, too.

But the Ferndale Chamber had not given up. In January of 1909, when Congressmemember W.F. Englebright visited the county, chamber representatives pushed the idea and in March, Englebright’s congressional office shared the “great and glorious news” that the recently passed river and harbor bill included a provision to survey proposed dredging of the Eureka-Arcata channel, the South Bay channel and the Eel River canal.” Quoting Nieber’s dismissed prediction of 40 years prior, the Humboldt Times noted that a canal would allow ranchers of the Eel River valley to ship produce direct to Eureka more quickly and with less expense. This time the idea was endorsed by “prominent local people,” the county’s many chambers of commerce and more.

But alas …

In April of 1909, Col. Biddle, chief of the government engineering corps for the district, and Capt. H. L. DeMerritt, Biddle’s “right-hand man,” arrived from San Francisco and Eureka Mayor H. L. Ricks and President B. F. Stern of the Chamber of Commerce brought them to Table Bluff to look over the proposed route of an Eel River canal. The officials were convinced the project had merit and initiated surveys that summer.

Unfortunately, the region’s hopes for an Eel River/Humboldt Bay canal ended permanently in October of 1909, when the Humboldt Chamber of Commerce received a letter from Col. Biddle declaring the canal infeasible “not on account of its impracticability” but because of its cost. Without significant infrastructure, currents in the Eel River during “freshets” (seasonal floods) would wash too much debris into the bay and make the river too swift for navigation. Valley farmers and ranchers were left with the county rail system and hard-to-navigate dirt roads until 1914, when the Northwestern Pacific Railroad finally bridged the transportation gap, and linked Humboldt County with the rest of the state.

By Lynette Mullen

Originally printed in The Enterprise July 14, 2022


Booths for Ladies in Wildwood, 1920s

July 7, 2022
Source: Cal Poly

It is always a bummer when people break the law and/or are charged with a crime, but it does give us some awesome high-quality historic photos. On the back of one of the these it says ‘Wildwood, Hum. Co., Calif.”; ”no. 11924 Stefano Barti (?), plaintiff, vs. Angelina Del Carlo, defendant, defendant’s exhibit E” but I can’t find any info on the case. Barti did have his “resort” in Wildwood closed in 1923 for violating the Prohibition Act and perhaps it was related…

Please click on the photos to see some truly great details.


One of Many Lucys- OLLI Class in July

July 5, 2022

Eureka’s Early Red Light District (s)- OLLI Class Coming Up !

July 5, 2022

Humboldt’s First Opioid Crisis- OLLI Class Coming Up !

July 5, 2022

More Buildings We’ve Held Onto- 2nd and F Streets

June 24, 2022

Source: Cal Poly Humboldt, c. 1905 (So many great details- please click to enlarge)

I recently ran across this great photo of the Palmtag Building, which still stands at the south west corner of 2nd and F Streets. It is the same block as the one featured in this post, but looking the opposite direction.

It looks like Conry & Schnier tried to be a one-stop gift shop as well as pharmacy – and I think I would have loved to shop there.

It is still a stunning building…

And sometimes you get lucky, and other folks have done the work you thought you would have to do. Some time ago I ran across this great story in the Times Standard from 2006. 

The historic Palmtag Building — an Old Town icon

By THE TIMES-STANDARD |

PUBLISHED: August 31, 2006 at 12:00 a.m. | UPDATED: July 30, 2018 at 8:53 a.m.

The evolution of Eureka’s Old Town is reflected in one of its most recognizable and centrally located structures — the historic Palmtag Building at the corner of Second and F streets.

These days, summer visitors and locals alike frequent the building’s familiar shops: Many Hands Gallery, Shorelines, All Under Heaven, Talisman, and The Antique Annex.

Perhaps these gift shops would make the Eurekans of 100-plus years ago blink is amazement. Back then, this area was the city’s main business district where the necessities of life could be found.

This was not the first building on the property. At least two other structures had been on the site before; they housed Pratt’s Furniture, the Humboldt Times, and Levy’s clothing, and were demolished to make way for the new, according to a series of 1893 Humboldt Times articles sited in the Eureka Heritage Society survey files.

The earlier buildings likely were simpler settlement-era structures prominent in Eureka’s first decades. By the 1890s, however, the town was booming, and many of these early buildings were being replaced with lavish, high-end Victorian-era styles.

The modern new building at Second and F would be no exception. Built for owner August Palmtag, it was constructed, and possibly designed, by contractor Knowles Evans.

Evans had just begun making a name for himself locally in this arena. He arrived in Eureka in 1887 at the age of 55, and worked as a secretary for the Lincoln Mill Co. before striking out on his own.

Over the next 10 to 15 years, Evans designed and/or was the contractor for numerous notable houses and commercial buildings. They include the Carnegie Library (1903), which he designed with B.C. Tarves, and the Georgeson Block (1903), the grand Second Renaissance-style building at E and Fourth streets.

The Palmtag Building was among his earlier achievements. Knowles applied lavish Queen Anne-style elements to it, leading off with a cantilevered round bay window at the corner of the second floor — which originally was capped with a copper dome. On either side are pairs of slanted bays joined by a shared pediment, all highlighted with a generous frosting of patterned shingles, brackets and dentil courses.

The building was immediately put into practical use in 1893. Palmtag opened his own wholesale liquor dealership in one of the building’s F-Street side shops. and the Pacific Pharmacy took over the large, main corner shop.

Upstairs, the venerable Drs. Felt took up residence, with their names painted prominently on that curved bay window.

The Felts were father and son, Theodore and Rae. The elder Felt and Dr. Jonathan Clark had been “the county’s only two physicians when the country was wild and new,” historian Andrew Genzoli later noted.

The Massachusetts native learned his practice at Transylvania College in Kentucky before heading west to mine for gold in Trinity County in 1849. In 1851, he headed for Humboldt County, where he began raising cattle and practicing medicine, settling at first in Hydesville.

Dr. Felt had a “rugged constitution and a hardy physique and could never refuse a visit to a sick or injured person because of the physical hardships it would entail.”

One tale, tall or not, tells of a time Felt improvised a surgeon’s saw “by using a butcher knife for cutting, being far from home and without means of procuring any regular surgical instruments for the operation — the amputation of a man’s leg at the hip joint.” The procedure saved the man’s life.

By the 1880s, the doctor had established a health resort, Felt Springs Hotel in Rohnerville. It proved popular, but two separate fires brought the dream to ashes.

In the early 1890s, Felt relocated to Eureka, soon opening his practice at Second and F streets. His son, a graduate of a University of California medical school who had served with the U.S. Marine hospital in San Francisco, joined him.

The elder physician died in 1898, and his son continued with the upstairs practice until 1916. He died the following year.

The downstairs Pacific Pharmacy was a fine complement to the Felts’ upstairs practice. While it had a handful of different owners over the years, it continued to be listed in city directories until 1932.

By then, other neighbor stores in the building had come and gone in an era before malls, supermarkets and department stores. They including two men’s clothing stores: Canepa Men’s Furnishings (1920) and Danielson & Peterson’s (1930), along with Burnett & Hill Cigars (1929-1933) and McNew Lon Sporting Goods (1932).

Yet it was the name Adorni, which began being associated with the building in 1898, that lingers to this day.

Two years before 1900, Eugenio Adorni opened a fruit store in the building. A native of Verpiana, Italy, he became a successful Eureka businessman. Adorni was one among the first board of directors for the First Savings Bank of Eureka, according to a Will Speegle column in the Times (Aug. 17, 1941).

By 1904, the Adorni store included cigars, and three years later it also advertised “confectionery” items. By 1910, sons Harry and Joseph Adorni were listed as running the shop.

While the listing continues only until 1930, the building by then had been purchased by the Adorni family.

It appears the large corner store was vacant for several years, through the Depression and war years. The other shops continued on, offering predominantly male-offerings: cigars, liquors, sporting goods, with the occasional restaurant, tavern and hotel being noted in Polk directories into the 1960s.

Upstairs, a dentist, J.A. Belfils, took up residence from 1926 to 1936, advertising himself as “painless Parker.”

In 1948, another pharmacy, Cooper’s, moved into the main central store, and it lasted into the 1970s.

By then, the building was owned by Eugenio’s son, Harry, who died in 1989. In his will, Harry bequeathed the building to longtime friends Ward and Jennie Maffia.

”My mother used to work for his insurance business,” said Lynn McKenna, the Maffias’ daughter who inherited the building herself in 2002. It was her mother, Jennie, who had offered much assistance to Harry and his wife in their later years.

”She was also responsible for having the Adorni Center built with Harry’s estate,” McKenna added.

And it was Harry — who began working in the building during the 1910s — who saw the great arch of change in this part of town.

Redevelopment of Old Town had begun in the 1970s, and by the late ’80s this part of town was thriving, including at the historic Palmtag Building. The likes of Old Town Bath and Body, Atlantis, Buffalo Bills, and Lora Jabot’s Vintage Clothing stores became familiar stops into the 1990s.

The building has housed them all. It underwent only one modest, first-floor remodeling in the 1920s, and lost its copper dome sometime after 1938.

As the Heritage survey notes, it continues as a prime example of “a very fine use of the Queen Anne for a nonresidential building, and an important piece of Eureka’s largely intact 19th century commercial area.”


What Happened to the Reed Machine Shop?

June 21, 2022
Cal Poly, Humboldt

Well, I know this building was in Arcata- but unfortunately the directory in 1910 only lists Eureka addresses, so I’m not sure where this was located. Or why in the world it was chopped in half. Anyone…?


Opium Dens and Morphine Fiends…

June 17, 2022

I am very pleased to have my story about early opioid addiction featured in this week’s North Coast Journal.

Opium Dens and ‘Morphine Fiends’, Humboldt County’s current opioid epidemic parallels its first can be found HERE