Arcata’s Tannery, 1889-1902

May 31, 2020

Tanning is the process of treating animal skins and hides to produce leather. Arcata was once home to quite an operation. I found this in a book about the history of Arcata by Jesse Faulkner:

Thomas Devlin came to Arcata in 1866 and soon opened Thomas Devlin Tanning Company at Eighth and J Streets. Workers brought tanbark from the Fickle Hill area to process the leather, which won awards at the 1893 Worlds Fair in San Francisco. 


HC.Arcata.ViewNEofRR.Tannery.BarrelFactory - Copy

Devlin Tannery, C. 1903 (Source: HSU Special Collection)

The photo is 1903 but it looks like this facility was up and going by 1889….


Sanborn Fire Insurance Map 1889

I found this great photo on the British History site Omnia, of all random places


Devlin’s Tannery from “In the Redwood’s Realm. By-ways of wild Nature and highways of industry … in Humboldt County, California. Compiled and arranged by J. M. Eddy, under the direction of the Humboldt Chamber of Commerce” (dated 1893)


Looks like Mr. Devlin immigrated from Canada in 1857.


And lost the tannery in 1902- which means the date on the photo above must be off a bit… 


San Francisco Call, Volume 87, Number 136, 15 April 1902


And yeah, not so much there anymore…



More on Eureka’s Baird’s Opera Hall

May 30, 2020
Thanks so much to Milton Phegley for this follow up information to yesterday’s post on the waterfront and Baird’s Opera Hall… 
Per Milton:
Indeed, Baird’s has survived.  Although, I cannot believe that it once looked like this with commercial space on first floor and opera house on second. Drawing from May 1976 Humboldt Historian.
The building is also cited on the City’s historic structures web site, although inexplicably (and perhaps mistakenly) identified as in the 200 block of First, as it is also so identified in the Heritage Society Green Book; but, currently numbered as being in the 300 block.  The Sanborn maps show Baird’s as being in the 300 block.
This is posted on the Eureka History website
Built 1869 with the addition of 225-27 in 1883. Although altered, these buildings retain their essential character. Erected by R.M. Williams, both structures are modified Greek Revival Styles. Each is a rectangular two story building with wide shiplap siding. On the side elevation of 233-37 First Street, original pedimented windows with multi-lights are visible. A comparison of the two buildings offers some clues to the later date of 225-27 First Street. While the boxed cornice with return points to a Greek Revival origin, the shingled attic and paired brackets indicate a later date. This building was probably originally embellished with an Italianate porch as well.

The building is shown in 1946 Shuster photo below (2001.01.0063), but it’s still unclear to me that the present two-story structure is the original two-story one.  The old two-story is at least depicted as being much taller.

More recently, the building(s) were acquired by husband and wife team who did substantial remodel work.  Don’t know if project is “finished”.


As a sad side note:
Towards the end of the rehab project (after the west wall reconstruction was complete), the husband fell from a scissor-lift at the site and eventually succumbed to his injuries:
Then, slightly more than a year later, his wife also died. 
The current status of the building is unclear .

A Shooting Gallery and a Marble Shop along Eureka’s Waterfront (1889)

May 29, 2020

I have to admit that while convenient for some, Eureka’s old town parking lots are starting to make me sad. I have looked at enough photos and maps to know that each of those lots used to be packed with interesting businesses and buildings. For example, this was Eureka’s waterfront between C and E Streets in 1889….

Eureka.Waterfront.C-E.Sanborn.1889_002_PAGE 2.C-E.1st-3rd

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1889

It looks like Baird’s Opera Hall may still be there. Maybe… 




Google again

But nothing else survived…. 

Illegitimate children expose illicit relations (update 2020)

May 28, 2020

Image borrowed from this genealogy blog, original source unknown

I ran across this old post the other day, which I’ve always found interesting and pretty tragic in its ramifications ….

Researching Lucy has given me an opportunity to learn many, many things about our history, including the court’s attitude toward illegitimate children in the early 1900s.

The following came from the Superior Court of California (County of Humboldt) probate record for Charles Mulberg (Lucy’s son) , who died “on or about March 23, 1928″.

…Inheritance in all other cases is eliminated on account of public policy founded upon a moral reason.  If every illegitimate child could claim inheritance from his brothers and sisters, public scandal would be placed upon the head of many otherwise decent and respectable citizens.  The legislature therefore evidently considered it a better policy to lessen public scandal and deny inheritance to an illegitimate, than to throw open the doors of public scandal and gossip, subject many persons to questionable ridicule and permit an illegitimate to expose the  illicit relations of his or her ancestors, merely for the purpose of sharing the estate of his parent’s kindred.   It therefore left the right of inheritance of an illegitimate to these cases where the parents themselves had exposed such illicit relations by admitting parentage. …

 Sucks for the poor children  whose fathers didn’t want to claim them.

2020 Note: I did find this interesting article on the history of child support in 18th and 19th century London (from the University of Cambridge) while looking for an image for this post… 


1866 Map of Northern California

May 26, 2020

I ran across this web entry on Fort Baker – and the map below,  by accident, of course. But for those who like old maps and/or early Humboldt history, it is pretty cool.

Interesting that the town of Centreville, now really just a beach outside of Ferndale, was a place before Fortuna (originally Springville) was…

Centerville was also the location of a well known shipwreck and (maybe if it is still standing) the location of an historical landmark.

Please click the map to enlarge.


Felon Mark on End of Right Thumb

May 25, 2020

See, this is what happens.  You start by researching a friend’s recently found saloon token and then discover that early voter registers recorded (visible) physical marks and scars….

I am guessing it was so voters could be identified definitively on polling day–and pre-photo identification, it makes sense…

The two pages below are from Humboldt’s 1892-1898 Voter Registration records, accessed through

I have never heard of a “felon mark”.  Notice a lot of men (and note that they were ONLY men), had “mashed” or missing digits.

Update from a commenter on Facebook–I’ll post her name once I get permission:

A felon is a fingertip abscess deep in the palm side of the finger. It usually is caused by bacterial infection, most often from growth of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. A painful bump on the end of a finger that is sometimes mistaken for a felon is a herpes virus infection that forms a herpetic whitlow.


I couldn’t find anything about “felon marks” online. If anyone knows or runs across anything about them, please share in the comments below.

Carson Block – Then and Stucco and Now

May 24, 2020


Notes from 2020:   This is another of my favorite posts highlighting a true architectural treasure in Old Town, Eureka (with some added 2020 notes)…. 

Here is a story the Lost Coast Outpost did about the restoration work.

And here is a little blurb from the Arcata Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) that gives a little history on the building and the financing that made the restoration possible

And this story by Kathy Dillon for the Eureka Heritage Society’s Architectural Legacy newsletter gives the most detailed information about the building’s history and restoration. This also includes some great photos of the building’s original Ingomar theater.

Please click on the photos below to enlarge and see details.

1892.12.23_Daily Humboldt Times (Humboldt County Library)

1892.12.23: Daily Humboldt Times (Humboldt County Library)

1904- Souvenir Photo-Carson Block Ext (Humboldt County Library)

1904- Souvenir Photo (Humboldt County Library)

Carson Block Building (Humboldt County Historical Society)

Humboldt County Historical Society

Carson Block Building (Humboldt County HIstorical Society)

Humboldt County Historical Society

NCIDC Collection

NCIDC Collection

NCIDC Collection

NCIDC Collection

North Coast Journal, January 2016

North Coast Journal, January 2016

The building is quiet now, but that will change….

Enslaved in Humboldt

May 23, 2020
image.little upperlake girl.Hudson

Painting by Grace Hudson

Over the years I have shared a lot on this blog and in the community about Lucy Romero, a woman brutally murdered in Arcata in 1862.

Next month I teach a class through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Humboldt State University (OLLI at HSU)

This class focuses on Carrie, Lucy’s daughter, who was indentured, or legally enslaved, following her mother’s death. I spoke about Carrie at our fall Humboldt Bay History Symposium  but this class will allow me to take a deeper dive into Humboldt’s settlement period. I will talk about the culture and laws that allowed the practice of kidnapping and human trafficking to flourish in Northern California. I will also talk about the experiences of victims like Carrie. This is not an easy history to talk about . But it is an important one.

Please click here to enroll in the class


House where Arcata City Hall Now Stands

May 22, 2020

Humboldt State University Special Collections, Palmquist/Yale [1999.02.0117]

This photo reminds us that it is always good to enlarge and check out the detail. I must have looked at this at least three times before I noticed the kids in the tree.

Given the slope of the hill, it looks like the house was facing 7th.


HSU description says this house was the “Downing home where city hall now stands 7th &  F”. Susie Van Kirk also notes “Built by Rease Bros 1901”

Looks like Mr. Downing was a plumber and was renting the house- at least in 1930.

Arcata.Downing.Census.Residents house at city hall

And he and Myrtle were married by 1910- though I can’t read the address on the census…

Arcata.Downing.Census.Residents house at city hall.1910

I posted the complete census pages because, well, census records can be fun. Enjoy…

Eureka’s 5th & F Streets,1914

May 20, 2020

I love the diagonal parking

And there is another of those streetcar lines….


Source: County of Humboldt Collection (postcard)


Thanks, Google