Looking North on F Street, Eureka (c. 1920)

January 27, 2023

Please click to enlarge the photo and enjoy some great detail…

I tend to run across great old photos while I am doing research on other topics. I grab and file them away for a future time and then, like with this one, apparently completely forget I have them. Lucky for me old photos never get old….

I’ve previously posted an illustration of F just north of the photo above, but this brings us a bit further back (just beyond the Freeman Art building is the alley between 3rd and 4th). We currently have an antique store where the awning is and the North Coast Journal offices upstairs.

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…

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.

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


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…?

Buildings We Have NOT Lost …

June 17, 2022
Source: Cal Poly Humboldt

So often when I walk through old town I get sad when I look at all the (ugly) parking lots and imagine the grand old buildings that used to be there. Buildings like the Western Hotel , The Revere, the incredible old courthouse and a number of other Victorian structures .

But finding this great photo helped me realized that many of our architectural treasures are still out there- and ready to be enjoyed and admired every day. How fortunate for us….

Fire Guts the Gross Building – in 1923

June 8, 2022

It turned out to be relatively easy to find information on the fire in the photo above – because “The Kandy Kitchen” provided a great clue. In the article published on April 14, 1923, the Humboldt Times reported on the “most expensive fire loss yet sustained in Eureka.”

The Red Cross Pharmacy, Mathew’s Piano House and the Toggery men’s store were among those impacted and the Bon Boniere candy factory (located in the basement of the building) reported that their stores of chocolate and sugar had been soaked by what some complained was excessive water use by the fire department. The fire chief, naturally, defended his crew and resented the criticism. Please check out the story below to read more about the fire and all the tenants housed in the Gross building, which still sits at the corner of 5th and F Streets.

While I agree that the trees and other greenery planted along our roads enhances our community, it can be rather frustrating when lining up old and current photos.

What Happened to Bustling Rohnerville…?

May 26, 2022
Source Humboldt Cal Poly Special Collection

In the 1880s, Rohnerville, which lies south and a bit east of Fortuna, offered residents and visitors two liveries, a couple of hotels, saloons, brothels and even an opium den. The town also featured the violence and mayhem that usually go with those establishments.

And yet today all that remains of the town’s central district is a couple of dilapidated commercial buildings and some older homes.

I wondered what happened.

And then I found out… In Denis P. Edeline,s book Place Names of Humboldt County, California, A Compendium: 1542-2009, he says Rohnerville started declining when the railroad was rerouted through Fortuna and that may been true. But the fire that took out most of the commercial district in August of 1895 certainly didn’t help…

Before Henry Rohner named it Rohnerville, the area was known as “Eel River”. This is a VERY early pic of the area…

Source: Humboldt Cal Poly Special Collection

The Rosary and… – Eureka, c. 1925

May 12, 2022
Source: County of Humboldt

I was initially drawn to this photo because of the church and rectory (?) [nope, see update below] to the left – oh, and look ! There’s the Eureka Inn in the background (just click to enlarge the photo). But then the tiny houses caught my attention. The most important element, however, was the little building on the bottom right. The Rosary, it turns out, has nothing to do with the church. But it did help me date the photo….

May 1925, Humboldt Times

Update: According to Walter Fletcher (in a comment on Facebook)

…the rectory is on the other side of St Bernard’s Church on H Street and is not visible in this picture. The building on the corner behind the church is The Knights of Columbus Hall.

The building beneath the Eureka Inn was originally a hospital then The Travelers Hotel. There is currently an office building in that site.


Thanks Walter !

The Housing Famine

April 18, 2022

c. 1925 (Source HSU Special Collections)

Business Sense | Lessons learned from past housing crunches

Reprinted from The Times Standard


April 17, 2022

The full scope of Humboldt County’s resources is finally being understood. Realtors, builders, mechanics, and laborers are busy, and strangers continually arrive looking for homes, employment, or investment. Unfortunately, one of the best indications of this prosperity is the scarcity of housing, or so said the Humboldt Times on December 2, 1882.

More than a century later, we’re having the same conversation. A year ago this month, Realtor.com listed Humboldt County as the nation’s 13th hottest housing market and by October of 2021, we’d jumped to number three. In October, we were also the only California county listed. Some of the recent demand is most likely driven by the crazy cost of housing elsewhere in a state where the median price of homes is predicted to rise to over $800,000 this year. But we also have a number of new and exciting developments and opportunities in Humboldt, including Humboldt’s transition to a Polytechnic, the offshore wind project and Nordic Aquafarms facility planned for the Samoa Peninsula. Folks are coming in and everybody’s looking for housing.

“California is confronted today with the gravest shortage of housing in its history,” said a report submitted to the governor by the State Commission of Immigration and Housing ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO. The report then analyzed reasons for the “dwelling-famine” (which will also sound familiar). These included an increasing population (still true in Humboldt, at least), a decrease in the relative number of new residential buildings (yep) and the high cost of building materials, transportation, and labor (which seem to be rising daily in 2022).

“The usual surplus of housing, which must exist if rents and prices are to be controlled by competition, has been wiped out,” the 1920 report continued. There’s clearly no surplus today either and we are definitely seeing the impacts. According to Dan Walters in his CalMatters story published last December, California has the second-lowest rate of homeownership in the country, just ahead of New York. Historically Humboldt’s housing has been more affordable than the state on average, but the local housing shortage is changing that too. According to realtor.com, Humboldt’s housing prices have jumped over 20% in the last year. Zumper.com says that rents have also increased 45% in the same period, a hard-to-fathom increase. The resulting lack of quality, affordable housing has affected our area’s ability to attract and retain workforce, which impacts everything from the availability of desperately needed plumbers to timely access to health care. Home-grown young adults are being priced out of the market altogether.

Today’s crisis has prompted desperate officials to seek solutions and while new projects are in the works, there is clearly more to be done. Fortunately, the 1920 study also offered solutions. While some may also sound familiar, others may be worth considering today.

Use input from housing industry experts, labor leaders, realtors, bankers, and more to imagine new, more imaginative housing solutions

Form more building and loan associations that offer an extension of “easier terms.”
Form community housing associations linking banks with builders and contractors to enable the purchase of homes at lower cost, with smaller “down” payments and longer time to pay. These associations, the report added, “operating on a sound business basis and influenced by community spirit” would allow California to become a “homeowning state.”

“The present acute condition,” the 1920 report concluded, “is due to abnormal times.” Yeah, apparently not so much. But we are not without hope. While recent housing projects have engendered controversy, at least housing is on the radar and developers are initiating projects at this critical time in our community. We also need to stay open to new and innovative ideas to increase housing. The long-term health of our community and our economy may depend on it.