Lessons in Bronze: Why Good History Matters

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Thank you to the many local historians, activists, and leaders, who freely shared their knowledge, gave support, and made this paper possible.

In mid-March 2018, a plaque honoring the heroics of a man during one of the deadliest periods of Shasta County’s history was proposed. The plaque, containing only a few sentences, is one of the best examples of the need for the careful study of history. Titled “Pioneer Courage,” the plaque memorializes “… the rescue and protection from vigilante revenge on this ground of twelve innocent Yana First Nation people following the Allen-Jones pioneer family murders of 1864.” The bronze plaque attributes the salvation of the individuals to a man who owned a farm near the Sacramento River. Even though the text is presented as a straightforward account of an important but less-known event from local history, conversations with community members and research reveals much more (Benda, 2018). The plaque has become an important example that can help clarify what ideals we should uphold, who we acknowledge, and what a vibrant community that values its history looks like.… Read the rest

Parking: The Perennial Complaint

Parking, like taxes and Congress, is one of those perennial complaints. It seems like no matter how much parking you have, it’s never enough. Consider the graphic on the left. A 2007 study found 2,162 spots within the dotted area. This translates to over 8 acres of parking in that area alone!

Yet another downtown parking workshop is scheduled for tonight, and a cynic can’t help but wonder if this is another case of paying for studies until you find the one that tells you want to hear. 

Here are some questions I think should be answered at some point during our discussion on downtown parking:

  • The county currently occupies office space in at least four different buildings downtown. How much parking is currently used by public employees downtown?
  • Is the county paying the city at all for use of these spaces eight hours a day?
  • Presumably the overwhelming majority of county workers commute by single-occupant motor vehicles. Is there any plan to introduce incentives to ride-share or use alternate transportation?
  • There is a considerable number of under-utilized parking lots downtown. What sort of thought has been given to addressing this issue?
  • Right now, it is free to park downtown. However, parking is not free to provide. It costs on average $4,000 per spot for surface parking,  $24,000 per stall for an above-ground structure, and $34,000 per stall in an underground structure. This means we are all paying for parking, whether or not we use it. Why should non-drivers subsidize drivers, and why should parking be exempt from free market efficiencies?
Read the rest

The Bell Rooms: Possibilities and Potential

Adaptive re-use, as defined by Wikipedia, is “the process of reusing an old site or building for a purpose other than which it was built or designed for” and is a cornerstone of historic preservation. Pictured below is what a potential adaptive re-use of the Bell Rooms could look like.

In this concept, the Bell Rooms houses a deli. The natural brick is exposed or perhaps painted red. The peaked roof and porches have been put back in place, the bricked-up windows have been restored,  and there’s plenty of shaded outdoor seating and bike parking. (The downtown connection to the River Trail will pass right by this location.) The auto bays south of the two-story brick building could be demolished and the rest of the block could be developed according to the Downtown Specific Plan. Keep in mind this is just one possibility. It could be any number of things: coffee shop, taproom, offices.

This rendering is courtesy of local architect Ryan Russell, who has his offices in the heart of Redding’s former tenderloin.… Read the rest

The History of the Bell Rooms Part II

After Redding’s red-light district was rebuilt following the fire of September 1908, things continued much as they had in previous years. There were attempts to regulate the saloons and occasional attempts to close down the cribs and bordellos, but not much came of it. In 1914, the people of California passed the Red Light Abatement Act by ballot measure, but Redding’s red-light district continued merrily along, occasionally closing briefly under state or local pressure, but rarely for long.

Accounts of thefts, fires, and violence in the red-light district were a staple in newspapers throughout the years. Interestingly, unlike many of its neighboring saloons and hotels, Chadwick & Freitas’s little two-story brick bordello kept a low profile, and rarely appeared in the papers. Perhaps that’s how it got its first known recorded name: The Q.T. [1. Courier-Free Press, 8 July 1927]

In 1919, the 18th Amendment was ratified, and prohibition went into effect in January of the following year. It was about as effective locally as Red Light Abatement Act. In July 1927, the little two-story building made the front page of both of the local daily papers for a Volstead Act violation [2. Courier-Free Press, 8 July 1927] [3. Searchlight, 8 July 1927]. According the articles, the building was occupied by a man named George Peck and his wife or housekeeper (accounts vary) and, according to the Searchlight, the building was operating as a blind pig [4. Ibid]. Two local law enforcement officers had obtained a search warrant and knocked on the door. When Peck saw the officers, he called “just a minute” and secured the heavy chain on the door.

As he did this, his female companion rushed upstairs and began to pour several gallons of liquor out of the second-story window into the alley.… Read the rest

The History of the Bell Rooms, Part I

The history of the latest building threatened with demolition in Redding goes back to September 23, 1908, when a massive fire swept Redding’s red-light district, causing $70,000 in damages [1. Courier-Free Press, 24 September 1908] . Several blocks of buildings were leveled, among them warehouses, breweries, saloons, hotels, and a group of “ramshackle crib buildings” that were the property of Freitas and Chadwick [2. Searchlight, 25 September 1908].

These ramshackle cribs dated back to 1900, when the area outlined in red in the adjacent picture, known as Block 13 on Redding’s original plat, was removed from Redding’s fire district following a petition to the city board of trustees by Frank Chadwick. [3. Searchlight, 5 June 1900] Soon afterwards, it was announced that the existing red-light district and its inhabitants would be relocated from  their location on the alley of the block bordered by California, Market, Shasta, and North Streets to tenements hastily constructed on Center Street [4. Searchlight,  6 July 1900]. Less than three week later, a mysterious fire leveled The Alley [5. Courier-Free Press 26 July 1900] and the few “dressmakers” that weren’t burnt out were forced to move by the city attorney [6. Searchlight, 1 Aug 1900]. Although accusations of arson and slander flew fast and furious, and property owners adjacent to the new cribs on Center Street initially objected, this arrangement continued until the fire of September 1908.

Within a day or two of the 1908 fire, the city board of trustees was talking about requiring the property owners to rebuild in brick [4. Searchlight, 25 September 1908] Insurance adjusters arrived in Redding on September 26, but the property owners could not clear their lots and start rebuilding until the adjusters’ work was done. In the meantime, Chadwick and Freitas enclosed their lot with a “high board fence” and announced their intention to rebuild in brick [5. … Read the rest

Downtown Living Essentials: Entrance Buzzers

As market-rate housing returns to Downtown Redding, we need to (re)discover amenities that further enhance urban living. In this ongoing feature, we’ll take a look at elements that we consider to be essential to quality urban life—from simple things that developers can implement in their buildings to public policies and public amenities that make downtown better for everyone.

Entrance Buzzers

We’ve all seen them in movies or TV shows set in New York: a visitor pushes a button at the building’s entrance and the tenant is notified in their apartment, where they can buzz their guest inside if they like. After all, who wants to traipse up and down a couple of flights of stairs to let in a visitor? No one! It is little things like this that can make huge differences in the quality of an urban dweller’s life.… Read the rest