The History of the Bell Rooms, Part I

A southerly view of Redding's red-light district after the fire of 1908, taken near the corner of Division & California Streets.
A southerly view of Redding’s red-light district after the fire of 1908, taken near the corner of Division & California Streets.

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].

Block 13, the area outlined in red, was removed from Redding's fire limits in 1900 following a petition presented by Frank Chadwick.
Block 13, the area outlined in red, was removed from Redding’s fire limits in 1900 following a petition presented by Frank Chadwick.

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. Searchlight, 26 September 1908] Holt & Gregg, the famous local brick manufacturers, began construction of a 90-foot brick building on the Chadwick and Freitas lot on October 1. [6. Courier-Free Press, 1 October 1908] Presumably construction of the two-story building occurred around the same time.

Why are we calling it this building the Bell Rooms? Who were Chadwick & Freitas? Stay tuned to find out.

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