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

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

Historic Bell Rooms Threatened With Demolition

This is not exactly the note we wanted to begin on, but we think it is important to discuss that yet another historic building in Downtown Redding is threatened with demolition.

The latest structure to be menaced by the wrecking ball is the Bell Rooms building, a 107-year-old, two-story brick building located on the southwest corner of Shasta and California Street. The building is part of a small complex of newer buildings that includes a cinderblock addition and a row of auto repair bays directly south. These buildings were most recently home to Bing Automotive, B&R Radiator Service, and American Lock and Key.

The property is owned by RABA (Redding Area Bus Authority) and is scheduled for demolition this fall. According to a city official, the building is “in severe disrepair” and it is being demolished because of “liability and to provide space for transit expansion or parking.” Please note that as of this moment, the building has not been determined to be structurally unsound—just in ”a state of disrepair.”

The two-story building dates back to the fall of 1908, making it one of the oldest surviving commercial buildings in Redding—older than the Cascade Theater, Redding Hotel, Pine Street School, the downtown post office, downtown fire house, and veterans’ memorial hall.

Over the years, this building has been slightly modified from its original appearance—some of the windows have been partially or entirely bricked up and it originally had a peaked roof, porch, as well as a two-story balcony; but underneath the drab paint is some beautiful locally manufactured brick. The interior, by several accounts, is surprisingly intact.

Please take a look and imagine this handsome little building with the auto bays and recent cinderblock addition removed, its natural brick exposed (or at least painted red like the Lorenz Hotel), and its original windows and balcony restored.… Read the rest

Welcome to DowntownRedding.org!

The goal of DowntownRedding.org is to showcase the beauty, the opportunities, and the positives of Downtown Redding with a larger audience. We will also explore Redding’s rich history and may also climb up on a soapbox from time to time to advocate on behalf of Downtown Redding’s best interests.

Although downtown, just like many other Redding neighborhoods, faces some challenges, we feel it is blown out of all proportion to reality. The reality is this: Downtown Redding is a great place to live, work, and play and has a rich history, a myriad of unique advantages, and tremendous potential. If you only experience downtown by zipping through it in a car at 30 MPH, this might not be readily apparent. We invite you to get out of your car and look around, or at least poke around this website.

If you’d like to get involved by contributing to this website, please contact us using the following form:… Read the rest