Two Downtown Buildings Added to Local Register of Historic Resources

Two downtown buildings constructed in the early 1900s have received official historic designation from the Fresno City Council. The Rowell home in the Jefferson neighborhood and the United Grocers Warehouse adjacent to the Santa Fe railroad tracks were added to Fresno’s Local Register of Historic Resources by unanimous vote on October 28.

The George and Adelphia Rowell Home, built in 1903, was designed by Alexander Culbertson Swartz, a leading architect in the early 20th century. The two-story American Foursquare home is noted for its Queen Anne, Craftsman and Prairie elements and was built for an early pioneer family. The residence is located at 153 N. Effie Street between E. Illinois and E. Divisadero streets.

The Rowell home is owned by the Fresno City and County Housing Authorities, which purchased the property through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) last spring. As a condition of federal funding the property was evaluated by City staff and found to be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The Housing Authorities is currently restoring the home, which will then be offered for sale. Its designation on the Local Register will ensure that the historic value of the property will be preserved into the future.

The United Grocers Inc. Warehouse and Distribution Center building, located at 801 R Street, is a two story brick warehouse constructed in 1931. It was designed by the architectural firm of Swartz and Ryland as one of many commercial warehouses along the eastern edge of the Santa Fe rail corridor in downtown Fresno. The building is an excellent example of an industrial building style once prevalent in Fresno and reflects the work of an important local architectural firm from an earlier period in Fresno history.

The former United Grocers property is another local success story. Vacant since 1986, the building was purchased in 2009 by a local development company, Baltara Enterprises Inc., and is being renovated for use by the U.S. Small Business Administration. As part of this rehabilitation work, the property owners submitted an application to be certified under the Fresno Green program. The completed project will include public art murals on the exterior created by the Downtown Community Arts Collective. This art project will depict an abstract representation of the four elements: Earth, Fire, Water and Air.

Karana Hattersley-Drayton, the City’s Historic Preservation Officer, says both properties reflect the best in public-private partnerships. “The designation and preservation of these two properties represents a holistic approach to city planning that melds historic values, public art, green technology and revitalization,” she said.