Sarah Lim: Museum Notes

September 12, 2009

Sarah Lim: Historic items benefit museum programs

For the past several years, you have read about historic Merced in this column. Maybe these columns have led you to imagine and think about Merced in these earlier times. Now you will have a chance to see old-time Merced images in historic photographs and even own them. Reproductions of historic photos of old Merced are some of the auction items at Merced County Historical Society's annual barbecue fundraiser at Lake Yosemite next Tuesday. These still images give a glimpse of old Merced.

It was the year of 1922. Looking east on Main Street, a big banner saying, "Merced EXPOSITION Merced: Sept. 30 - Oct. 7," is hung between the Central Hotel on the left and Olcese and Garibadi building on the right. Pedestrians are busy crossing the street and there is hardly in room to park the Model T cars going up and down Main Street. The 1922 Greater Merced Exposition was probably the first Merced County fair after World War I. It was such a big event that over 3000 attended on opening night. This 12" x 18" black and white photograph depicts not only the beautiful historic Main Street but also the excitement of the return of the fair and "a return to normalcy" following the war.

Another stunning black and white photograph is the historic aerial view of Merced. Taken sometimes in the 1930s, it is the earliest, if not the first, aerial photo that I have seen of Merced. Looking northwest, Hotel Tioga and young palm trees on N Street are in the center. Foreground is the Southern Pacific Railroad in which both freight and passenger depots are visible. On 16th Street, largely noticeable is the Pythian Castle on the left corner of M Street and the John C. Smith building on the right corner. At the intersection of Main and M Streets, there is the Shaffer Building, Hotel Merced and El Capitan Hotel.

The most interesting item of this picture is the presence of the Yosemite Valley Railroad. The YV roundhouse on R Street was a busy place with incoming and outgoing engines. The YV spur that was on 16th Street and ended at the Merced Ice and Cold Storage Co. on N and 17th Streets is shown in the picture as well. This is one of the very rare YV images. Although the Courthouse is not visible in this photo, it is visible in another image by Arnie Kiil in his 20" by 30" color photo taken in 1995 about 200 feet in the air. It will also be auctioned.

Local artist Henry DuPertuis again showcased his talent with an 18" x 24" oil painting of old Merced High School. Located on G Street, this campus was designed by Allison and Allison, architects of Los Angeles. The Spanish Renaissance style building was the alma mater for many Merced residents for over half century before it met its final destruction in 1973. DuPertuis' skillful brush strokes not only brought the campus back to life and but also stirred up many fond memories.

These and many more one-of-a-kind items will be auctioned off at our annual barbecue next Tuesday. All proceeds will benefit museum programs and the Bill and Tom Kirby Agricultural Scholarship. The tickets to the event are $40.

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