Modesto's early days flowered on I Street

Last of two parts

As Modesto continued to expand, significant new growth continued on I Street.

An 1889 article in the Daily Evening News reported that Peter Latz of the Latz department store on 10th Street had purchased three lots on 15th Street, near I Street. That would have been across from Robert McHenry's 1883 home, which today is the city-owned McHenry Mansion.

During that era, Modesto's lots were 25 feet wide by 140 feet deep, so many people who wanted more width bought at least two lots.

Latz built a fine home on his lots. However, he later decided to dispose of the house because of an investment opportunity that would make use of the property without the home. He was able to sell the house by having it moved to a lot on Semple Street.

That was a challenge in an era when the usual mode of local transportation was by horse or on foot.

The move was made by hitching a team of horses to the house. Then the house was set atop large logs, which served as rollers. When the horses pulled, the house moved forward.

The former Latz home still stands at 215 Semple St., but its tall Victorian roof has been modernized and is greatly reduced in size.

The next years saw more change and growth on I Street.

For example, in December 1899, farmer John McMahon, who later became a Stanislaus County supervisor, built a large home for his bride, Eva Mae Enslen.

It was at 16th and I streets, across the alley from the McHenry home.

Her father, James Enslen, subsequently donated $2,000 for the purchase of 10 acres for a park, now called Enslen Park.

In the next block, a farmer-turned-banker named Albert Cressey built a fine residence on the corner of 17th and I, which is now an office building.

In 1878, Cressey founded the first bank in town, called Modesto Bank, in which Robert McHenry was cashier. Originally on 9th Street, the bank later moved to the corner of 10th and I.

After Albert Cressey's death, his home was bought by Modesto's Mayor Carl Shannon, whose art deco funeral home was nearby.

In 1913, Cressey's son George, who was vice president of Modesto Bank, built a handsome residence on 17th near I Street and McHenry Avenue. That house is now an office building called Cressey Manor.

In 1940, the First Episcopal Church built a small church building at 17th and I streets. It became famous for its many weddings.

That property is occupied by the Ralston Tower.

Since I Street ran through the center of town, most of Modesto's first schools were built on or near it.

The first school was constructed in 1874 on 14th and I. It was called the Brick Schoolhouse and, more formally, the 14th Street School. In 1909, it was replaced by the Capitol School, which was built on the same site.

There was another school at 17th and I streets, this one for upper grade elementary students. Its name changed from East Side School to 17th Street School and later to Lincoln School.

In 1898 an elementary school was built on a different part of I Street, on the west side of town at 6th and I. Its several names were: 6th Street School, West Side School, Longfellow School and Pioneer School.

Bare is the author of several books about area history and is the official historian of the McHenry Mansion. E-mail her at