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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
 
 

Walnut Creek Heritage Walk Historical Markers

A look into Walnut Creek’s past, a past of which little remains.
 
"The Corners" & Oak Saloon Marker (detail) image, Click for more information
By Barry Swackhamer
"The Corners" & Oak Saloon Marker (detail)
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 120 — "The Corners" & Oak Saloon — Main St. at Mt. Diablo Blvd. — circa 1880
First called "The Corners," Walnut Creek evolved at the junction of the regions's two main roads - Pacheco (running from Martinez to San Jose) and Lafayette (running west to Oakland). The Oak Saloon stood at the junction. The town was named Walnut . . . — Map (db m93726) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 105 — Botelho Home — Pacheco Road (Main Street) — 1880s
In the 1880s, this was the rear yard of Antonio Botelho's stately home. Botelho owned more than 300 acres of farm land south of town, and the home - originally a hotel - fronted on the main road to Alamo (today's Main Street). — Map (db m93740) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 101 — Botelho's Island & Creek Confluence — Liberty Bell Plaza — 1949
Walnut Creek's namesake creek is formed under this plaza, where Las Trampas and San Ramon creeks merge. The two creeks bound land known as "Botelho's Island." which had been owned by the pioneer Botelho family. Broadway Plaza, opened in 1951, now . . . — Map (db m93731) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 140 — Bradley Bros. Shop — 1372 N. Main St. — 1916
Customers from as far as Oakland would make the drive to Guy and Ed Bradley's soda shop, particularly to watch the large electric ice cream machine displayed in the store's front window. The store also housed the town's first telephone exchange. — Map (db m93858) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 124 — Bridge over Walnut Creek — Duncan St. and Broadway — Late 1800s
Walnut Creek's namesake creek runs beneath Broadway at the end of this block. Before the creek was "underground" to prevent flooding, a bridge at the end of this street was essential to reach the homes and farms across the creek and to get to the . . . — Map (db m93864) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 111 — Broadway Shopping Center — Broadway Plaza — 1960s
The 1951 debut of Broadway Shopping Center transformed Walnut Creek into the commercial center of the region. Originally, many of the stores were clustered around a central "horseshoe" parking lot that was anchored by the trademark Broadway sign. — Map (db m93695) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 108 — Broadway Shopping Center — Broadway Plaza — 1950s
One of the first open-air malls, Broadway Shopping Center was built on undeveloped land at Main Street (Highway 21) and Mt. Diablo Boulevard (Highway 24). The 38-store center had Sears and J.C. Penny, a Lucky grocery store, and 1,500 free parking . . . — Map (db m93739) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 194 — Carnegie Library — 1677 N. Main St. — 1916
Diagonally across the street stood Walnut Creek's second library, built with a $2,500 Carnegie Library Foundation grant. In 1961 (after 45 years), the fast-growing city needed a larger library. This site was sold to help fund the new library, . . . — Map (db m93801) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 155 — Central Fire Station — 1516 Bonanza St. — 1926
Costing $3,000 to build, the two-story Central Fire Station was the first and "hub" station in the County's newly formed Central Fire Protection District. The station's pumper engine cost $7,000. The first fire chief was Raymond Spencer, son of . . . — Map (db m93825) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 118 — Central School — Plaza Escuela — 1871
In 1871, residents voted to tax themselves $1,500 for a school. Central School, built on a hill on School Street (now Locust Street), had 40 students its first year. The larger Walnut Creek Grammar School, on the same site, replaced Central School . . . — Map (db m93696) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 192 — City Hall 1951 & American Red Cross Building — Civic Drive at Broadway — 1951
The first "modern" City Hall sat on Ignacio Avenue (now Civic Drive), across from the park. Its design was similar to that of the American Red Cross Building (now Park Place), which sits at the opposite corner of Civic and Broadway. In 1981, a new . . . — Map (db m93797) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 193 — City Hall 1981 — 1666 N. Main Street — 1981
In 1981 and after three decades of rapid growth, Walnut Creek built its second City Hall, using the same site but facing Main Street. In recent years, the City renovated and expanded the 1981 building. — Map (db m93802) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 190 — City Park & Walnut Festival — Civic Drive and Broadway
Walnut Creek's first park - City Park (now Civic Park) - opened in 1949 at the site of an abandoned sewer farm. City Park had a lighted ballfield and tennis courts and, until 1976, was the site of the annual Walnut Festival, held in September. — Map (db m93798) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 196 — Civic Art Theatre ("Nuthouse") — 1601 Civic Dr. — 1965
By the mid-1960s, community theater groups needed better performance space. The City re-purposed an obsolete walnut warehouse as the Civic Arts Theatre & Gallery - affectionately nicknamed "The Nuthouse." In 1990- and after extensive private . . . — Map (db m93756) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 197 — Civic Arts Theatre ("Nuthouse") — 1601 Civic Dr. — 1965
In 1965, the City repurposed an abandoned walnut warehouse to house the Civic Arts Theatre & Gallery - affectionately nicknamed "The Nuthouse." Some 25 years later ant through extensive private fundraising, the Lesher Center of the Arts was built, . . . — Map (db m93784) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 171 — Dole House — 1614 Mt. Diablo Blvd. — Early 1870s
The Italianate house across the street was originally built as a ranch home for Lawrence Peel and his wife, Margretta. Peel operated a mercantile store on Main Street in the 1860s. The home had many owners over the years and was built by Eldridge . . . — Map (db m93956) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 123 — Downtown Traffic — Mt. Diablo Blvd. at Main St. — Early 1950s
The 1951 opening of Broadway Shopping Center led to almost daily gridlock at Main and Mt. Diablo, streets that were also part of two state highways. Local officials used photos to "plead their case" for traffic relief. The freeway to bypass downtown . . . — Map (db m93710) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 125 — Downtown Traffic — North Main Street — Early 1950s
The 1951 opening of Broadway Shopping Center increased traffic on Main Street, which also doubled as part of two state highways. Photos like this helped convince State officials to build a freeway bypass to ease congestion. The new freeway opened in . . . — Map (db m93863) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 166 — El Rey Theatre — 1641 N. Main St. — 1937
The plush El Rey Theatre was Walnut Creek's second movie house and a popular venue for nearly 50 years. The El Rey showed films ranging from Shirley Temple's "Wee Willie Winkie" to the cult classic "Rocky Horror Picture Show." An office building . . . — Map (db m93808) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 175 — First Church of Christ, Scientist — 1345 Locust St. — 1924
Local Christian Scientists first organized in Walnut Creek in 1913, meeting each Sunday at the Masonic Temple. Church members built their own church on Locust Street in 1924 and building a larger church on the same site in 1949. The church moved to . . . — Map (db m93949) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 142 — First National Bank — 1376-1388 N. Main St. — 1913
Now a row of retail shops with apartments above, this two-story building with the distinctive roofline was built by Robert Noble Burgess as the First National Bank, the town's second financial institution. First National merged with San Ramon Valley . . . — Map (db m93871) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 122 — Flagpole — Mt. Diablo Blvd. at Main Street — 1917
The community celebrated Independence Day in 1917 by dedicating a flagpole at Main Street and Lafayette Road (now Mt. Diablo Boulevard) The flagpole served as a focal point for community ceremonies. Eventually, the City removed the flagpole because . . . — Map (db m93707) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 177 — Funeral Home — 1387 Locust St. — 1939
This building at the corner of Locust and Cypress (originally School ad China Streets) was a private home until 1949, when it was converted to a funeral home and morgue. The building has been in commercial use since that time. A circular stained . . . — Map (db m93947) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 182 — Hagstrom's Market — 1632 Locust St. — 1946
In 1932, Emil Hagstrom opened the 25th store in his chain of cash-and-carry grocery stores on Main Street. In 1946, the store moved to this location on Locust Street and offered free off-street parking. — Map (db m93752) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 130 — Harlan's Livery Stable — Main St. at Mt. Diablo Blvd. — circa 1880
The most important corner in Walnut Creek has alway been a center of transportation. In the late 1800's and early 1900s, a livery stable (horse barn) occupied this entire block, allowing locals and visitors to board or rent horses and buggies. — Map (db m93728) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 132 — Judge Duncan's Courtroom — 1328 N. Main Street — 1914
From its first meeting following city incorporation in October 1914, Walnut Creek's City Council held its meetings for a number of years in the courtroom of Judge George O. Duncan, adjacent to the San Ramon Bank. — Map (db m93723) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 113 — Kirsch Home — 1200 S. Main St. — Early 1870s
Two giant date palms flanked the entrance to this stately home, owned by Michael Kirsch and his family. Kirsch owned a blacksmith and wheelwright shop next door to this house, at the corner of Main Street and Lafayette Road (now Mt. Diablo Boulevard. — Map (db m93698) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 180 — Kitty Milk Bar — 1548 Bonanza Street — 1947
A popular cafι for more than 20 years, Kitty Milk Bar was particularly renowned for its ice cream and donuts. The cafι took its name from the nickname of the proprietor's sister, Catherine. — Map (db m93742) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 151 — Lawrence Garage — 1499 N. Main St. — 1921
Preferring cars to the family meat business, Lester Lawrence opened this auto garage across from his brother's meat market in 1921. Soon, he also began selling cars. He owned several dealerships over the years, including a dealership on North Main . . . — Map (db m93877) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 160 — Leech House & Medical Clinic — 1525 N. Main St. — Early 1870s
1525 N. Main St. This wood-frame Italianate house was about 30 years old when it was purchased by Dr. Claud Leech, town physician, and his wife, Eva. The first floor served as the medial clinic, the upper floor as the family residence. The house . . . — Map (db m93822) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 103 — Liberty Bell Replica — Liberty Bell Plaza 1976
During the U.S. Bicentennial, President Gerald R. Ford dedicated a replica of the Liberty Bell as a war memorial. The bell was donated by the local Soroptimist International chapter. Liberty Bell Plaza covers the confluence of the two creeks that . . . — Map (db m91565) HM WM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 168 — Lommel's Creamery & Greyhound Bus Depot — 1700 N. Main St. — 1939
Diagonally across the street stood Lommel's Creamery, opened in 1939 and a local favorite for 35 years. After Greyhound began commuter bus service to San Francisco, Lommel saw his chance and convinced the company to use his Creamery as the bus stop. — Map (db m93809) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 121 — Main Street, 1910
From earliest times, Main Street (then Pacheco Road) was a highway. It was a main stagecoach route from Martinez to San Jose. Main Street was paved in 1921 and served as a state highway until the freeway opened in 1960. — Map (db m93703) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 135 — Main Street, 1921
By a vote of 127-76, Walnut Creek residents chose to incorporate as a city in October 1914, largely to get Main Street paved. It took another seven years to secure the funds but, finally, Main Street was paved in 1921. — Map (db m93873) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 172 — Masonic Temple — 1604 Mt. Diablo Blvd. — 1916
Walnut Creek Masonic Lodge - founded around 1873 - built its Masonic Temple in 1916. Previously, the group met on Main Street. The building was expanded in 1953. It closed as a Temple in 1984 and was remodeled for commercial use. — Map (db m93945) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 158 — Mauzy Plumbing — 1440 N. Main St. — 1913
Mauzy Plumbing was Walnut Creek's longest-operating family-owned business when it closed after 98 years in 2011. The family business moved to Walnut Creek from Oakland in 1913, eventually to the site across Main Street. Four generations of the . . . — Map (db m93823) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 161 — Nut Bowl Fountain — 1532 N. Main St. — 1940
Originally a hardware store, the corner of this two-story building became the Nut Bowl Fountain restaurant in 1947. Proprietor Vern Snedden opened a second Nut Bowl in Pleasant Hill. The Walnut Creek Nut Bowl closed in 1967. — Map (db m93810) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 184 — Oakland, Antioch & Eastern Railway — California at Civic Drive — 1911
Electric rail service came to Walnut Creek in 1911. The railway (later called Sacramento Northern) provided passengers and freight service from Sacramento through Walnut Creek and on to Oakland and the San Ramon Valley. The tracks run along today's . . . — Map (db m93754) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 148 — Post Office — 1410 N. Main St. — 1928
In the early years, Walnut Creek residents picked up their mail from one of the local merchants on Main Street, who served as postmaster. This brick building served as Walnut Creek's first post office, beginning in 1928. A newer post office opened . . . — Map (db m93826) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 145 — Ramona Theatre — N. Main at Cypress — 1920
The 400-seat Ramona, Walnut Creek's first cinema, opened in 1920 as a silent-movie house. The theater sat on Main Street, next to the Contra Costa Courier newspaper and where Cypress Street now connects to Broadway. It was owned by Theodore . . . — Map (db m93828) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 165 — Reinharts's Building & Clock — 1632 N. Main St. — 1947
For 60 years, the Art-Moderne-style clock on the sidewalk on Main Street was the trademark of Rinehart's of Walnut Creek, a jewelry and gift store. Although Rinehart's closed in 2007, the clock still stands in from of the retail building. — Map (db m93807) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 134 — Rogers Hotel — 1350 N. Main Street — 1879
For 80 years, the corner across the street was a hotel. From its opening in 1879, the Rogers Hotel did a brisk business, partly because it also served as a stagecoach stop. The hotel changed owners and names several times before it was razed for a . . . — Map (db m93870) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 133 — San Ramon Valley Bank — 1340 N. Main Street — 1908
Joseph Silveria, owner of Valley Mercantile at Main and Cypress, was the first merchant to offer local banking services. Knowing the town needed a "real" bank, Silveria spearheaded the first bank - San Ramon Valley Bank - located directly across the . . . — Map (db m93720) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 131 — Sherburne Building — 1315 N. Main Street — 1880
The Sherburne Building is Walnut Creek's oldest remaining commercial structure. The structure was built in 1861-62 but was partially destroyed by fire in 1879 and rebuilt the following year. Over the years, it was home to a number of mercantile and . . . — Map (db m93714) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 102 — Southern Pacific Railroad Depot — 850 S. Broadway — 1891
The first passenger train rolled into Walnut Creek in 1891. Southern Pacific built the train depot later that year on a site that was across the creek (now under Broadway) and close to this plaza. The depot was converted to commercial uses and . . . — Map (db m93738) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 114 — St. Mary's Catholic Church — 1245 S. Main St. — 1884
Walnut Creek's first Catholic church was dedicated in 1884 on this site. A wooden structure of Gothic design, St. Mary's also served as a community center for many local Portuguese families. The parish later moved to its location on Mt. Diablo . . . — Map (db m93694) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 181 — St. Paul's Mission Chapel — 1604 Locust St. — 1889
Local Episcopalians built St. Paul's Chapel on this lot in 1889. In 1950, St. Paul's built a new church up the hill. Wanting to save the treasured chapel, church members "trundled" the sturdy redwood building to the new church site, where it still . . . — Map (db m93743) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 141 — Stow Building — 1375 N. Main St. — 1910
With its twin towers and bay windows, the two-story Stow Building was a landmark on Main Street for many years. James Stow constructed the building for his mercantile store. The towner and bay windows were removed in a 1947 remodel. — Map (db m93860) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 157 — Town Hall — 1501 N. Main St. — 1907
Desiring a place for community meetings and events, a newly formed Town Hall Association acquired the lot at Main and Bonanza. Several years later, and with a loan from the new San Ramon Valley Bank, the group built the imposing two-story Town Hall. — Map (db m93824) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 149 — Valley Mercantile — 1403 N. Main St. — 1916
Originally located at another Main Street site, Valley Mercantile move into the old Grange Hall at this corner around 1910. The owner, Joseph Silviara, replaced the wood structure with a brick building in 1916. In addition to its retail business, . . . — Map (db m93876) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 170 — Veterans Memorial Building — 1250 Locust St. — 1925
Walnut Creek's Veterans Memorial Building was both a meeting place for local veterans and other groups and a popular site for weekend dances. The building also doubled as a County courthouse. Local veterans now have a new building in Lafayette. — Map (db m93958) WM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 115 — Walnut Creek and Mt. Diablo Central Hotel — Pacheco Road (Main Street) — Late 1860s
The Walnut Creek and Mt. Diablo Central Hotel sat across from here on Pacheco Road (now Main Street), which connected Martinez to San Jose. Antonio Botelho, who had purchased the surrounding farm land, bought the hotel in 1882 and converted it to . . . — Map (db m93692) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 119 — Walnut Creek Grammar School — Plaza Escuela — 1912
Walnut Creek Grammar School replaced the 40-year-old Central School on this site in 1912. The school was expanded several times. After WW II, neighborhood elementary schools were built. The downtown school closed in 1957 and the site became part of . . . — Map (db m93697) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 191 — Walnut Creek Library — 1630 N. Boadway — 1961
Walnut Creek's third library opened at this site in 1961, when the city had fewer than 10,000 residents. This library replace the small Carnegie Library on Main Street, which had opened 45 years before. The current library opened in 2010. — Map (db m93799) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 150 — Walnut Creek Meat Market — 1432 N. Main St. 1910
For 75 years, this brick building - with its sign on the north side - was the Walnut Creek Meat Market, owned by brothers Fred, Joe and Harry Lawrence. (The fourth brother ran an auto garage across the street.) The family meat market moved to Alamo . . . — Map (db m91574) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 176 — Walnut Creek Methodist Church — 1370 Locust St. — 1872
The town's first house of worship, the Methodist Church, originally stood behind this site on Main Street. By the early 1900s, Main was a bustling commercial street, so the church was moved here. In the 1950s, the congregation built a new church on . . . — Map (db m93948) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 174 — Walnut Creek Presbyterian Church — 1321 Locust St.
Local Presbyterians first held their Sunday services in the schoolhouse, then built their first church at this site in 1884. They replaced their wooden church with a stone structure in the 1930s, then moved to a new location a few blocks away in the . . . — Map (db m93946) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 183 — Walnut Growers; Processing Plant — Locust Street and Civic Drive — circa 1920
In 1917, local walnut ranchers formed a growers association and, a few years later, built a walnut processing plant next to the railway line that ran along today's California Boulevard. The plant closed in 1957 after most walnut groves were removed . . . — Map (db m93786) HM
California (Contra Costa County), Walnut Creek — 163 — Women's Club of Walnut Creek Clubhouse — Lincoln Avenue at Carmel Drive — 1937
Two blocks east is the clubhouse of the Women's Club - the town's first service club, founded in 1911. Among the Club's accomplishments, the group secured the Carnegie Library Foundation grant for the 1916 library. The Women's Club sold its . . . — Map (db m93811) HM

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