“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Coalinga in Fresno County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)

Harry S. Watanabe

(1896 – 1987)

Harry S. Watanabe Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Barry Swackhamer, March 22, 2013
1. Harry S. Watanabe Marker
Inscription.  Harry Watanabe was 19 years old when he came to Coalinga from Japan in 1915. Watanabe first worked at Ayers Drug Store and the Sullivan Hotel. It was in 1928 that Watanabe found his niche in life and the vocation that left his mark on Coalinga. Watanabe had a natural instinct for gardening and was destined to play a considerable part in making Coalinga a gem – an oasis in what was nearly a hostile desert. The first settlers were faced with a brackish, hard water from local wells and planted chinaberry, salt cedar and cottonwood trees for shade, the only trees that would grow.

Watanabe had a different vision, he started a nursery and began experimenting. From his discoveries he helped the city gradually change from a dusty, wild west frontier town to a community of shade. He helped landscape nearly every early public building, including schools, hospital and City Hall. His work as a professional nurseryman lasted from 1928 until the mid-1960s. His valued advice was sought by all those who needed gardening assistance. In 1942 the Watanabe family joined others of Japanese descent who were interned in Arkansas for the duration of
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World War II. The Watanabes returned to Coalinga in 1946 and reopened their nursery business.

In 1972, Watanabe and his wife Yoshino, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Watanabe passed away January 7, 1987, in Hanford at the age of 91.

In remembrance of Harry Watanabe, the Coalinga City Council dedicated this wildlife habitat and named it Watanabe Natural Science Park on April 17, 1997.
Erected 1997 by Coalinga City Council.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Asian AmericansHorticulture & Forestry. A significant historical month for this entry is January 1908.
Location. 36° 9.227′ N, 120° 21.236′ W. Marker is in Coalinga, California, in Fresno County. Marker is at the intersection of Elm Avenue (California Route 33.198) and Phelps Avenue, on the right when traveling north on Elm Avenue. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1650 Elm Avenue, Coalinga CA 93210, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. “Wooden Walking Beam” (a few steps from this marker); Coalinga Union High School (approx. 0.9 miles away); Bob’s 76 Service (approx. 0.9 miles away); Motte Fountain (approx. 0.9 miles away); Coalinga Carnegie Library (approx. 0.9 miles away); Grammar School
Harry S. Watanabe Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Barry Swackhamer, March 22, 2013
2. Harry S. Watanabe Marker
Wooden Walking Beam on the right.
(approx. one mile away); Coalinga Opera House (approx. one mile away); “Dr. Bill” (approx. one mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Coalinga.
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on April 3, 2013, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California. This page has been viewed 835 times since then and 25 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on April 3, 2013, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California. • Syd Whittle was the editor who published this page.

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Feb. 22, 2024