Back in the Day: Book Contains Wealth of Solano History

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The following Back in the Day column was published in the Fairfield Daily Republic on May 15, 2015

By Tony Wade

On March 17, 1992, the Fairfield City Council passed a resolution authorizing the Heritage Society of West Central Solano to prepare an inventory of the historic and archeological resources found in the city of Fairfield.

The Heritage Society project staff included organization President Tim Farmer, Chairman Bert Hughes, Ruth Hagemann, Vera Oliver, Marjorie Wildman, Donna Epps, Happy Marinovich and Gwen Swope.

As all who were involved in the project, that took seven years to complete, are now deceased, the book they produced stands as both a great research tool and a legacy to local folks who loved their city and strove to preserve its history.

Their extensive research resulted in the paperback book, “The Heritage Collection: Sites, Structures and History of Fairfield and Vicinity” (Wheeler Press, 1999). As Tim Farmer wrote in the preface, it is probably the most extensive inventory ever compiled of our area.

The cover is a photo of Texas Street in 1911 – 14 years before the iconic Fairfield arch sign was installed.

The book’s chapters include: City of Fairfield, City of Suisun and Cordelia and has information on the valley, Collinsville and numerous other locations.

There are photos of private homes with their addresses (and I warn as the book does, not to trespass on private property) accompanied by brief historical data about each one.

For instance, there are several homes on Illinois, Broadway, Jefferson and Cordelia streets that were moved from Washington Street between 1955 and 1959 when Armijo High School moved to that location from the old building on Union Avenue (now the Solano County Hall of Justice).

Some snapshots:
Fairfield

201 Jackson St. was built by Phil Winkleman before 1920 and featured a barn with a boxing ring that local prizefighters used to train in.

828 Madison St. was built prior to 1910 for the William Glusen family. Glusen was a plumber for 50 years, a city councilman for 16 years, mayor for eight years and retired as Fairfield fire chief in 1958.

840 Empire St. was built for the David Weir family during the 1920s. Weir was the publisher of the weekly Solano Republican newspaper that later became the Daily Republic and his wife was the postmistress of Fairfield. Weir published a biography of Capt. Robert Waterman, the founder of Fairfield, and is the namesake for the David Weir K-8 Preparatory Academy on Pennsylvania Avenue.

740 Texas St. The three story office building was erected for the Solano Title Company in 1926. In 1935, grammar school students were allowed to visit the building and ride in the first elevator in Fairfield – a big treat back then.

2091 Dover Ave. The private home next door to Trinity Lutheran Church was the original Dover School in the 1880s. The house was moved from its location on Dover Avenue at the edge of Paradise Valley by William Hawkins, who was determined to save the school that famous poet Edwin Markham (“The Man and the Hoe”) attended.

Suisun City

609 Main St. Built in 1906 and remodeled in 1945, it was originally Ennors Bakery Ice Cream and Candy store, where candy was made fresh daily. Now it is Waterfront Comics.

601 Suisun St. This house was at one time the residence of Anna Kyle, who served as music supervisor for all schools in Fairfield and was the organist for the Suisun Episcopal Church.

There is a wealth of information on not just private homes but the Lincoln Highway, the town of Cement, Manka’s Corner and so much more.

The final chapter, titled “The Crossroads: A History of the Fairfield Suisun Area,” is a nine-page, in-depth overview of local history written by Farmer. It covers everything from the Patwin Indians to early pioneers, such as the Wolfskills and beyond.

It ends with a call to action: “As urban sprawl continues, we run the risk of losing our identity. Some communities, such as Sonoma and Benicia, have preserved their historic legacy. We have the choice; preserve our rich heritage or allow it to vanish.”

The book is available at the Solano County Library or you can buy your own copy at the Solano History Exploration Center inside the Lawler House at 718 Main St. in Suisun City.

Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at toekneeweighed@gmail.com.