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Homepage > History > 1910s

1910 - 1920


The newly formed Board of Trustees wasted little time in initiating legislation to provide badly needed municipal services for the rapidly expanding community. A municipal volunteer fire department was established in March, 1910. In June, the voters went to the polls and approved Board resolutions for a $78,000 sewer system, a $1,500 wooden bridge across Dry Creek at Lincoln Street, and a $10,000 appropriation for construction and installation of an electric power system.

A short time later, a move to purchase the old Presbyterian Church building on Vernon Street for use as a permanent city hall was inaugurated. After much heated opposition, the Vernon Street site was selected over 12 other locations. The Board of Trustees – which had been meeting in the Barrett building on Atlantic Street – moved into their new location in May, 1912. Dr. Bradford Woodbridge, a member of the original Board, was sworn in as mayor at this time, a position he was to occupy almost continuously until his retirement from the Board of Trustees. During his 23 years of service, his many accomplishments included the paving of several streets, organizing a modern fire department, establishment and maintaining of two parks, building a viaduct over the railroad tracks to Sierra Vista Tract, a modern concrete bridge across Dry Creek at Lincoln Street, the establishment of a city-owned electric light plant and improvements in the municipal sewage disposal system. Dr. Woodbridge died of a heart attack at his home on Main Street on Thursday, Aug. 17, 1933. Shortly after his death, a Bradford Woodbridge Memorial Association was formed and Sierra Vista Park was renamed “Woodbridge Park”, along with a new elementary school (Woodbridge School) to perpetuate the memory of one of Roseville’s most outstanding public servants and humanitarians.


Dr. Bradford Woodbridge

Ed Pitcher was appointed as Roseville’s first superintendent of streets in 1912 and work began on improving the city’s streets under his direction and that of his successor, William Keehner, who served as street superintendent from 1918 to1946.

William C. Keehner, like his father Charles Keehner, left an indelible imprint upon the growth and development of Roseville. William Keehner grew up in the family home on Vernon Street and attended the local school.In his early twenties, he and his brother Charles purchased 120 acres of land in the vicinity of the later day Carnival Market on Douglas Boulevard which was then on the outskirts of the town. While Charles Keehner worked in Sacramento, William Keehner took care of their vineyard and hauled grapes by wagon team to the railroad. He lived with his wife Lelia (daughter of Lewis Leroy King) on a 60-acre portion of the land – now the site of the Lutheran Church.In 1918, William Keehner went to work for the City of Roseville where he was placed in charge of streets, parks, garbage and sewers. Today, these specialized functions are in separate departments, each of which is headed by a city superintendent.


William Keehner


Grading of streets

In 1917, Councilmember Haman spearheaded a local movement petitioning for the acquisition of 17 acres of Tom Royer’s land along Dry Creek for use as a park. Another site was proposed by McRae and the Royer Park League was formed with Haman as its president to push for his proposed location. His efforts paid off and the City Trustees purchased the Dry Creek site. When the Royer Park site was acquired from Tom Royer, Keehner was given the added responsibility of supervising site preparations by converting sand and brush into today’s beautiful Royer Park. William Keehner worked continually for the City of Roseville until 1946 when he retired. Finally advancing years took their toll, and William Keehner died on Dec. 7, 1977. His passing removed one of the few surviving living links with nineteenth century Roseville. The memory of Roseville’s oldest and genuinely loved and respected pioneer is perpetuated by a street named for the family (Keehner Avenue) and in beautiful Royer Park which was largely the product of his creation.

Board action was responsible for getting the new State Highway routed through Roseville in 1912. That portion of the artery which ran through Roseville, however, had to be paved at city expense. Paving contracts were subsequently let to J. Lawrence of Broderick for $15,000 commencing at the lower end of Riverside Avenue and connecting to the State Highway on the Lincoln Road. However, only the center portion of the streets was paved and property owners had to be contacted and signed up to pave the areas in front of their places of business.

Board action was also instrumental in persuading the County Board of Supervisors to erect a Placer County exhibit building in the center of the railroad park in 1915. Two years later (1917), the city fathers purchased the Royer property, a maze of overgrown creek bottomland, for $3,000. Work on improving it and the Sierra Vista Park (now Woodbridge Park) site was delayed by the advent of World War I. The war also delayed Board proposals to build a new bridge over the railroad tracks into Sierra Vista tract and the purchase of the local water company.

Roseville entered wholeheartedly into the World War I effort.Victor Dorin, who joined the navy in April 1917, was the first of a long line of local volunteers and draftees to enter the service from Roseville. The city formed a local Red Cross unit and numerous Liberty Bond issues were subscribed to. A side effect of the war was a severe influenza epidemic which hit Roseville in October 1918. The old Tanner Rooming House on Vernon Street was utilized as a hospital and the Women’s Improvement Club, along with the local Red Cross unit, worked day and night to care for the sick.

Alyn W. Butler was the only local boy killed in action.Butler moved to Roseville with his mother in 1906 and found employment with the Southern Pacific Railroad, initially in Rocklin and then (1908) in Roseville. When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Butler enlisted in the service; he was two months shy of his 20th birthday. On June 1, 1918, he was shipped overseas as a member of Division 28 of Attachment M, 110th Infantry and three weeks after arriving in France, he was killed in action at the River Vesle on September 5, 1918. Two months later (Nov. 11, 1918), the Armistice was signed and the “war to end all wars” was over. A memorial service was held for the only Roseville youth to lose his life in battle during the Great War at Fiddyment’s Hall on December 27, 1918. A local post of the American Legion was organized in the club room of the Roseville Public Library on Sept. 14, 1919 – 11 days short of what would have been Alyn W. Butler’s 21st birthday. Originally called “Roseville Post No. 169,” a grass roots movement developed to name the post after Roseville’s fallen hero. And when the permanent charter was conferred on Aug. 19, 1921, it was under the name “Alyn W. Butler Post No. 169.”Alyn W. Butler Post No. 169 continued to meet in the club room of the Roseville Library until 1939 at which time it was removed to its present quarters on Park Drive. Alyn’s mother continued to work for the Southern Pacific Railroad until 1940 when she retired. Fourteen years later (1954) she died and was laid to rest beside her husband in Newcastle Cemetery.Her son still rests in a military cemetery in France.


Alyn W. Butler

While Roseville was launching its new government and contributing its share to the war effort, the city continued to grow. In a two and a half year period (September 1911 – January 1914), more than 110 new buildings were erected. Population increased from 2,608 in 1910 to 4,477 in 1920. Atlantic and Pacific streets, the principal arteries before the “boom,” were now declining in favor of Lincoln Street. Most Atlantic Street businesses had been moved or torn down in 1907 when the street was moved back 100 feet. Pacific Street, now known locally as “Whisky Row” because of the numerous saloons erected there after 1907, prospered for a while but suffered a severe blow on Aug. 24, 1911 when a fire broke. Before the flames could be controlled, all buildings between the old Branstetter’s Hall and the Odd Fellows building were leveled or gutted by the worst fire in Roseville’s history up to that time. Pacific Street never fully recovered and its period of ascendancy as Roseville’s commercial center ended.


Fire of 1911

The rapid decline of Pacific Street after the 1911 fire elevated Lincoln Street as Roseville’s leading business block. Between 1911 and 1920, Lincoln Street continued to reap the lion’s share of Roseville’s retail trade, but by the latter year signs of wear and tear began to show. Old buildings dating back to 1906 were becoming increasingly obsolete and north side merchants had become a little complacent, even in the face of increasing competition from ambitious Vernon Street entrepreneurs of Roseville’s south side.

Charles Henry Barker, the son-in-law of Aaron Ross, operated the newly constructed Western Hotel after the Ross House burned down. The old Western Hotel was moved back on Lincoln Street 200-300 feet and the site was sold to the railroad for track expansion, thus providing revenue for working plans on a new, modern two-story hotel. Construction began on the Barker Hotel in September of 1910 and the grand opening of Roseville’s newest and finest hotel took place on Saturday, June 8, 1911. The Western building was subsequently used as an annex to the Barker Hotel but was destroyed by a fire in 1924. In addition to meeting the sleeping needs of the traveling public, the Barker Hotel boasted one of the finest restaurants (Barker Grill) in Northern California, along with a well-stocked bar. Barker continued to manage the hotel until 1918 when he leased it to Fred Forlow, proprietor of the nearby Mint Saloon. Still retaining the Barker name, the hotel then passed into the hands of Davis and Johnson in 1924. Besides his hotel business, Barker was quite active in sports and sponsored some of the early Roseville baseball teams. Barker died quietly in his home on Lincoln Street on Sunday, Aug. 14, 1938.

The name of Fiddyment is closely associated with the City of Roseville and its growth and development. Walter Fiddyment arrived in the area with his widowed mother in 1856 and lived with her until the age of 29, at which time he purchased an 80-acre farm about seven miles west of Roseville. For years he served as a trustee and elder in the Presbyterian Church in Roseville from its inception and even taught Sunday school classes. When the town began to spring up, Fiddyment acquired city lots and eventually owned considerable property within the town limits. He later donated some of his land to the Presbyterian and Catholic Churches for future sites.

Fiddyment went into business with G.W. Lohse in 1909 creating the firm then Lohse & Fiddyment. In February of 1910, Lohse & Fiddyment purchased the corner properties at Vernon and Lincoln Streets (site of the old Charles Keehner blacksmith shop) and erected a fine new concrete store building. Fiddyment later bought out Lohse and the firm since operated under the name of W.F. Fiddyment & Son. The store was remodeled in 1925 and has since been called the Fiddyment Block. In June of 1980, the Roseville Telephone Company announced that the Fiddyment Block would be torn down and replaced with a new, modern two-story telephone company facility.

While Roseville launched its government and expanded its business district, it continued to strengthen its cultural base. New schools and churches were built to keep pace with the march of progress; a library was established (1912); and numerous fraternal and civic organizations coalesced, the most notable of which was the Women’s Improvement Club. Organized in 1910, the Women’s Improvement Club, under the leadership of Cora Woodbridge, wife of Dr. Bradford Woodbridge, spearheaded efforts to plant trees and shrubs along Roseville’s dusty streets.


Cora Woodbridge – City collection


Women’s Improvement Club - City collection

Another project included the establishment of a small reading room in the McRae building while ambitious plans formulated to establish a Roseville public library. After contacting the Andrew Carnegie Foundation, a $10,000 grant was obtained for the project. McRae donated two lots for the library and the City provided necessary sewer, electrical and plumbing connections. Brick and tile came from Lincoln, granite came from Rocklin, and lumber from Roseville. With volunteer labor on hand, a fine City library was completed and opened for public use in October 1912. The Carnegie Library remained Roseville’s sole public library until 1979, when the present main library was completed on Taylor Street. In recent years, the still impressive structure has been restored to its 1912 elegance, and today houses the museum operated by the Roseville Historical Society.


Carnegie Library – City collection

Plays, musicals, and sporting events were frequently held at the McRae Opera House until 1915 with the establishment of Roseville’s first major theater building. The Rose Theater (constructed in 1915) remained Roseville’s leading cinema until the advent of the Roseville Theater in 1926.


Roseville Theater – City collection

Women’s Improvement Club efforts resulted in the establishment of Roseville Union High School in a renovated railroad workers’ rooming house on Vernon Street. Four years later, the high school moved to permanent quarters at the eastern edge of town. Two of the names affiliated with the growth of Roseville High School are Edwin C. Bedell and William Henry Masters – both men were essential to the development of Roseville’s educational system.


Roseville High School (early 1912) – City collection

Bedell first came to Roseville in 1882 and took an active role in the development of the area, specifically within the farm community and social and cultural pursuits. During his years with the County Chamber, he was instrumental in the establishment of the Placer County Exhibit buildings, adjacent to the railroad depot, used as a showcase for Placer County’s agricultural products. Later, the old Exhibit Building (now situated on Vernon Street) served as offices for the Roseville Area Chamber of Commerce until 1988. Bedell is most remembered, however, for his affiliation with Roseville High School. He was a member of the original committee that conceived the idea of establishing a local high school district, which came into existence in 1912. Elected to the first High School Board of Trustees, Bedell served continuously at that position for more than 20 years. During those formative years, he saw Roseville High School develop from a handful of students meeting in abandoned hotel and theater buildings, into a highly reputable, fully accredited high school of several hundred students housed in a fine, modern building. This Roseville High School founding father died of a heart attack in April of 1939.

William Henry Masters came to Roseville in 1912 when he took the position of Roseville’s first high school principal. While little else is remembered of Masters, records show that in the six-year period between 1912 and 1917 he served as principal, Roseville High School got off to a smooth start, although plagued from the outset by inadequate facilities until the fine, modern brick high school was opened in 1916. After guiding the new high school through its formative stages, Masters resigned in 1917 to accept a position with the U.S. Customs Office in San Francisco where he served between 1918 and 1935. On April 23, 1938, William Henry Masters died at his home in Alameda.

Railroad expansion, responsible for this phenomenal growth, continued at an accelerated pace. Particular emphasis was given to the Pacific Fruit Express icing plant, which, in 1913, spent $75,000 in doubling its cold storage capacity. With other improvements, this made the Roseville plant the largest ice plant in the world.

Edwin Barrett Huskinson quietly came to Roseville in 1916 after graduating from the University Of California College Of Pharmacy. He purchased the Charles Hesser Pharmacy on Vernon Street in 1924, which soon housed the Huskinson Gift Shop, adjacent to his pharmacy business – the Huskinson Drug Store. Over the ensuing years, Huskinson built up an unequaled reputation for friendly, courteous and efficient service. In 1953, Huskinson opened a branch pharmacy in the Al-Mar Medical Center building (one of the first commercial buildings to be opened east of the then new Roseville Freeway) on Sunrise Avenue.E. Barrett Huskinson died in January of 1954 though his sons continued his business for the next 21 years. Huskinson’s Drug Store on Vernon Street carried on as it had since 1916 until 1979, at which time the business closed after 63 years of dedicated service to the community.

Another treasured Vernon Street landmark was the store owned and operated by Holcomb-Tilden (H.T.) Miller. Miller first started with a grocery and feed store, which later flourished into Miller’s furniture and appliance store. By 1942, the grocery portion of the store was separated from the furniture and appliance portion and after some revamping, Miller’s dropped grocery services altogether and primarily focused on furniture and appliances. Miller’s son (Elbee) took over the business until his death in 1991, while Elbee’s wife Wilma continued on until 1994. Miller’s was closed and the building sold.


H.T. Miller’s store – City collection


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