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Fulton Berry's Street: From Street Cars To No Cars At All, Almost

Fulton Street
Fulton Street 1930

They clanged their way down the streets of Fresno for 52 years, 1887 to 1939, powered by the horse, later by electricity. And, while the trolley, or streetcars clanged, the city grew. Ben Walker in "The Fresno County Blue Book" wrote, "...the rivalries of Mariposa, I, Tulare and K Streets have all conspired to build up J Street as the median line of Fresno's business activity."

The growth along the street was spurred by Fresno raconteur Fulton G. Berry, who arrived on the scene in 1884 and for whom the street was later renamed. Berry developed the Grand Central Hotel on the corner of Mariposa and J Streets. Later he added the Fulton Hotel, which was destroyed by fire in 1915 and replaced by Rodder's.

The actual renaming of the street in honor of Berry was done October 20, 1923 by the Fresno City Council by ordinance, 13 years following Berry's famous funeral parade down J Street with the bands playing selected Souza marches and There Will Be A Hot Time In The Old Town Tonight"

Early businesses on J Street, according to Walker, included the Arlington Hotel, the Fresno Chamber of Commerce building which later became the property of O. J. Woodward, the Dunn building and the Sequoia bar and restaurant. He also reports J. W. Ferguson relocated the "Weekly Expositor" on Fulton Street and in 1918 the Bank of Italy (known today as the Bank of America) came to Fresno's Street.

Paul E. Vandor in his "History of Fresno County California With Biographical Sketches" wrote in 1919, "At Tulare and J on the sandhill there were perched the Silverman cottage home (the residence was replaced by the Forsyth Building destroyed by fire in 1920); on Nob Hill were centered the residences then (the eighties) and later of Louis Einstein, Dr. Chester Rowell, the Gundelfingers, Dr. Lewis Leach, W. B. Dennett, the city clerk, H. C. and W. D. Tupper, George E. Church, W. D. Grady, A. J. Thorn and others."

Later developments in the 1920s on Fulton Street include the 10 story office building of the San Joaquin Light and Power Corporation Building (Later Pacific Gas and Electric, now The Trade Center), Gottschalk's, and the Patterson Building completed in May of 1922, among others.

By 1926, when the accompanying picture was taken, Fulton Street was the hub of Fresno's business section. It had replaced Fresno and Mariposa Streets for commercial buildings and in so doing eliminated Fresno's only Nob Hill, all four feet of it. The streetcar era, which began in May 1887, on J Street, was one of three in the young city. In 1901 the Fresno City Railway Company merged the three and in the spring of 1903 the Fresno Traction Company, then the owners, converted the lines to electricity.

In 1909 Fresno's first double tracks were laid on J Street and in 1910, Southern Pacific gained control On May 21, 1939, city officials took the last ride in car 90, although car 29 was used to remove the overhead wiring, then had to be towed to oblivion because its power source no longer existed

Today, the Fulton Mall, dedicated in 1964, and the pedestrian have replaced the street and the gas powered buggies. But the "trolley," now modified and perhaps a little less glamorous than its predecessor, still "beeps" its way down Fulton.

(c) 1968, 2000 Fresno City & County Historical Society Originally printed in Volume 10 Number 1 March 1968  

When this article was printed in 1968, Fulton Mall was a design marvel, nationally recognized for its innovative transformation of Fulton Street, once known as Fulton Drag Strip. The mall developers provided free use of shuttles to carry shoppers from store to store. The shuttles were a reminder of the streetcars of 19th Century Fresno. The tram service was little more than a gimmick designed to attract shoppers and the novelty wore off not long after. Fulton Mall struggles to remain a pedestrian mall. As the major chain stores have moved north, the mall has seen its ups and downs. The City of Fresno is currently discussing its future.

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