the old north

E and 6th Davis
One of the more historically interesting neighbourhoods in Davis is the Bowers Addition, better known as Old North Davis. It’s an area I have to walk home through in the evenings if I have been downtown, when it is dark, subject to the local ordinances that are meant to cut down on ‘light-pollution’ – people want to see the stars, but I’m the sort of person who wants to see the guy hiding in the shadows with the knife, personally.¬† However if you walk through this are in daytime you can really see the neighbourhood for what it is – pretty, historic, colourful and full of places that would be great to sketch. Recently I have made it my mission to draw as many historic (especially pre-1917) buildings in Davis as possible, and since the Old North is also now over 100 years old, I’ve added a bit more of it to my sketchbook pages. My inspiration has long been an excellent book by local historian John Lofland, “Old North Davis” (amazon link), which I picked up several years ago at the University bookstore. In the book, Lofland details every single block, between B and G, and 5th and 7th, with the history of most of the buildings, along with many photos both historic and taken by the author. It’s quite a spectacular undertaking. But anyway, let’s dive into some of my own sketches of the Old North. The panoramic one at the top was sketched at 6th and E, and was one of those ones where I added only the bright Springtime colors, so that they would stand out a bit more, and left the left-hand details unfinished. Also because I was sneezing uncontrollably and just could not draw any more. The house itself is a dark blue and looks great against those colors (especially the touches of pink) but you’ll have to take my word for it. It’s so floral around here on a Spring day, despite all the sneezes.
the liggett house, old north davis
The “Bowers Addition to the City of Davisville” (as it was called; Davisville wasn’t formally a city, and would be called Davis when it was) was created in 1913 and named after its lead developer, C.W.Bowers. The house above, also sketched in spite of the allergies, was one of those original houses, being built in 1913 in the 600 block of E Street. It is on that list of historic Davis buildings on the City of Davis website, called the Liggett House. It’s on my map of pre-1917 buildings (see the previous post, “Davis before the City of Davis“). It’s a craftsman bungalow and one of the oldest unaltered homes in this area. I sat on a bench across the street in the little spot called the ‘Lyda Williams Memorial Garden’. Lyda Williams was a resident of this street who once had a magnificent flower garden, according to Lofland’s book. It is a very pretty little spot to sit and dream, or in my case, sketch.
b street house, old north davis
This house on B Street has always been one I’ve wanted to sketch (though there are a few around here with the peace symbol on I’ve wanted to draw, because it makes it feel that bit more ‘Davis’). I was out on a Sunday having a little Old North Davis solo-sketchcrawl, before the sneezes start.This is around the part of B Street that is slightly crooked in relation to the other streets in the grid.
7th street house, old north davis
I’ve always liked cycling past this large and unusually shaped house, imagining it some kind of castle, though it is more like the Silo and has a fun weather-vane on the top (I cannot make out the shape, but it looks like a flying pig). I had to give up before I was done with this and finish off at home because the sneezes and itching eyes took over.I went to Lofland’s book to see what I could discover about the history of this magnificent building, but the photo of the house at this address..looked nothing like this one. Well, his book was written in 1999, I came to Davis in 2005 (and north Davis in 2012), so perhaps that older house is now gone (it’s funny, I find I don’t want to suggest ‘demolished’ or ‘torn down’ or even ‘vanished’, I’m trying to find gentler words, as if the house has, well, passed on to the next life). This one is much less aged-looking, and very clean and well-kept, so must just be a lot newer.
G St Tangles Studio
This was was drawn just last week, a colourful little place on G Street which isn’t a residence as far as I know, but a place called ‘Tangles Studio’, which must be something to do with hair. I keep my hair super short so I don’t worry about tangles. In fact I had just got my hair cut downtown, shaved to a very close crop. There is a large mural on the side of the wall that has been there for a long time.

F & 7th, Davis

This is an older sketch from 2014 that I wanted to include here again, because it is so interesting. It’s on the corner of F and 7th, on the edge of the Old North. Years ago F Street used to stop at 7th, but was extended beyond after World War II. This building is known as the Anderson-Hamel House, and this is not its original location. It used to stand on the corner of F and 2nd Street, before being relocated five blocks north in the late 1940s; Lofland provides a nice photo of it in the original location downtown (p100, ‘Old North Davis’). This is a ‘Queen Anne’ cottage built in 1903 by the man who became the first mayor of Davis, John B. Anderson. He also ran the Davisville Cash Store. It was sold to the Hamel family in 1923, and then again to the Quessenbury family, who moved it out here so they could build a drugstore on the original downtown location. This house has a dentist’s surgery now.

I hope you have enjoyed this little Old North history tour. Here are some thumbnails (linking to Flickr) of other Old North Davis sketches I’ve done over the years…

bentley house, old north davisnewman chapel, davisc street house, DavisE and 5th, DavisG & 6th, DavisG St, Davisthe davis co-opD & 6th, davis

to catch a passing shadow

4th and D, Davis CA
This is a sketch drawn downtown on the last day of March, on the holiday known as Cesar Chavez Day. A much-needed rest from a busy work schedule. We went downtown and got some ice cream (I got a milkshake from Baskin Robbins, I love those) and I continued my quest to sketch literally every inch of Davis because seriously, there’s more?

gas’n’mart

5th and L Gas Mart, Davis

And after that Davis history lesson, and that Guardians of the Galaxy blaster, here is a … gas station. Very exciting. I used to pass by this for years when cycling home and think, oh I must sketch that one day. So one day years later I decided to do so. 5th & L Gas & Mart. I mean, what else can you say? I presume Mart is short for Martin, or Marty maybe, and Gas must be short for Gary, perhaps they are like a retired pub-singing duo who quit the rock’n’roll’n’pint-o-bitter lifestyle to open a petrol station in California. Perhaps “5th & L” is actually one of their old tunes, a play on words where you think, “5th and L” oh that’s an intersection, but they sing it fast over an over so it sounds like an expletive, “Fiff’n’ell!” Gas is a funny word though. Coming from England, calling petrol “gas” seems very odd. After all, it is a liquid. Oh the fun times when we first moved here and we would go to a petrol station and they would say, do you want some gas? And I’m like, no obviously we want liquid, gas will be absolutely no good at all, it would just blow away, and they’re all looking at me like, who is this Australian? (In all seriousness I used to get called Australian all the time because many Americans have difficulty with the difference between a London and Australian accent, especially when I keep saying “G’day cobber, ya flamin’ gallah”, humming the tune to Kylie Minogue’s “I Should Be So Lucky” and eating Lamingtons). Ok, I didn’t really think gas was non-liquid, I know that “gas” is just short from “gasoleum”, I’m not thick you know. But I would have said that if it had come up, for a laugh. Yes you’re right, it wouldn’t have come up like that, because. in California, you serve your own gas at the gas station, unlike in Oregon where someone else does it for you, by law. I remember our first trip to Oregon though, an exciting six hour drive to Medford, all I wanted was to get across the border and pretend I thought they meant gas as in the gas rather than gas as in the liquid at the petrol I mean gas station. Of course I didn’t. (I was excited about going to a state with no sales tax though, we live for the simple pleasures).

This is the sort of conversation with myself that I have in my head when sketching. So it was quite a relief when I was interrupted twice by passers-by who recognized me from my show last November (hello again by the way, if you’re reading!).

blastin’ through the galaxy

guardians of the galaxy blaster toy
Are you excited for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2? I know I am. I loved the first one. This thing is one of Star-Lord’s blasters from the movie, but a ‘Nerf’ version. I’m not a big fan of those Nerf things (they get on my…) but my friend Roshan got me and my son a couple of these a while ago, and we started having blast-offs around the house with them recently, so I decided to draw one of them in my son’s “book of his things”, which by the way is nearly full now. Yeah, we can’t wait for Guardians II. I can’t wait for the soundtrack! Pew pew pew!

davis before the city of davis

Dresbach-Hunt-Boyer Mansion, Davis

And finally, here are the sketches from last month’s “Let’s Draw Davis!” sketchcrawl, the centenary tour of old Davis. A group of us met up on a Saturday morning outside the Dresbach-Hunt-Boyer Mansion at the corner of E and 2nd Streets, and set off exploring and sketching the bits of Davis that were a hundred years old or more. Because Davis, you see, celebrated 100 years of being The City of Davis in that very week – but it’s been around a lot longer than that. In fact I might have called this sketchcrawl “Let’s Draw Davisville!” because that was the name of the place up until around 1907 or so. Davisville was named after Jerome C. Davis and his wife Mary, who owned a lot of the land which eventually became the city, and the man who coined that name was the early postmaster Mr. Dresbach, and this was his house.

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I gave everyone a special map that I created, which you can see below. On the reverse side it includes a little bit of local history, but on the map side are listed most (but maybe not all?) of the buildings and spots that are 100 years old or more. I have drawn many of them already (see the pictures around the edge) but this was a nice way to start checking off those extra-centurions from my to-draw list. By the way, I think “F” may be in the wrong place, I couldn’t find it and it’s not signposted. There are also a couple of places at least outside this map which may be a bit older, but if I start going beyond the realms of cartography, well, where does that leave us. Hey if you live in Davis and want to try sketching them all, download the pdf map and let me know how you go!

LDD map March 2017 map page

LDD map March 2017 info page v-ucd

So, after I sketched the Dresbach Hunt Boyer Mansion I went over to G Street, and sketched the Masonic Lodge. Yeah, you didn’t notice that either huh! I never knew this building was a century-old Masonic Lodge, only paying attention to the ground floor shop level. Trees usually block it, but you can see the masonic symbol up there if you look closely. I sketched this from outside the G Street Wunderbar. Those odd shapes in the front are cars, or the ghosts of cars maybe; I decided I couldn’t be bothered doing any details on them. You have to imagine 1917 vehicles.

masonic lodge, G St Davis

This building, which is across the 5th Street border in Old North Davis (the Bowers Addition, which is over a century old; I will write an Old North-centric post soon…), is called the Bentley House. In fact I did not know about it until a few days before, while still putting the map together. Iw as coming baxck from downtown and passed by it, and they actually ahve a big informative plaque outside with its history on it. It celebrated a centenary in 2010, so by that I deduce (my dear Watson) that it must date back to 1910. It’s pretty, in a pretty neighbourhood. Below the sketch is a photo of the plaque, with a century of history.

bentley house, old north davis

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My final sketch of the day is another structure from 1917, not a house, but a tunnel. The Richards Underpass (or rather, the Davis Subway as it is properly know) links downtown to the other side of the railroad tracks, toward south Davis, and the I-80 freeway. It was part of the old Lincoln Highway, that connected San Francisco with New York. Yeah, that New York. This tunnel leads to the whole world, baby. Well, it is actually on the National Register of Historic Places. She doesn’t look like much but she got it where it counts. It’s a popular place to sit bottlenecked in traffic too, coming into Davis off of the freeway, and I like to imagine Dr Doom sitting in a metallic grey and green car fuming away beneath his metal mask at “that FOOL Richards” and how “I, Victor Von Doom, would have created a far superior underpass!” Oh you’ve gotta love Dr. Doom.

richards underpass (1917)

And then we met up, those that remained, and looked at each other’s sketches. I have yet to find time to set the next sketchcrawl here in Davis, but I am working on it. This one was fun, but you know, you can sketch old Davis in your own time, just grab that map, grab a pen or pencil, and get sketching!

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Well done the Davis sketchers!

Oh and Happy Birthday City of Davis!

time may change me but i can’t trace time

south silo panorama mar2017 sm.jpg
Here is another two-page panorama of UC Davis, a scene I have sketched many times but has been undergoing a lot of changes lately. As you can see in the distance there they are building a whole new covered area between the Silo and the Bike Barn which will be for eating and stuff, and as you can see there’s a cement mixer on the side there. In the foreground though by the sign is a small sustainable garden that was planted there last year, it’s quite a nice addition to this area. Click on the image for a closer view.

oh you are A1

A and 1st Davis
Here’s another from just over a month ago. This building, which I have sketched before, sits on the edge of campus at 1st and A (now there’s an address). I daresay that tree is all full of leaves now. When looking at this I think of Green Lantern, because I was listening to a podcast where they were talking about Green Lantern a lot (it wasn’t very interesting to be honest). When I look at that tree though I can’t help but think it looks like the legs of a tall spindly white creature with its head and arms stuck under the ground. Or maybe it is a giant bony hand giving the classic two-fingered gesture we British love to use, the one said to originate in the Hundred Years War with English archers taunting their French counterparts who had failed to chop off their bow fingers. Or perhaps a giant tuning fork, obviously this one is tuned to the key of “A” and that is how “A Street” gets its name. Have I finally cracked the code? Is this really why “A Street”, “B Street” etc are called that? So much meaning is lost in the legends of history that we really cannot say for sure. Look at London street names for example. Pall Mall. You probably think, oh that is named after a bloke called Paul and I suppose he used to have a shopping mall there, but you’d be wrong. It’s named after a game that was popular in Italy, palliomaglio (“mallet-ball”, a bit like croquet) which was played around there a few centuries ago. A bit like if you built a road over a popular basketball court and called the street “Basket-ball” and then everyone forgot what basketball¬† was. Then there is the “A1”. You’d think that it was so named because there was a bloke called “Al” (or a lady, maybe Queen Alexandra) and this was their road, but in fact it is because it used to be the Great North Road, a really long road (or series of roads) going from London right up to Scotland, which was in 1921 called the “A1” when the Ministry of Transport decided to give main roads all sorts of alpha-numerical designations. I grew up right near the A1. I like the history of roads. It would be fun to write/draw a book about the history of certain roads. I always wanted to do one with my fellow London-road-history-enthusiast friend Simon focused only on the one-word London street names. You know, like “Whitehall”, “Cheapside”, “Piccadilly”, “Lothbury” etc. One game we like to play when we meet up is to compete with how many we can name until the other cannot think of one, it’s a fun game, you should also try it (London streets only) (and you can’t have streets like “A1”, “A4” etc) (oh and you get extra points for etymology).