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

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!

it’s easy bein’ sneezy

I and 4th Davis
Now this is one of the old houses in old east downtown Davis. It is opposite the Schmeiser House, which you may recall I sketched on New Year’s Eve (see that here). In fact back when I sketched that I had half intended to sketch the whole panorama, but didn’t. So I went back last month and sketched the other half, but this time with a much more spring-like feeling. Those yellow flowers though! I must say though, the colours in the sketch started to look a bit odd after a while because, to be honest, I was finding it hard to see – my eyes were itching and watering, and I was sneezing, because yes, it’s allergies season, and Davis is notorious for the allergies. Even looking at this sketch makes me want to sneeze! I do like the old east downtown neighbourhood. I don’t like sneezing.

built in 1870

3rd st copy max Davis CA
This is actually one of the oldest buildings in this whole city. Hey, I did a sketchcrawl based around sketching the oldest buildings in town a few weeks ago, I will post those sketches very soon. But I wanted to post this one first, by itself, because this little building so easily gets overlooked, walked past, forgotten, but in fact it was built in 1870 and is one of Davis’s oldest buildings. Davis itself dates to the 1860s, when it was called Davisville, built on the former land of ranchers Jerome and Mary Davis. Ok, I’ll give you the history lesson in the post about the sketchcrawl, because I drew a map. This place though is called the Eggleston House, at 232 3rd Street, a block away from campus. It predates many of the subdivisions and lots in old Davisville, and takes its name from Lucy Eggleston, an resident from those early days who was also a leading member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. So there you have it. 1870! That’s actually very old. There are countries which aren’t that old. When it was being built, the Franco-Prussian War was being fought. Also in 1870: Charles Dickens died; so did Alexandre Dumas; The Chicago Baseball Club (later the Cubs) played their first game; so did the English and Scottish international football teams; the fireman’s pole was invented; Lenin was born; and Christmas was declared a federal holiday in the US. 1870! It’s now home to ‘Davis Copy Max’, which I presume has something to do with copying. Those yellow flowers, you see those everywhere in Davis in the Springtime. Well, this little building has lasted a lot longer than Lenin.

turtle recall

Turtle House
Here’s another old house from 2nd Street near campus, one house down from the Barovetto House. I don’t know if this has a name but I’ve heard it referred to as the “turtle house”. It has a big turtle thing hanging from the gables. It always looks very festive and colourful. Oh by the way, sorry for the lack of updates of late, been super busy lately. I’ve been sketching though. So, back to this one. I’m getting conscious of the whole ‘drawing the whole of Davis’ thing, and when I start thinking about it on a building-by-building basis I think, yeah I’m getting there but wow, actually I’m nowhere near. I suppose I need to make a list of all the spots and scenes in Davis I am yet to sketch, all those ones I cycle past and say, oh I gotta sketch that some day, and then draw them this year. And next year and the year after… There is always more to sketch. And then things look different depending on the time of day – so many times I pass something at 7:45 am or 5:30pm, or in January or July, and make a mental note to come back and sketch  it, but at lunchtime in March it looks totally different, changing light, changing seasons, and sometimes it makes it less interesting to look at for an hour. In a place like Davis where the bright sun casts dark shadows that can be tricky; in a more regularly overcast place light diffuses more evenly, but you don’t get the pretty shadows. I love going out drawing stuff. Sometimes it is better to just get on a bike, bring a sketchbook, and go around looking for a sketchable scene, but in these times when every minute is precious, a bit of forward planning is a good idea.

Update 3/15/17: check out this interesting article about the Turtle House in the California Aggie…

history on fourth street

4th-st-davis-pano-feb2017-sm
This is the stretch of 4th Street, Davis, between E and F. These grids seem like a game of Battleship sometimes. You could probably play Battleship on a US city map. “A-2nd!” “Aw, you sunk my SUV.” Actually a Davis version of Battleship would have bikes and double-decker buses. And skateboards too, we have lots of those. It’s like Hill Valley. I saw someone on one of those motorized skateboards the other day. No, not those rubbish hoverboards with the glow beneath it, I mean an actual skateboard, but with the wheels moving by motor. Now, the white house on the far right (dammit, I hope this won’t come up in internet searches of ‘far right’ and ‘white house’, I’m sure there are many) is Cooper House, I have drawn it a few times before. The large yellow building on the left, hiding behind the tree, I don’t know if that is anything special but it houses an electronics company now, I think, I don’t know. I promise I’m not fake news, and I’m certainly not fake sketches.Anyway the small house in the middle, now that one is the historic building known as the “First Presbyterian Manse”, at 619 4th St, and this was built in 1884. 1884! That is a pretty old building for Davis. It is in the ‘Classical Revival’ style, and looks goshdarn good for its age. The first person to live there was Rev. J.E. Anderson. Remember I mentioned Hill Valley from Back to the Future, well when Marty and Doc were sent into the Old West, that was 1885. If Davis were Hill Valley, and Hill Valley is meant to be in the general part of California, then this house would have been there. This is from cowboy times. “Cowboy Times”, haha, that sounds like the sort of newspaper that would be allowed into WH press briefings. Well, this is the latest in my two-page panorama sketches. You can click on it to see it embiggened. If you’d like to see more such sketches, go to my Flickr album ‘panoramas’: https://www.flickr.com/photos/petescully/albums/72157647926718773

phoenix house

phoenix house f street davis
Here is a building from downtown Davis called Phoenix House. It’s called that because of the Irish word for ‘water’, Uisce (see also whisky), or clear water to be precise, ‘fionn uisce’, anglicized as ‘phoenix’. Actually, no it doesn’t. I’m thinking of Phoenix Park in Dublin. There is a Phoenix Park in Sacramento as well but that isn’t a real park let alone have anything to do with phoenixes or water, clear or otherwise. Ok it might be a real park, I don’t know. Quit with all the sidetracking, this isn’t a Twitter comments thread. Phoenix House in Davis is named after the Order of the Phoenix. No, it’s not that either. Perhaps, and this is the most likely and believable story (with zero evidence, but when does that matter any more eh), it was a house that burned down and was rebuilt, hence Phoenix reborn from the ashes. A bit like La Fenice, the grand opera house in Venice. You know I could look this up and do some actual research, but alternative facts are the order of the day. Reality has become so quantum, we will have to start naming the different Earths soon, like in the Marvel Universe. Perhaps this was named for the famous but under-reported Phoenix Green Massacre. Or it was named after the classical Mesopotamian King Phoen the 9th. Or maybe seven guys whose initials spelled out PHOENIX, Paul, Horace, Oswald, Elliot, Norman, Isaac and Xavier, and they ran an independent pony express (or ‘Pon-ex’ as they sometimes called it) firm from that very spot. You don’t know. I could make it all up. I could have invented the whole building. That car might have been red, those windows might have been triangular. Sad! Anyway none of that is the case, and this is Phoenix House on F Street (or “Ph Street” as I call it), and one day I promise I will learn about its history, but whether I believe it or not is something I cannot tell.