Let Me Introduce You To My Town-Civic Auditorium and Civic Park – Part 4

Last year, I found that Walmart was selling the game Hanfordopoly. It’s like Monopoly, but for my town. Well, I had to buy it! Then Lauren and I went around town and took pictures of each of the places on the game board. It was so much fun! I can’t wait to introduce you to our sweet little town and some of its history.

If you haven’t read the other My Town posts, you can read them here:

Part 1-Freddy the Firetruck and Carousel

Part 2– Hanford Mall

Part 3– Fox Theatre

Today I have our Civic Auditorium and Park. Isn’t this a beautiful building?

“This hall, known as the Civic Auditorium, was dedicated in 1924. It still stands today in downtown Hanford. The main auditorium is utilized extensively by community groups and organizations. In the early 1930s, following the trend of many communities, the Board of Trustees became known as the Hanford City Council. The Hanford Civic Auditorium is a great place for your special celebration, family reunion, reception or business meeting. The west wing seats 50 and the Main Hall seats 500. Built in 1924, this historic hall is said to be haunted by a few ghosts. Apparitions have been witnessed, including one man dressed in a 1940s suit and another who appears on the balcony as if watching a show. He applauds, then vanishes. And if you visit the men’s restroom, don’t be surprised if you hear disembodied voices discussing legal affairs.”

Okay. I’ve never seen or heard any ghosts, but apparently others have! I have been here for so many different events. Lauren had baton lessons here, there have been many Christmas Vendor Fairs I have attended and other types of receptions and concerts. This building is such a central part of my town.

I’ve included Civic Park in this post, It’s kind of hard to separate the two! The water in the fountain is so refreshing on a hot summer day here in the valley. The city Christmas Tree was just replanted and is right next to the fountain.

The old city jail is right across the park from the auditorium. Now this building is really supposed to be haunted!

“The name “Bastille” may churn up memories of childhood history lessons about the famed Paris prison stormed during the French Revolution.

But if you live in Kings County, chances are you might think of another jail – a former jail, actually – known as the “Bastille” in downtown Hanford.

Last week, the unique, red-brick building that looks like a castle, complete with a turret – hence, the nickname that has stuck for decades – was on the mind of the Hanford City Council, which voted to make the Court Street building in Civic Park surplus property.

It’s the first step in a process that could lead to the city putting the building up for sale, either to another public agency or private buyer.

But whoever buys the building will have considerable costs going in, as the Bastille hasn’t been occupied since 2009 due to structural problems that lead to it being vacated for safety concerns.

It has remained vacant since, and Hanford officials have said the building has continued to deteriorate.

That’s not surprising, as the Bastille is more than 120 years old, built by Kings County in 1897. It continued being used as a jail until 1964 “when the building was condemned following the discovery of the sheriff office’s ceiling strewn upon his desk and surrounding floor area,” leading to the construction of a new, larger jail and sheriff’s office in Hanford, according to WeirdFresno.com, one of several websites that identify the Bastille as being haunted.

“Could some of the prisoners who died here over the fifty-plus years still be roaming the building, claiming they are innocent and are trying to get anyone’s attention,” the website asks, noting incidents of kitchen staff reportedly seeing pots and pans move and feeling like someone was watching them after the Bastille became a restaurant.

“I have heard of that, but the city had nothing to do with that website,” Darlene Mata, Hanford’s community development director, said of the haunted building claims.

Kings County Supervisor Doug Verboon, whose mother worked at the Bastille in the 1970s when it was a bar, said, “it was haunted back then.”

City officials contacted couldn’t immediately provide much specific information about the Bastille’s history, but the WeirdFresno site states, “Over the years, the building has been home to several restaurants and nightclubs.”

As for how the former county jail came to be owned by the city, Verboon said Hanford had been leasing it from the county for $1 a year for several years and subletting it to businesses under an agreement that the city would handle and pay for the building’s upkeep.”

-The Business Journal-

This building sits right next to the Civic Auditorium and is the Veteran’s Memorial Building. Both of these buildings were built in the 1920’s. Unfortunately, the roof is in need of repair, so the building sits empty for now. It has been used for a senior center where they could meet for classes and Bingo. It was also used by the library to host reading for the kids each summer.

The park has hosted many events that go on in Hanford. It’s always a busy place and especially nice to enjoy a cold ice cream on a hot day! I hope you enjoyed this post. I would love to hear what you think!

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