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!

Let Me Introduce You To My Town-Fox Theatre- Part 3

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.

Here are a couple of the other posts:

Part 1: Freddy the Firetruck

Part 2: Hanford Mall

Today I will be showing you to The Fox Theatre. Here is a description from FoxHanford.com.

“A small history of early theatre palaces in the United States which includes the Historic Hanford Fox Theatre, one of the few remaining still in operation and fully restored to its 1929 elegance.

No buildings in America have been, collectively, as audaciously romantic, blatantly derivative, and wonderfully original as the movie palaces. The majority of these palaces were built during the years between World War I and the Great Depression. Nationwide, even the smallest towns could boast regally outfitted movie houses. The theaters ranged in style from bewilderingly eclectic to near-perfect replicas of the finest royal palaces of Europe and the Orient. The patrons were not always aware of the decorations’ origins, but they flocked to see whatever spectacular arrangements the palaces architects dreamed up.

Moviegoers in the 30’s and 40’s were able to witness happenings from all over the world. Lacking the immediacy of television and radio in it’s infancy, the significance of the movie palace is difficult to appreciate. More than just the primary source of entertainment, the theaters were the local gathering spots, the centers of downtown night life. Integrating all classes and levels of society. The movies provided a release for the increasing pressures of a world growing more hectic by the day. A ticket to a show was a passport to lives and cultures otherwise beyond reach. No form of entertainment had ever been as accessible or as popular.

The opening of a new movie theatre in town was cause for public celebration, with all the hoopla normally reserved for a major movie premiere.

Even in Hanford, front page coverage of the December 1929 Grand Opening of The Fox dominated the Christmas holiday news. Built by William Fox of Fox Theaters in 1929, and one of 900+ across the United States, the Hanford Fox Theatre is designed as an atmospheric theatre. This type of theatre, as opposed to the ornate or art deco style, is designed to create the illusion of being located in a romantic far-off place. The locale is a Spanish courtyard, complete with twinkling stars and crescent moon in a dark night sky. There are tile covered buildings with lighted windows, balconies and turrets, silhouetted and backlighted by the glow of a village beyond. In the shadows rise mountains covered with cypress and palm trees. Greco-Roman columns support the proscenium. Further back are Mediteranian and Spanish renaissance influences, but the over all decor is Mission Revival. Very eclectic, yet appropriate.

Each theatre was required to have a fire-proof screen to separate backstage from the audience. The architects designed them to be painted with a large mural incorporating the theme of the auditorium. The Hanford Theatre’s screen depicts a Spanish village with church bell tower, cypress trees, and terra cotta roofed buildings. It is a magnificent oil painting filling the entire stage opening.

The designers of the early theatres included a full stage, dressing rooms, flyand orchestra pit in their plans, because vaudeville was still very much in vogue and movies had not dominated the entertainment scene. Traveling troupes crises-crossed the United States exhibiting their acts for an entertainment starved nation. Then, the genius of the motion picture pioneers developed a frame-lined celluloid film and put pictures into motion. William Fox himself, viewed the moving picture flicks as a passing fad. But the publics interest was caught and their fascination grew. Vaudeville soon shared the stage with the movie screen. Acts such as Laurel and Hardy bowed to curtain calls as they visited the theatres during a premiere of their latest film. A new industry developed rapidly, as people swarmed into the theatres.

The orchestra pits were used to provide space for full orchestras, and later it housed a pipe organ console. The Hanford Fox had these facilities and pipe organ music was a normal form of music appreciation for the audience to enjoy during silent films or intermission music. Orchestra music was used when live stage events occurred.

Just as movies supplanted vaudeville in popularity after World War I, television in everyone’s living room reduced box office admissions dramatically after World War II. To cope economically, the movie houses and palaces were torn down, or altered for other uses. Some were twinned or triplexed (the interiors converted to several theatres), thus destroying the priceless architectural designs. This was done to be more competitive with the trend toward multi-screen complexes; the more screens, the better able to contract new films, and the more choice for the public. Smaller movie houses resulted in poor design, smaller screens, and poor sound.

There are some happy endings or more precisely, new beginnings to the story. Many of the old palaces have been reincarnated as homes for a variety of operations. Taking full advantages of the second chance, the proprietors of the restored theatres have thrown open the doors once again to amaze a new generation of spectators and to stir the memories of those who can still recall a time when movies cost a quarter and the theatres alone were worth the price of admission.

54 years after its Grand Opening, tired and about to be divided into shoe box and XXX theatres, this building was purchased by historic preservationist J. Daniel Humason in 1979. Together with his family they reopened the theatre for movies in 1982, soon after the Theatre hosted its first live concert since the old days. The Hanford Fox Theatre awoke from her slumber and entertained once again. The stage continues to exhibit live entertainers. Silent films and movies are still shown during special times, benefits, and film festivals.

The restored 1929 Historic Hanford Fox Theatre, with its 889 seats downstairs, is the largest sloped-floor auditorium in Kings County. The balcony, originally with 350 seats, now has 142 plush rocking chairs and snacks, soft drinks, beer & wine (ages 21 and over) are served. It is appropriately named the Cabaret.

Operating a privately owned theater is a labor of love, time and personal energy. Restoration is an ongoing process, and we enjoy sharing the experiences with others. In order for this theatre to pay its way we feel that commercialism is the servant of preservation, not the other way around. We rent the theatre to private parties, schools, churches, hospitals, charities, business, industrial groups, unions, and governmental organizations alike. We have even been host to weddings in the picturesque auditorium. We are making progress, however we still have a way to go and need the support and concern of many.

The Fox has had quite a colorful background, steeped in American history. It has made a full circle from the 20’s vaudeville silent film, early talkiesthroughout the prime years when movies were the center of entertainment. It has survived the transition of TV and the subsequent phase of multi-screensor other adaptive uses. An architectural treasure designed for multiple uses, hosting community and cultural events. Much more can be said about this Fox Theatre, which we leave for you to discover.”

What a history! I remember going as a kid in the summertime to watch movies. We would sneak in candy in my sister’s big boho bag. 🙂

Later, when I was an adult, we would go and watch live concerts. I saw Charlie Daniels, Restless Heart, Johnny Cash, Mary Stuart, and Brooks and Dunn.

Here’s the lobby. I had to take it through the door, so it’s not the best picture. I really wish I could show you the inside of the theatre. It is really so beautiful! There are so many wonderful features. All the velvet curtains and twinkling lights on the ceiling. Faux balconies where we would imagine all the fancy ladies would sit.

If I get a chance to go inside, I will try to get pictures and share them with you. Here is a poster showing the theatre area.

One of the best things about the theatre are the neon lights all around the billboard! It is such a beacon at night and a great place to meet up with friends.

Hopefully, it won’t be long before acts and shows resume at the Fox Theatre. It’s time for this great piece of history to open up again and take us all to that place in our imaginations where we leave this time and place for a little while.

Let Me Introduce You To My Town-Hanford Mall-Part 2

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 Part 1, click here.

Today I am introducing you to the Hanford Mall. Our mall was built in 1993, after our old mall fell into disrepair. As you can see, we have some national chain stores, but we also have some smaller local stores inside the mall.

A little interesting tidbit-I worked at Big Five Sporting Goods for 7 years from the time they opened the store. I even helped set the store up at the very beginning! This mall was a big deal! There is an 8 screen movie theater, a food court and many different types of stores typical of a mall.

I’ve seen many stores come and go from the mall. Many I shopped at for my kids when they were small, like Mervyns, which JUST happened to be right next to Big 5. Also Forever 21 when my kids got older. It was a huge store that had taken over for a local department store, Gottschalks. Now Forever 21 is gone and the space has been divided up into small stores. Sears was also one of the anchor stores and now it sits empty. Our big stores now are Ross, J.C. Penny and Kohls.

I know the mall has struggled in the past and now again during the pandemic. But I think it will always be a great place to shop, or meet up with friends, or have a good meal. Do you have an indoor mall in your town? Is it large or just a small one like this one? I would love to hear about it! Thank you for coming by!

Let Me Introduce You To My Town-Part One