and Main Saloon set up at Church Street in 1910. Still other businesses opened their doors there because of the status that it provided. The Bank of Visalia opened its doors at Main and Church beginning in about 1885. Sweets Department Store opened across the street and had a proud presence on Main even before the bank arrived. Then in 1917, the stately five-story Hotel Johnson was built at Main and Church; the building owner, John Sublitt Johnson, was obviously impressed with the location.
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Not all businesses were looking for status or glitz; they just wanted a Main Street address and the foot traffic that it brought in the heart of the business district. And some businesses were not all that flattering to the town. The notorious Fashion Saloon and Josiah “Si” Lovern’s Saloon, as well as the popular Wunder Bar, occupied spaces on Main Street and each had their presence etched, or gouged, some might say, into Visalia history. Each provided customers with the adult beverages they craved. And still other businesses and
organizations were drawn to Main Street, anxious to bring culture and entertainment to this pioneer town. In 1904, when Andrew Carnegie gave money to build the Visalia Free Library, the city picked a Main Street location at what is now Encina Street. Later, in 1929, when William Fox, the famous movie mogul and pioneer, decided to build a talkie theater in town, a lot was picked on Main across the street from the Carnegie library. And when a new high school was needed for the growing town, city officials looked to Main Street
Top: The Main Street entrance to town, with a view looking westbound. The oak tree on the far left was at the intersection of Giddings Street. Circa 1912. Bottom: A 1923 map shows the Main Street entrance into Visalia. (Photo courtesy of Ann Shaw)
Lifestyle Magazine - June 2018