Chico History Walking Tour


MANSION PARK This exclusive subdivision adjacent to the college and Bidwell Mansion was begun in 1921, carved from 27 acres of the former Bidwell orchards and open park  land.  Originally homes were required to have a minimum value, and ownership was limited to “Caucasians only”.

JULIA MORGAN HOUSE PRESIDENT’S MANSION. This home, designed by Julia Morgan, was built in 1923 for Daniel Moulton, a local doctor who also served as the college team physician. Its construction cost was $25,000, a huge sum for that period. This Classical Revival home became the residence of Chico State’s presidents until 1993, when it was vacated for needed repairs. Today it serves as the college’s Albert Warrens Reception Center. 341 Mansion Ave.

E. L. ADAMS HOME This imposing home was built in 1937 for E.L. Adams, a prominent pioneering California rice farmer.   4th & Esplanade

CHICO HIGH SCHOOL The current high school pales in comparison to its predecessor, an impressive brick building constructed in 1921 which was deemed inadequate to meet earthquake standards.  It was demolished by a wrecking ball in the 1960s, after many days of unsuccessful attempts to bring it down.  901 Esplanade

BIDWELL’S MILL John Bidwell established the first flour mill on this site to take advantage of the hydro power from Big Chico Creek.  A railroad spur ran up here from the Southern Pacific line to provide transport for its product.  That mill burned and was replaced by a brick mill which became known as the Sperry Flour Mill.  It was demolished in the 1960s to make way for student apartments. 500 Esplanade

VETERANS MEMORIAL HALL Opened in 1927, the building’s architects were Cole and Brouchoud, who also designed many of the college campus buildings. It has been used for auto shows (there’s a special ramp in the back of the building), boxing matches and, most recently, a church. It is currently unoccupied and its fate is uncertain. East Washington Ave.

MATADOR MOTEL Originally the site of the Washington Auto Park, construction on this motel was started in 1943 by the Glumac family.  It was at first called the Washington Motel.  Tiles for the building came from Gladding McBean in Lincoln.

THE LEE MANSFIELD HOME ENLOE HOSPITAL 1 Once the largest employer in Chico and a major player in Chico’s development, Diamond Match began operations in 1903, reaching its peak expansion in the 1930s while manufacturing a variety of lumber products. It was largely responsible for the development of the Barber Tract, the Northern Electric Railway, and the Butte County Railroad. After its closure in the 1970s, it was plagued by a series of arson fires, until today only two buildings remain. 344 Flume

SYCAMORE POOL ONE MILE DAM Constructed in the 1920s by damming Big Chico Creek, this unique recreational feature of Bidwell Park has provided relief from Chico’s hot summers for many generations. In recent years the City of Chico upgraded facilities on the north side of the pool, which had previously been in a largely natural state. Bidwell Park entrance, end of E. 4th St.

THE LITTLE CHAPMAN MANSION This home was started in 1859 as nothing more than a couple of little modest buildings. Never finished, the property was acquired in 1870 by Augustus Chapman, a local businessman and civic leader who once served as the chief clerk at Bidwell’s store. Chapman dabbled in lumber, hotels, banking, mercantile, and real estate. He purchased 160 acres of surrounding land and developed Chapmantown around his new acquisition, adding to the house numerous times over the years. 12th & Locust

REORGANIZED LDS CHURCH Built in 1908 and used as a church until 1974, this structure subsequently had numerous owners who used it for various purposes. The current owner made use of the Mills Act to remodel the building into his residence. Chico Heritage Assn. recognized his efforts in 2010 by awarding it “Best Adaptive Reuse of an Historic Structure”. 12th & Nelson

NORTHERN ELECTRIC RAILWAY YARD When the Northern Electric Rail System was formed in 1906, this entire area became its northern terminus, with the line extending eventually all the way to San Francisco. Car barns were located here, and electric locomotives and passenger cars were manufactured and rebuilt on the premises. “Hot shoes” ran throughout the rail yard, and when they were about to be activated a claxon would sound to warn people to avoid that third rail. The system later became known as the Sacramento Northern, and the barns were dismantled in the 1960s. 20th & Park Ave.

THE PATRICK RANCH The misnomer above does not describe this property’s origins.  Originally the Northgraves Ranch, it was established about 1850, but lay undeveloped until William Northgraves hired a man to run his operation, one Charles Bryant, who subsequently built the 1877 farmhouse that sits at the center of what is today a budding agricultural museum. Bryant inherited the property, and his heirs subsequently sold to the Compton family in 1898. It finally went to the last of the Patrick family in 1959, and is currently under the ownership of the Far West Heritage Association. Midway at Chico-Oroville Hwy.

THE WRIGHT-PATRICK HOUSE Dating to 1852, this home and its 1100-acre ranch were a hub of activity for the surrounding area before the town of Chico was established.  Besides being a ranch headquarters and home, it also served as inn and boarding house, way station, mercantile, courthouse & jail, and public gathering place.  Moved from its original location a mile south in 1858, it was home to three generations of the same family and a successful farming operation, as well as Chico’s first commercial airport.  Today it is privately owned. 1017 Midway

THE EARLL HOME This Eastlake style home was built in 1884 for William Earll, a local businessman who was chairman of the committee that secured the State Normal  School (now CSU Chico) for the area. The ironwork ornamentation was wrought in England and shipped around the horn; the elaborate millwork both inside and out is a good example of what had become available in Chico by the 1880s.  The house was converted to multiple units about 1939, and is used today as student rentals. 238 Hazel St.

THE LANGUAGE HOUSES This block of homes is so-called because they were once used by college classes for total-immersion studies of foreign languages. At one time the entire block was destined for the wrecking ball. Recognizing the value of these homes as an ideal representation of an early 20th century residential neighborhood, local preservation activists mounted a long but successful campaign in the 1980s to preserve them. West 3rd St.

ST. AUGUSTINE ANGLICAN CHURCH Formerly St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church, this 1905 structure designed by Arthur Benton was originally built on the site where the downtown Chico Post Office now stands on the City Plaza. Moved to its present site in 1912, it was deconsecrated in the 1980s when it became an upscale Chinese Restaurant. In the 1990s it was again reconsecrated, this time as an Anglican Church. 3rd & Salem

THE WAREHOUSE DISTRICT Due to the arrival of the California & Oregon RR in 1870, this entire area along the tracks was once covered with warehouses that stored everything from agricultural products to fuel oil to lumber.  Many burned over the years or were acquired by the college in the course of their expansion.

THE HOTEL OAKS This site was at one time the location of Chico’s most luxurious hotel, the Hotel Oaks.  Constructed in 1919, the six-story hotel housed a grand ballroom, 2 restaurants, and a lounge, and entertained many notable people over the years, including movie stars here to make films.  It was demolished in 1968, after years of decline due to changing transportation habits. 2nd & Salem

THE MAJESTIC THEATER Constructed by the Elks Lodge in 1905, the upper two floors were used for fraternal activities, and the ground floor housed the Majestic Theater, a popular movie house and vaudeville stage.  Entertainers such as Al Jolson and other famous vaudevillians performed there.  After several name changes, it was gutted by fire in 1948.  When remodeled as the El Rey Theater, it became known for its spectacular fairy murals covering both side walls.  The murals, although damaged, are still in place.  230 W. 2nd

THE LUSK BLDG. NDGW HALL, Built in 1883 by local attorney and civic leader Franklin Lusk (who was counsel to John Bidwell), the building originally consisted of his home upstairs and his law offices downstairs.  Lusk was said to be fond of entertaining, and the upper floor was the scene of many social gatherings.  In 1934 it was purchased and remodeled by the Native Daughters of the Golden West, after extensive damage from a fire in 1932.  In the 1970s it became home to the infamous Madison Bear Garden, which it remains to this day.  316 W. 2nd St.

THE CARNEGIE LIBRARY Completed in 1905 with funds from the Andrew Carnegie Endowment, it was the third of Chico’s libraries.  In 1939 the Romanesque building was reconstructed in the Spanish Colonial style and used as a library until 1983. Today it houses the Chico Museum, and is owned by the City of Chico.  2nd & Salem

CHICO HOTEL This hotel, which once was situated at the corner of First & Salem Sts., was considered Chico’s finest hostelry when it was opened by Ira Weatherby in 1878.  The hotel burned in 1890. (There were three Chico Hotels – this was the second to be constructed. The third was built at The Junction.) 1st & Salem








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