Thursday, December 18, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Downtown puts its history in spotlight

8 title building 1

John Coyle stands by the elevator at the Title Building in downtown Fairfield, May 7. The Title Building is a recently renovated historical building. (Aaron Rosenblatt/Daily Republic)

By
From page A1 | June 08, 2014 |

FAIRFIELD — John Coyle’s 84-year-old, three-story downtown building has the local claim to fame of being home to Fairfield’s first elevator.

For that matter, the building is the first three-story structure constructed in the city.

Coyle owns the Solano County Title Co. building at 740 Texas St. It was built in 1930 and still retains the “Title Co.” inscription across its front, even though that particular business is no longer there.

That old, small elevator built by Atlas Elevator of San Francisco is still working. But sometimes, users call for help when they reach their floor and the door doesn’t open. They don’t realize the elevator has a manual door.

“It’s very basic,” Coyle said.

The Title Co. building is among those described in the new historical downtown guide produced by the Fairfield Main Street Association. The association hands out the guide at the Thursday farmers market to encourage visitors to venture beyond the confines of that event.

“And what better place to walk than downtown?” said Margaret Manzo, executive director of the Fairfield Main Street Association.

The guide in large part conjures up the Fairfield of the early 20th century. The coming of the state highway down Texas Street and the rise of automobile culture reshaped a then-small town of a few thousand people, with downtown seeing a 1920s growth boom.

‘Striking piece of architecture’

Coyle bought the Solano County Title Co. building in 2008 and has his law offices there, along with several other tenants, including Koong Jyun Korean Barbecue on the first floor.

On the second floor is a narrow hallway with offices. The doors have transoms, frosted glass windows and gold mail slots. Coyle can imagine opening a door and seeing Sam Spade, the detective from the film noir classic “The Maltese Falcon,” sitting inside, feet up on his desk. That’s the atmosphere.

“When I remodeled the building, I tried to retain the flavor as much as possible,” Coyle said.

E.L. Dearborn was a driving force behind the construction of the Solano Title Co. building.

Solano Title Co. was formed in 1900 and Dearborn began working for it in 1907, having moved from San Mateo County to accept a position. In 1917, he bought out one of the founding owners and became the company’s general manager.

Dearborn by 1930 had decided to build what at the time qualified as Fairfield’s grandest office building for his title company.

Apparently, the new building was breathtaking. At least, the Solano Republican wrote some breathless prose about it after the scaffolding got removed July 30, 1930, unveiling the facade for all to see.

According to the paper, “citizens gasped in wonder and admiration, for they beheld one of the most unique and striking pieces of architecture imaginable.”

The new building made such a splash that the Solano Republican on Aug. 28, 1930, ran a two-page advertisement welcoming it to the downtown.

Besides the title company, the building contained the Fairfield Post Office. This marked a big step up for an agency that had its first home in the mid-1850s in what the Republican described as a “little shack” near the site of today’s courthouse.

Solano County Bank

Another building featured in the Main Street Association historic guide is 800 Texas St., originally home to the Solano County Bank and today home to Touch of India.

Touch of India sells colorful Indian panjabi suits. It offers eyebrow threading as a way to remove unwanted hair.

All of this takes place in a room with sunlight coming in from an enormous bank of windows along the eastern wall. The high ceiling has wooden beams. Much of the building is dominated by a single room.

Surjit Johal of Touch of India on a recent day looked at the room and said the designer must have been a person with imagination, a dreamer.

Franck McGinnis is the man behind this building. A Vallejo native, he graduated from the University of California in 1907, became a Fairfield attorney and built himself a huge home in Suisun Valley.

In 1928, he won permission from the state to establish a Fairfield bank. He bought a lot at the corner of Webster and Texas streets and the bank building went up – at a cost of $40,000 – within a matter of months.

The Solano Republican, never one to hold back praise, in its Sept, 27, 1928, edition said that “the new Fairfield bank will be as handsome and imposing as any in California in that class.”

An advertisement prior to the Jan. 5, 1929, grand opening said the bank was “ready to advise and aid all worthy enterprises, to be at once the anchor and the sail to the ship of enterprise and commercialism in a great community.”

To succeed, the bank had to convince customers their money would be safe there. To that end, it boasted having a vault built with 18 inches of reinforced concrete and a four-ton door with 4 inches of steel.

Today, the vault is used for storage, but not money, Johal said with a laugh. It remains with the door open.

Fairfield arch

A striking downtown feature mentioned in the guide is the Fairfield arch that spans Texas Street and proclaims the city as Solano County’s seat.

The arch cost $1,700 to create and manufacture in 1925. The Lions Club spearheaded the effort and when dedication evening came, hundreds of people came to the downtown.

District Attorney B.W. Dobbins started telling the crowd about the history of downtown, then paused. Meanwhile, J.H. Schulze climbed a ladder, threw a switch and the lights to the arch snapped on. A band started playing.

“It was a dramatic moment befitting the importance of the occasion and the crowd applauded before Mr. Dobbins continued his address,” the Oct. 29, 1925, Solano Republican reported.

Then residents of all ages – children to seniors – danced in the street to the band far into the night.

Almost 90 years later, it’s a rare sight indeed to see a crowd dancing in the middle of downtown Texas Street. But the Main Street Association history guide just might get a few more people out walking the sidewalks.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or beberling@dailyrepublic.net. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling has been a reporter with the Daily Republic since 1987. He covers Solano County government, transportation, growth and the environment. He received his bachelors of art degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 3 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • smhJune 08, 2014 - 1:23 pm

    I would like to see a copy of the historic guide posted somewhere online so that those of us who can't make it to the farmers market on Thursdays can have access to the information. A simple pdf will do.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • KirtyJune 08, 2014 - 4:14 pm

    Looks like it will eventually show up here http://www.fairfieldmainstreet.com/visitors/historic-downtown.html

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rick WoodJune 08, 2014 - 7:40 pm

    Fun story! I'd like the City to have signs that show the location of the original 1903 city limits so people can have a better appreciation of the place they are entering. Old Fairfield had few fancy houses, but many of the original ones are still with us.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Recent Articles

  • Enter your email address to subscribe and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • .

    Solano News

    Solano College trustees move back ‘home’

    By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Needs of small dog give Solano man life’s mission

    By Ian Thompson | From Page: A1, 4 Comments | Gallery

     
    Christmas comes early for prenatal program participants

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2 | Gallery

    Jury convicts teen for role in 2012 DeBartolo’s heist

    By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3, 3 Comments | Gallery

     
    Police chief: Suisun crime up 3 percent in 2014

    By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3, 2 Comments | Gallery

     
    Council OKs $65,730 pact to advocate for Travis base

    By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

     
    Fairfield pays $42,500 to settle soil suit

    By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

     
     
    Fairfield police log: Dec. 16, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

    Fairfield police log: Dec. 15, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

     
    Suisun City police log: Dec. 16, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

    Suisun City police log: Dec. 15, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

     
    .

    US / World

    US, Cuba patch torn relations in historic accord

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    Fears fanned by hackers bring down Sony film

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    Like Iran, secret diplomacy leads to US-Cuba thaw

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

    Pope played crucial role in US-Cuba rapprochement

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    US travel industry carefully eyeing Cuba tourism

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

    US-Cuba thaw could benefit farmers, energy and travel firms

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    Cubans cheer historic renewal of US relations

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 2 Comments

    Freed American endured years of declining health

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    Bay Bridge light sculpture to keep on shining

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

    Study: Huge wildfire supports need for controlled burns

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    A fresh setback for efforts to cure HIV infection

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

    14 charged in deadly 2012 meningitis outbreak

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    Study: Alcatraz inmates could have survived escape

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    Nigerian court sentences 54 soldiers to death

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

     
    Colombian rebels announce unilateral cease-fire

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

    Russians flock to stores to pre-empt price rises

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

     
    Pakistan buries victims of school massacre

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

    .

    Opinion

     
    Crime Witness Protocol 101

    By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A7, 1 Comment

    Asia needs to prepare for a possible China crash

    By William Pesek | From Page: A7

     
    Editorial Cartoons: Dec. 18, 2014

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

     
    .

    Living

    Today in History: Dec. 18, 2014

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Community Calendar: Dec. 18, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

    Horoscopes: Dec. 18, 2014

    By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

     
    My siblings don’t want to replace abusive mother’s pacemaker

    By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

    .

    Entertainment

    25 movies chosen for the National Film Registry

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

     
    Saving Private Ryan’ among films being preserved

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

    TVGrid

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

     
    .

    Sports

    For MLB, changes in Cuba will take time to sort out

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

     
    Falcons cruise by crushers in girls basketball

    By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    49ers release McDonald amid further legal trouble

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

     
    Carr faces another tough test in rookie season

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

    Painkillers lawsuit against NFL dismissed; may be appealed

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Garcia resigns as FIFA prosecutor

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    Chattanooga women stun No. 7 Stanford 54-46

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

     
    Track coach Drummond gets 8-year doping suspension

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    Warriors’ Bogut out with knee injury vs. Thunder

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    AP source: Romo close to $15M, 2-year deal with Giants

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    Baseball monitoring White House Cuba decision

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    APNewsBreak: Judge rejects NCAA concussions deal

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    This date in sports history for Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

    .

    Business

    Health care exchange sign-ups exceeding last year

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

     
    Fed to be ‘patient’ about a rate hike; stocks soar

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

    McDonald’s in Japan limits orders of fries

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

     
    Amid scrutiny, Uber says it will focus more on safety

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

    .

    Obituaries

    Ernest “Ernie” Moretti

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

     
    Jennie Ponce Reyes

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

    Patricia “Pat” Anne Stringfield-Pierre

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

     
    Marian L. “Chicki” Downs

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

    .

    Comics

    Beetle Bailey

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Frank and Ernest

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Zits

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Sally Forth

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Garfield

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Peanuts

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Dilbert

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Get Fuzzy

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    For Better or Worse

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    B.C.

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Rose is Rose

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Blondie

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Pickles

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Baldo

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Baby Blues

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    Wizard of Id

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

    Word Sleuth

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

     
    Crossword

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

    Cryptoquote

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

     
    Sudoku

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

    Bridge

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9