During the annual Heritage Days celebration on the coast, Marianne Hurley, district historian for California State Parks since 2001, spoke to a packed audience at Veterans Hall in Fort Bragg about the city’s alley history.
I’ve been surprised at the number of people I told about the talk who grew up around alleys, like I did in Long Beach, California. Alleys were a safe place to play and explore as a kid.
Turns out that Fort Bragg alleys — both in commercial district and residential areas – are everywhere. And, they are full of history.
Hurley took her audience on a trip through time via a slide presentation, from 1889 when Calvin Stewart laid out the city, to the present. Stewart, according to Hurley, provided for wide avenues and alleys for the 14 blocks he planned.
Although the lecture last only about 45 minutes, it was packed with information, the result of Hurley’s extensive exploration of local alleys and documentation of their history.
She was particularly qualified to talk about the structures that still exist as an expert in American architectural history and historic preservation, the subject areas of her graduate degree from the University of Oregon (M.A., 1998). In addition to private consultation work, she also worked for a preservation architecture firm in San Francisco where she gained valuable experience surveying and researching historic structures.
Besides showing current alleys and detailing the historic structures that still exist, Hurley did an interesting analysis of barns, stables, homes and other structures that existed in 1890 and how that had changed by 1941. Most dramatic: in 1890, there were 28 barns/stables. By 1941, only one remained. However, in 1890, there were no garages, but by 1941, there were 69.
Use of many old buildings have changed use as owner needs have changed through the generations, but it is surprising how many still stand.