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What Bakersfield looked like in the Late-19th Century Through Historical Photos

Bakersfield is located on the Kern River and is geographically near the southern end of the San Joaquin River at the base of the San Joaquin Valley. Native Americans have lived on this site for many generations, as it is where the first settlers discovered Native Americans remained in 1851. The discovery of gold attracted the first settlers to the area. While some gold was found in the surrounding hills, most of it was found at the bottom of the Kern River.

When many people began to settle into the valley, it became apparent that plans needed to be made for everyone. Colonel Thomas Baker was assigned the task, and by 1869 he had successfully laid out the growing city. A name for the town was chosen by finding something of importance and gaining its meaning from it. Baker had designed the town layout, so he decided to look in his ‘backyard’ for the town’s name. When Baker surveyed his property, he determined that the city should be named after an alfalfa field, creating Bakersfield.

Bakersfield continued to grow during the Gold Rush. There was still gold to be found, but it was becoming less common in the hills and on the river. When the railroad to Bakersfield was built in 1874, the town had become a center of trade and distribution. Bakersfield’s residents developed a broad range of industries to maintain the town’s diversity in the face of a decrease in gold production. Kern River irrigation paved the way for a significant increase in grain farming, alfalfa, and watering livestock in Bakersfield. As soon as oil was discovered in 1899, the town’s development took a dramatic turn.

#2 Vaqueros at majordomo’s quarters, 1880s

Vaqueros at majordomo's quarters, 1880s

Majordomo's quarters at Rancho El Tejon, several men on horseback (Jose Jesus Lopez on the white horse).

#4 Rose station, 1880s

Rose station, 1880s

Rose Station was located northeast of 'grapevine' near Ranco Canoa, northwest of Ostrich Farm. It was a trading post and watering stop for stages. It was also the center of social activities for the Tejon area.

#7 Tuna’s hedge, 1880s

Tuna's hedge, 1880s

A 'hedge' of cactus located on Rancho El Tejon, two unknown men standing within the cactus demonstrate it's size.

#9 Spanish Society, no., 1893

Spanish Society, no., 1893

Spanish Society group photo with Mr. R. Arzu, S.J. seated, center. Group of 10.

#10 Robert M. Holtsby’s Bakersfield home between, 1891

Robert M. Holtsby's Bakersfield home between, 1891

Shows house set back among trees and lawn. Constructed of stone, brick and scalloped shingles, has three stories, bay and dormer windows and gazebo on back side of house. Young lady with bicycle in front, right side. Home of Canadian-American Robert M. Holtby, wife Celia (Woodman) and daughter Roberta. Mr. Holtby was sheep farmer, building this home in Bakersfield in 1891.

#11 Southern Hotel, Bakersfield, 1891

Southern Hotel, Bakersfield, 1891

Shows three-story Southern Hotel occupying the corner of 19th & Chester Streets. Pedestrians walk sidewalks, horse and buggies stopped along road, bicyclist on corner. Scribner Block building and White Star Steam Laundry visible in right corner. Built in 1889 for Southern Hotel Association. Architectural drawings by Benjamin G. McDougall and Son of San Francisco and San Diego. Built by contractor William J. Doherty.

#12 Bakersfield Street, 1882

Bakersfield Street, 1882

Panoramic view of a street in Bakersfield. Horse-drawn vehicles are seen on the dirt street, and building materials are also on the street, next to a building where work is being done. Empty fields are visible at left. At right is J.S. Drury's Drug Store, as well as other shops

#13 W.H. Scribner Building, Chester Avenue, 1886

W.H. Scribner Building, Chester Avenue, 1886

W.H. Scribner Building. Per the 1899 Bakersfield City Directory, Scribner was a "newsdealer."

#14 Ruins of the Southern Hotel, 1889

Ruins of the Southern Hotel, 1889

Ruins of the Southern Hotel after the Bakersfield Fire of 1889. The Hotel was located at 19th and Chester.

#15 Artesian well west of Bakersfield, 1880s

Artesian well west of Bakersfield, 1880s

An artesian well west of Bakersfield, several mean and a woman posing. Scene includes a structure, buggy with horse and a wagon with unhitched horses.

#16 Kern County Union High School, 1895

Kern County Union High School, 1895

This was the first school building to be built on the current site of Bakersfield High School. Kern County Union High School, as it was then known, moved classes to this building in 1895. The building was later known as the Commercial Building after other buildings were added to the campus. The building was torn down in 1936 and Elm Grove was established in its place.

#19 Kern County Hospital, 1896

Kern County Hospital, 1896

This hospital stood at 19th and Oak Streets. It was built in 1895 and was used until 1925, when the hospital now known as Kern Medical Center was built at Flower Street.

#22 Ingleside Hotel, 1890

Ingleside Hotel, 1890

Ingleside Hotel, with people in front and on balcony; the hotel replaced the town hall about January 1890, and burnt down August 1890; located at Northwest corner of 17th Street and Chester Avenue, the original Beale Memorial Library opened on that site in 1900.

#23 Ruins of the Southern Hotel, 1889

Ruins of the Southern Hotel, 1889

The Southern Hotel was located at 19th Street and Chester Avenue. The fired occurred on July 7, 1889. The Hotel was later rebuilt in about the same location and remained until the 1940's.

#24 Interior, First Methodist Church, 1893

Interior, First Methodist Church, 1893

Interior of First Methodist Church, which was built about 1870.

#25 Kern County Land Company Building 1894

Kern County Land Company Building 1894

Kern County Land Company building located at [the corner of 19th and H Streets; view is from southeast.

#26 First Baptist Church circa 1890

First Baptist Church circa 1890

First Baptist Church, which was located at the Northwest corner of 22nd and I Streets. It was dedicated April 1890. The building was sold in 1904 and replaced by a new building.

#28 Blodget residence, 1889

Blodget residence, 1889

Blodget residence in Bakersfield, man and two momen and two children on the porch, antoher man leans against the stair post.

#29 Holiday parade, 1896

Holiday parade, 1896

Downtown Bakersfield circa 1896-1907 during a holiday parade. Shows buildings, crowd, American flags, Chinese-American portion of the parade.

#30 The Calloway canal, 1880s

The Calloway canal, 1880s

The headgate and weir of the Calloway canal in the Kern River, taken at low water and showing the construction of the headgate. Location is about one mile north of Bakersfield.

#31 Wagon decorated for a holiday parade, 1886

Wagon decorated for a holiday parade, 1886

A wagon filled with people and decorated with flowers for a holiday parade.

#32 Sumner Southern Pacific Railroad Roundhouse, 1882

Sumner Southern Pacific Railroad Roundhouse, 1882

The Southern Pacific Railroad roundhouse at Summer, CA (now in East Bakersfield), usually was much busier than shown here. (Photo courtesy of Ellen Gorelick, Director, Tulare Historical Museum)

#33 Third-grade picture of Viola Stoner and classmates, 1896

Third-grade picture of Viola Stoner and classmates, 1896

Viola Stoner (daughter of Austin Foster Stoner) is in middle front row, in white dress. Viola Stoner is the grandmother of Gaye Lenahan, who donated several family pictures of the Stoner family.

#34 Kern Island Canal headgate, 1880s

Kern Island Canal headgate, 1880s

A view of the Kern Island canal headgate with a small structure nearby.

#36 Branch of lemons, 1880s

Branch of lemons, 1880s

Heavily loaded branch of lemons, located at Old Headquarters, Rancho El Tejon.

#37 Adobe ranch house patio, 1880s

Adobe ranch house patio, 1880s

Three men, each with a dog, standing or sitting on the patio of the Old Headquarters of Rancho El Tejon (looking west).

#38 Blacksmith shop and men’s quarters, 1880s

Blacksmith shop and men's quarters, 1880s

Eight men standing around the men's quarters and blacksmith shop buildings at the Old Headquarters of Rancho El Tejon.

#41 The Pioneer canal, 1880s

The Pioneer canal, 1880s

This view is from a county bridge, looking eastward and upstream, on the McClung ranch two miles from the headgate.

#42 Rosemyre, 1880s

Rosemyre, 1880s

One of Jimmie Rosemyre's daughters standing beside a chair on the patio of Rancho El Tejon.

#45 Stockdale, 1880s

Stockdale, 1880s

House barely visible behind heavy growth of shrubbery, including some form of palm.

#46 Kern River at the canyon, 1880s

Kern River at the canyon, 1880s

A flat bottom boat is on the rocks at the edge of the Kern River.

#56 Kitchen scene no. 1, 1880s

Kitchen scene no. 1, 1880s

Two men standing in doorway of kitchen building of Old Headquarters of Rancho El Tejon

#57 The Calloway canal, 1880s

The Calloway canal, 1880s

Kern River above the canal, north channel taken from the county bridge looking westward downstream.

#58 Kern River above the canal, north channel taken from the county bridge looking westward downstream.

#59 Kern River above the canal, north channel taken from the county bridge looking westward downstream.

#60 Fort Tejon Oaks, 1880s

Fort Tejon Oaks, 1880s

Very large oaks beside the Fort Tejon hospital building, with a family of three and dog beneath one of the oak trees.

#63 New plantings, 1880s

New plantings, 1880s

Freshly planted crop field near El Paso Creek, Old Headquarters, Rancho El Tejon.

#64 View in Canada de law uvas (Grapevine Canyon), 1880s

View in Canada de law uvas (Grapevine Canyon), 1880s

View from Rancho De Castec looking southeasterly over the ruins of Fort Tejon CDalvry Post.

#69 Ruins of band stable, Fort Tejon, 1880s

Ruins of band stable, Fort Tejon, 1880s

Ruins of band stable looking westerly through parade camp grounds from Canada De las Uvas (Grapevine Canyon, Rancho Castec)

#70 Headquarters buildings Fort Tejon, 1880s

Headquarters buildings Fort Tejon, 1880s

Ruins of the headquarters building of Fort Tejon (looking northwesterly) from Rancho de Castec.

#72 E.M. Roberts 1880s

E.M. Roberts 1880s

Two men posing a horse and a donkey, on a simple low bridge, site unknown, one of the men possibley E. M. Roberts.

#73 Lakeside Ranch, 1880s

Lakeside Ranch, 1880s

View of the ranch showing a field of crops with the barn in the background.

#78 Kern County oilfield, 1889

Kern County oilfield, 1889

Teams of horse-drawn equipment line the rim and scattered across site. Oil derricks visible in distance, a house, and two completed storage tanks in right background. One tank has lettering on sides probably the San Joaquin Oil & Development Company. San Joaquin Oil & Development Company was one of five largest companies in Kern River Field, operating in late 1800's to early 1900's. In 1901 combined with four other companies to create Associated Oil Company.

#79 Sumner Southern Pacific Railroad Roundhouse, 1882

Sumner Southern Pacific Railroad Roundhouse, 1882

The Southern Pacific Railroad roundhouse at Summer, CA (now in East Bakersfield), usually was much busier than shown here. (Photo courtesy of Ellen Gorelick, Director, Tulare Historical Museum)

Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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