Printer Friendly

Taking a walk through the past in Eureka.

At first glance, Eureka looks a bit like the setting for a melancholy Bruce Springsteen song. U.S. Highway 101, gateway to this hardworking northern California lumber town, is lined by a blur of motels, gas stations, and coffee shops. In the distance, a pair of mills spew great clouds of steam into the sky,

And yet, behind this sombre facade lies something unexpectedly uplifting a stunning cache of historic homes, hotels, and saloons, many dating from the late 1800s. In fact, according to a recent survey, nearly 1,600 Eureka buildings (1 in 6) would merit enrollment in the National Register of Historic Places (though only a handful are actually on that list).

Such a high concentration of historic architecture is unusual in California, where old buildings are routinely razed to make room for an expanding population. But in isolated Eureka, where there are fewer people now (24,153) than in 1960, there's been little use for the wrecker's ball.

As a result, Eureka remains a place where the past is strikingly present, where a city's grand hopes and disappointments have been frozen in ornately crafted wood and glass. In short, it is the perfect spot to break your drive and spend an afternoon or longer strolling through history.

Two walks: one guided, one not

But touring a town with so many historic buildings can be a daunting proposition. Rather than trying to take in too much at once, try any of several ways to ease into the city's nostalgia-tinged neighborhoods. The first is a guided walk in Old Town once a collection of raucous bars and bordellos, now a renovated shopping area. Like nearly all Eureka's buildings, most here are made of long-lasting redwood and are still in use, adding an element of authenticity to their nostalgic charm.

To join an hour-long walk by and through Old Town's buildings, call ahead to Raymond Hillman, curator of the Clarke Memorial Museum, at (707) 443-1947. For a $25 donation to the museum, he will lead groups of 1 to 12 any time.

Another option is a 1.3-mile residential district walk (see map on page 50). It will take you by 90 National Register-quality houses. A word of caution, though: all these homes are privately owned; don't trespass.

Here are some highlights of our tour: The Eureka Inn. This imposing Tudor revival hotel says more about Eureka than any hundred written pages. Built in 1922, when the town (then with a population of 15,000) referred to itself as "Queen City of the Ultimate West," the grand-looking structure was an expression of immense civic pride.

15th Street district. The block-long stretch of 15th Street between C and D streets is 1 of 13 Eureka neighborhoods noted for architectural consistency. Its modest yet comfortable working-class housing is of a type built all over town just before World War 1. It was then, in 1914, that Eureka was linked by rail to the outside world, triggering a population boom.

Hillsdale Street district. During the late 1890s, Eureka was at the peak of its prosperity, and this street was the city's finest address. Homes here were meant to reflect wealth and status. Of particular interest are several with carved columns that resemble giant table legs. Such details exemplify the Eastlake style, derived from the work of an English furniture designer (who was reportedly mortified to learn that Americans were applying his ideas to architecture).

A look inside

After strolling by so many fine old houses, you may want a glimpse inside. If so, go to the Eureka Chamber of Commerce (2112 Broadway; open 8:30 to 5 weekdays) and ask for its list of places to stay. In it are five Victorian-era homes converted into guest houses. Feel free to drop by the inns during normal business hours. While at the chamber, you can also get a brochure on another architectural tour, a self-guided drive past 20 magnificent houses.

A helpful book for more information

Published in 1987 by the Eureka Heritage Society, Eureka, An Architectural View is available only bymail. For a copy of this comprehensive volume, send $35.30 to the society, Box 1354, Eureka 95502; allow about two weeks for delivery.
COPYRIGHT 1988 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:California
Publication:Sunset
Date:Nov 1, 1988
Words:701
Previous Article:What's new with San Francisco's small, historic hotels?
Next Article:London walks for fair weather or foul.
Topics:


Related Articles
Wild rhododendrons on their home turf; north coast reserves, just off U.S. 101 or State 1.
Los Angeles Brewing launches Eureka.
Eureka moves into the Bay Area.
HOW TO BUY A BUSINESS SEMINAR TO BE HELD OCT. 3
STATEMENT BY CAL/EPA SECRETARY JAMES M. STROCK ON U.S. EPA SUSPENSION OF EUREKA LABS
HORIZON AIR TO SERVE EUREKA/ARCATA; REDDING FLIGHTS TO BE ALL DASH 8
EUREKA COMPANY TO SPONSOR AMERICAN HEART WALK NATIONWIDE
FIRST AMERICAN FINANCIAL ANNOUNCES PURCHASE OF EUREKA TITLE CO.
Eureka! Sales gains top industry's.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2016 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters