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Fresno as 19th-century farm town.

Fresno as 19th-century farm town Dr. Thomas Meux brought his family to Fresno in 1887. The doctor (whose name is pronounced "Mukes") built a house on the edge of town, hung out his shingle, and became a pillar of his adopted community. It seems unlikely he could have suspected that a century later his house would be one of the few traces of Fresno's 19th-century past.

But so it is. And a walk through the doctor's neighborhood, just northeast of the Fresno Convention Center, shows off these historic traces.

This is by no means the ultimate walking tour; you have to put up with some dull blocks and a few parking-lot vistas. But there's much to enjoy: architecture, art, and bounteous good food. If you're passing Fresno en route to the Sierra, this walk can make a good 2- to 3-hour break.

From the Eiffel of Fresno to a century-odd home

To start our tour, take State Highway 41 north from State Highway 99; exit on Tulare Street and drive southwest eight short blocks to N Street. You'll find metered parking on N Street and free parking nearby at the Galleria, at N and Kern.

Two sources of information lie nearby. The Fresno City and County Convention and Visitors Center, a block southwest at 808 M Street, has general tourist information on Fresno. It's open 8 to 5 weekdays. The Fresno Chamber of Commerce lies two blocks nortwest at Fresno and N streets and is open 9 to 5 weekdays. Here you can buy a new 25-cent pamphlet, Tour Guide to Historic Architecture, published by the Fresno City and County Historical Society. The guide covers some of the areas mentioned on our tour.

Our tour begins at Fresno and O streets. The starting point, the Fresno water tower, is hard to miss. Built in 1894 to hold 250,000 gallons of water as well as a public library, it is to Fresno what the Eiffel is to Paris: ungainly but endearing. Walk northeast along Fresno Street past medical clinics to the enormous Italianate Brix Mansion, built in 1911 (from money made in the oil fields of nearby Coalinga). It now houses law firms. Turn southeast on S Street, jog a block northeast on Mariposa Street, then southeast on T Street to Tulare. You'll pass several turn-of-the-century houses--some still private residences and some converted to commercial uses, notably funeral parlors.

Walk southwest along Tulare Street to R Street and the Meux Home, celebrating its centennial this year. Owned by the city, it's open for half-hour tours from 12 to 3:30 Fridays through Sundays. (Admission is $3 adults, $1 children.)

By modern standards elaborate, it was nonetheless a middle-class residence, built for $12,000 from a carpenter's catalog. The 10 rooms are furnished more or less as the Meux family might have had them--the kitchen has a pie safe and the library a portrait showing the young Dr. Meux on his way to join the Confederate Army. Upstairs, admire the collection of 19th-century views of the San Joaquin Valley; probably drawn from a hot-air balloon, they promoted valley real estate to Eastern and European investors.

Other notable buildings lie nearby. Across R Street from the Meux Home stands the red brick St. John's Cathedral, built in 1902. Across Tulare spreads the mission-style Santa Fe station, built in 1896. It is still being used by Amtrak's San Joaquin line, which runs twice daily between Oakland and Bakersfield.

(From Oakland, trains leave at 7:25 A.M. and 5:15 P.M., arriving in Fresno 4 hours later; trains leave Fresno in the opposite direction at 7:55 A.M. and 5:40 P.M. Trains leave Bakersfield for Fresno at 6 A.M., and 3:45 P.M., arriving 2 hours later; trains leave Fresno for Bakersfield at 11:25 A.M. and 9:15 P.M. Amtrak hopes to add a third train this year; its schedule was not set at our press time.e

Behind the station, you'll see impressively industrial Warehouse Row. These solid brick structures, built between 1900 and 1910, are being converted to officeS.

One future landmark is yet to come: a new city hall, designed by well-known Canadian architect Arthur Erickson. It will rise at Tulare and P streets.

Dine with the Basques

or with the Armenians

If walking makes you hungry, you're in luck. In the early 1900s, Basque shepherds came from Spain to work San Joaquin Valley ranches. In winter they

lived in Fresno boarding hotels.

Two such hotels, the Santa Fe and the Yturri, still stand near the Santa Fe station and still open their dining rooms to the public. You eat family-style at room-long tables, and are served munificent quantities of Basque food--lamb, chicken, beef tongue, pigs' feet. The Santa Fe Hotel, 935 Santa Fe Street, is open from 11:30 to 1:30 daily and 5 to 8:30 Tuesdays through Sundays; the Yturri Hotel, 2546 Kern Street (at P), is open from 11:30 to 2 and 5 to 10 daily.

Our tour continues down Tulare Street, southeast on N Street to our last stop. The zigzag moderne-style Galleria was built as a post office in 1921; now it houses shops and galleries. We liked the art gallery Plums; it's open 10 to 5 weekdays, 10 to 4 Saturdays. And if you've opted not to dine a la Basque, you might try George's, where you can get the Armenian food Fresno is famous for; it's open from 6 to 3 weekdays, 7 to 3 Saturdays.
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Date:Nov 1, 1989
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