Discover Old Town Vallejo and the Waterfront
It’s no secret, Vallejo is filled with rich history, especially in the downtown areas. Here is a list of some of our proud heritage:
1) Mare Island was the site of the first U.S. Navy base on the Pacific Coast, established in 1854 by Capt. David G. Farragut. During its 142 year history, Mare Island Naval Shipyard built more than 500 ships for the U.S. Navy.
2) Vallejo Ferry Terminal. For most of its history, Vallejo has had direct ferry service with San Francisco. Ferries also carried passengers to Mare Island and other parts of the bay. One hundred years ago ferry passengers could disembark at the Vallejo waterfront and then take an electric interurban train as far north as Calistoga.
3) Lower Georgia Street. As the busy main street of a prosperous Navy town, lower Georgia Street once had a notorious reputation for its many taverns, gaming parlors, and other businesses catering to the needs of adventurous sailors. This colorful part of Vallejo was torn down in the early 1960s. City Hall, the John F. Kennedy Library, and other civic buildings are now located in this area.
4) Old Town Mural. This 9’ by 96’ mural was designed by local artist Miro Salazar and depicts four distinct features of Vallejo. The first panel depicts Mare Island history. The second shows the waterfront, ferry, and community activity. The third panel depicts our downtown and farmer’s market. The fourth panel depicts our architectural heritage.
5) Site of California’s State Capitol. Vallejo served as the state capital of California in 1852 and 1853. After the state legislature moved to Benicia in 1853, the old capitol building was used as a meeting hall and warehouse and was destroyed by fire in 1859.
6) 314 Georgia Street. Near the end of the 19th century, this building housed Vallejo’s leading photographic studio, the Solano Art Studio operated by Charles McMillan.
7) Alibi Clock. The Alibi Clock became nationally known after the San Francisco Preparedness Day parade on July 22, 1916. At that time the clock was located on Market Street in San Francisco. A bomb went off during the parade and killed ten bystanders. Labor radicals Tom Mooney and Warren Billings were accused of the crime. However, a photograph showed Mooney and his wife on top of a building at 975 Market Street with the clock visible on the street. According to the time on the clock, Mooney could not have made his way through the crowd to set the bomb off, thus establishing his alibi. The clock was moved to Vallejo in 1932.
8) 332 Georgia Street. The Central Bank, later Bank of America, and finally West America Bank, used this building since its construction in 1923. The elegant interior features marble floors and solid brass window and door frames.
9) 325-329 Georgia Street. The Fisch-Higgins building was designed in 1922 by architect Charles Perry. The building originally housed the tailor shop and clothing store of Fred Fisch, who specialized in uniforms for the U.S. Navy. Higgins Shoes was the ground floor tenant.
10) 342 Georgia Street. The Oddfellow’s Lodge building was built in 1872 and is one of downtown Vallejo’s oldest buildings. Originally a two-story building, the third and fourth floors were added in 1922. During World War Two the City of Paris department store was also located here.
11) 431 Georgia Street. The Redmen’s Hall was designed by Charles Perry and built in the mid-1920s. The Samoset Tribe No. 22, Improved Order of Redmen is the local branch of this fraternal organization which dates back to the Revolutionary War era. Note the decorative motifs of American Indians on the building’s façade.
12) 436-438 Georgia Street. The former Crowley Department Store was one of many full-service department stores once located in downtown Vallejo. The Golden State Lodge I.O.O.F. also had meeting rooms and a ballroom on the upper level of the building.
13) 1715 Sonoma Blvd. The Charles Hotel, located at the corner of Georgia Street and Sonoma Blvd. was built by the Widenmann Family of Vallejo and named for Charles Widenmann, who operated the local Solano Brewery.
14) 415 Virginia Street. This attractive building was originally built as the Vallejo Electric Light & Power Company, and later PG&E. In more recent years it has housed a number of fine restaurants.
15) 707 Marin Street. The Neoclassical style former Masonic Temple was built in 1917 by John Sullivan. It was Vallejo’s second Masonic Temple. This corner was formerly the site of the Power & Fleming Grocery Store.
16) 715 Marin Street. This building was constructed in 1872 and housed Vallejo’s first City Hall. The first floor also served as the jail, police and fire station.
17) 734 Marin Street. The Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum features exhibits about the history of Vallejo and Mare Island. The Museum also features a research library where visitors can learn more about the city’s history. The Museum building was originally the Vallejo City Hall, designed by architect Charles Perry and built in 1927.
18) 338 Virginia, Empress Theater. This beautifully restored theater was built in 1911 and originally featured movies and vaudeville acts. The Art Deco style ticket booth gives a hint of the stylish interior of the theater. Over the years the theater has undergone many renovations and has had many different names. The venue is now the centerpiece of downtown Vallejo’s arts and entertainment district, following its restoration by the Vallejo Community Arts Foundation.
19) 524 Georgia Street. Originally called the Collins Apartments. Built by T.V. Collins in 1907. The Duchess of Windsor is said to have lived here with her first husband, Navy Officer Earl Winfield Spencer, Jr.