Fulton & Ventura

July 7, 2009

Then: An 1888 photo taken from Ventura Street looks northwest on J Street (now Fulton Street) into the young city of Fresno. The “false front” of Spiro Obradovich’s grocery store, Cash Grocers, mimics the architecture of the era. Obradovich is seen at right, with his wagon in front.

As the Valley rapidly developed into the nation’s richest farming area, Austrian immigrant Spiro Obradovich operated a grocery store in the growing young city of Fresno.

He was born in 1835 and arrived in San Francisco in 1854 during the Gold Rush era. At the age of 47, he married a fellow Austrian native, Dora, who was 21. Their daughter Sophie was born two years later in Fresno.

Obradovich’s store, Cash Grocers, used a common element in frontier towns: a “false front, ” a vertical extension of the front of the building beyond the roof crestline, giving the modest structures an air of dignity. It made the structure appear more impressive, created a more urban atmosphere and, most importantly, provided a large area for advertising the business.

Small one-story homes line the street northwest of the store.

Despite the somewhat rural scene around Cash Grocers, Fresno grew rapidly in the 1880s.

In 1885, Fresno covered three square miles and had a population of 3,464. By 1890, the city’s population had exploded to nearly 11,000 people. The downtown area in the background along Mariposa Street and surrounding streets was in the midst of a major transformation as a booming city on the plains.

Obradovich was part of the rich cultural diversity that existed in Fresno in the years following its incorporation in 1885. He was among the first wave of immigrants to settle here, largely by word of mouth and letters from family. Among the groups represented in early Fresno were Armenians, English, Volga-Germans, Danes, Irish, Swedes, Portuguese and Chinese.

John Walker/The Fresno Bee

Now: The rural scene of the emerging frontier city of Fresno is now near the paved-over center of a major metropolis. A tire shop is now at Fulton and Ventura, in a landscape dominated by commercial and industrial businesses and parking lots.