Before Fulton Mall

November 11, 2009

FRESNO BEE FILE

Then: Looking north on Fulton Street, the city\'s main commercial corridor, in 1936 before Fulton Mall. Gottschalks is on the right, at Kern Street, with the Helm and Security Bank buildings, background right. Many visitors used electric streetcars to get through Fulton Street.

Before there was a Fulton Mall, Fresno’s main commercial thoroughfare was Fulton Street, and for decades it bustled with business and traffic.

First known as J Street, it was renamed Fulton Street by city leaders in 1910, after the death of financier Fulton G. Berry, who owned the Grand Central Hotel at J and Mariposa streets.

By 1936, the Gottschalks store at Fulton and Kern streets was a major attraction for Valley shoppers. Fulton Street was also home to hotels, banks and other businesses, such as J.C. Penney Co., Coffee’s, Berkeley’s, Roos-Atkins and Walter Smith.

A banner that flew above Fulton read, “GIVE TO COMMUNITY CHEST, ” referring to the community’s united approach to funding charitable groups.

Rail tracks and overhead electric lines from electric streetcars ran along the street, transporting shoppers and workers.

The streetcars of the Fresno Traction Co., which operated until 1939, were one of the city’s most common modes of transportation.

In the years after World War II, Fresno faced a challenge as growth spread to the suburbs — particularly to the north — and the central downtown district began to decline.

In March 1964, bulldozers went to work on the centerpiece of an urban renewal plan: a pedestrian shopping mall on a six-block section of Fulton between Tuolumne and Inyo streets.

Completion of the $1.9 million Fulton Mall project that year brought Fresno national recognition.

Thousands of people, including Gov. Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, attended the Sept. 1 opening, culminating a weeklong arts and culture celebration called “Fresno Festival.”

Fulton Mall was one of the nation’s first pedestrian malls and prompted other cities to implement their own pedestrian malls.

JOHN WALKER/ THE FRESNO BEE

Now: The same view today, looking up the Fulton Mall. Constructed in 1964, it was one of the nation\'s first pedestrian malls.