- By: Ron Stumpf, Chamber Ambassador, Stumpf and Company, Real Estate
My family came to Fresno in 1898. I was born in Fresno in 1951; before Manchester Center, Fashion Fair, and River Park were built. In those days, the main shopping areas were downtown and the Tower District. You also had to pay for a long distance call if you wanted to call anyone in Clovis.
We lived in the Fresno High Area near McKinley and Fruit avenues. I went to Fremont Elementary School and when I was 8-years old we moved near Figarden Village. Most of my fellow Fremont classmates graduated with me at Bullard High. It was a big transition for families, in the 1960s, to move north from the Fresno High Area to the Bullard High Area.
Through the years, older neighborhoods have changed; not necessarily for the better. The Tower District, which was developed in the 1930s-1950s, has maintained its pride with changes that were generally positive. The major Tower Area streets consist of Wishon, Olive, Fulton Fruit and McKinley Avenues.
Many of the Tower Area homes were built by Taylor Wheeler Builders with various styles: Spanish Revival, Colonial Revival, Cottage, and Tudor. Despite the age of the buildings, the Tower Area residential sales are still some of the highest per square foot prices in the Valley!
The Tower District is a mixed-use district and has something for everyone, all within walking distance. In the early days, a large percentage of the office buildings consisted of doctors’ offices due to a hospital on Fulton Avenue and St. Agnes on Fruit Avenue, between Olive and McKinley. Entertainment is in abundance with the handful of theaters, including the Tower Theater, Roger Rockas, Good Company Players and Second Space Theater. You can visit the Tower District and find diverse group of restaurants such as Irene’s, Booby Salazar’s, Chicken Pie Shop, Livingstones, Rosseau, Piemonte’s, and Veni Vidi Vici. Tower’s nightlife is vibrant with its music entertainment, bars, and cocktail lounges.
Fresnans flock to the Tower District to celebrate the annual gay pride parade, Mardi Gras, and Taste of Tower, to the monthly ArtHop and JazzHop. The Tower District is a pleasant shock to visitors who assume Fresno is a dull farming community.