Historical neighborhood rebuilt in Downtown Fresno

A tiny new neighborhood in Downtown Fresno is waiting to be brought back to life.
January 27, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
A tiny new neighborhood in Downtown Fresno is waiting to be brought back to life.

The City of Fresno moved and rebuilt five old houses in the area known as Armenian Town. The houses are tucked in right next to the Highway 41 Freeway on the corner of M Street and Santa Clara. Fresno's Historic Preservation Officer, Karana Hattersley-Drayton said the neighborhood the oldest part of the city.

"This whole neighborhood was part of the original Central Pacific, later Southern Pacific railroad town, meaning the original grid mix of people and then by the First World War in particular it was almost exclusively Armenian and that's why they say this is part of that 60 block area called Armenian Town," Hattersley-Drayton said.

Around the turn of this century the houses were going to be torn down to make way for a state Court of Appeals building and a proposed commercial development. But historic groups including Heritage Fresno went to court to force the city of Fresno's Redevelopment Agency to save them. After the legal battles the houses were moved to one parcel and sat there for a decade before finally being restored.

"RDA and their consultants did a fabulous job they took it to heart, so all pieces were catalogued and saved. Some things were old, they fell apart, but everything was stripped painted, kept, stained glass windows repaired," Hattersley- Drayton said.

Now the homes are in limbo. The recession stalled plans for an adjacent development. And the dissolution of the city's Redevelopment Agency by the state has made things complicated. The plan to turn the houses into homes or offices appears to be stalled.

Doug Vagim is with Heritage Fresno, the group that fought to save the houses. He believes it's time for the houses to be put to use.

"The only way to make the best of it is to open this up, get this fence out of here and let those who are interested in doing something to actually come in and do what they want to do. Right now no one can do anything," Vagim said.

The director of Fresno's former redevelopment agency, Marlene Murphy, said the hope is to have the original developer of the Armenian Town project, Gunnar Andros Construction take over. Murphy said another plan is to sell the homes to an interested party, within the next year.


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