1900-1920 Modesto Timeline

1900 Modesto population is 2,024.

The Twentieth Century

1901 The Stanislaus County Courthouse gets a new Hall of Records.

Modesto’s first high school building is completed at 12th and L Streets. Eighty-one students attend school there, including eighth graders.

1903 I.E. Gilbert and Company General Store on the northeast corner of I and 10th becomes Schafer’s. It is underwritten by Oramil McHenry for his brother-in-law, George Schafer.

First water flows through miles of MID canals to irrigate the fields of Stanislaus County.

1904 The Modesto Irrigation District Jubilee is held April 21 – 22 to commemorate the opening of the irrigation canals. Trains take visitors from throughout the country on trips to see the irrigated fields of Stanislaus County. The city is ablaze with electric lights. California Governor and Mrs. George Pardee are in attendance.

The First National Bank of Modesto is completed.

1906 Oramil McHenry dies and his will bequeaths three 10th Street lots to the city plus $20,000 to build a library. The lots are sold and the library is built at a quieter location.

Rogers Fountain is moved to Courthouse Park because of increased traffic at its former location in the intersection of 10th and I Streets.

1908 Modesto Canning Company begins operation on 9th Street. In 1919, it is sold to Pratt-Low Preserving Company and later becomes Flotill, owned and operated by Tillie Lewis.

1910 Modesto’s population is estimated at 4,034.

Modesto adopts a new municipal charter.

George E. Wallace is hired as Modesto’s first paid fire fighter because he is good with horses. He is appointed Fire Chief in 1911, a job he holds for 39 years.

1911 Real Estate Agent George Wren is elected mayor under the city’s new charter.

The Cressey Building, consisting of shops and apartments, is constructed on 10th near H Street.

1912 The Modesto Businessmen’s Association completes construction of the iconic Modesto Arch. Erected at a cost of $2,000, the arch’s foundation is christened with canal water.

Oramil McHenry’s bequest is realized when the McHenry Library is dedicated on April 29. The building is located at 14th and I Streets.

A fire destroys the Modesto Creamery building. The Milk Producers Association of Central California purchases the 9th Street site in 1918.

1913 The Modesto Theatre on 10th Street opens with a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, produced by the Modesto Chorale Company.

Modesto’s new St. Stanislaus Church is built in a Spanish mission style on 7th and JStreets.

1914 The Hotel Hughson and Hotel Modesto give Modesto two new opulent options for travelers and residents.

James Apartments on I Street near the library are advertised as “strictly new.”

Thomas K. Beard’s house at 102 Sycamore is built. Beard is founder of the Modesto and Empire Traction Company and an MID director from 1901 – 1907.

Interior of Modesto Theatre is gutted by fire, but owner William B. Mensinger immediately rebuilds.

1915 Southern Pacific opens a new train station at the foot of J Street, across Ninth. The building matches St. Stanislaus Catholic Church’s Spanish mission style.

1917 Production of Borden’s Condensed Milk begins at the Borden Condensary Plant.

The Seventh Street Bridge, or “Lion Bridge,” is dedicated on March 22.

1918 A new campus for Modesto High School opens at H and 1st Streets with 545 students and a cost of $160,000. The campus remains in use today.

1919 William W. Higgins establishes the Modesto Band, later known as “MoBand.” Francesco Nicolo “Frank” Mancini takes over leading the band when Higgins dies in May 1922.

1920 Modesto population is 9,241.

Modesto celebrates its 50th anniversary.

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About the Author:

Chris Murphy is the President and CEO of Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group and Publisher and Founder of ModestoView Inc. Chris worked globally in the cycling industry returning to Modesto in 1996. He is also the founder of the Modesto Historic Graffiti Cruise Route, Legends of the Cruise Walk of Fame, Modesto Rockin’ Holiday, the Modesto Music History Organization and co-founder of the Modesto Area Music Association. Chris is married to his artist wife Rebecca since 1985 and has two daughters Madison and Abigail, both graduating from Modesto High and UC Berkeley. He is lead singer and guitarist for his band, Third Party that donates their performances to non-profits.