Question: What is the history of the University Street Playhouse? What became of the building?
-- Rose Ann Matthews, Fresno
Answer: The University Street Playhouse opened in 1935 in the former Trinity Episcopal Methodist Church at University and Van Ness avenues, across from then-Fresno State College. The campus now houses Fresno City College.
The late Dr. J.W. Wright, who taught speech and theater at Fresno State, couldn't convince college officials to invest in the church for a theater, so he leased the building under his own name for three years. Later, the state took over ownership of the building.
About 40 theater students "sold season tickets, apples, programs and advertising" to pay for rent and $7,000 in renovations, Wright said in a 1959 Fresno Bee story.
The University Street Playhouse had a small stage, seating for about 200, a lobby, box office, green room, classrooms, workshop space, individual rehearsal rooms, stage craft room, ballroom, children's theater, kitchen, dressing rooms and offices.
Over the next 25 years, theater students staged about 100 plays in the ivy-covered building. The curtain came down on the last play, "Menaechmi" -- a comedy about mistaken identity of twin brothers -- in May 1960.
Fresno State opened its new campus at Cedar and Shaw avenues in 1956 and the former playhouse building was used as the college's extension center until it was demolished in 1973 to make way for a parking lot.
When Wright died in 1989 at age 90, the Little Theater at the Fresno State campus was renamed in his honor.
Q: What is the history of Granville School?
-- Stanley Merk, Sanger
A: Ranchers around the Kings River who wanted a school for their children formed the Granville school district in 1887.
According to "Public Schools of Fresno County," the district was named for Granville Kimball, a retired sea captain who owned land in the area.
The first Granville elementary school was a small wood-frame building near Indianola and California avenues. The school had a tank house, but no running water, and an outhouse. A pot-bellied stove was stoked with coal or eucalyptus wood grown on the school grounds.
Granville's first teacher was Elliott W. Lindsay, who later became superintendent of Fresno County Schools.
In 1912, a new, larger school with a columned portico and bell tower was built on East Kings Canyon Road at Indianola.
In 1963, Granville district voters approved annexing with the Sanger Unified School District, and the Granville school closed in 1966. The school bell was donated to the Sanger Historical Society and was put on display at the Sanger Depot Museum.
The old Granville school building was sold several times and in recent years has been used as a private home.
More on W.T. Grant: After the answer to a question about the W.T. Grant Co. store ran on Feb. 6, Elizabeth Stoudt of Fresno wrote to share memories of working there:
"I worked in the office at the 1022 Fulton St. store for eight years," from 1943 to 1951, Stoudt wrote. She worked with Anne Forth, whose daughter, Sharen Whisenhunt, asked about the history of the company.
"During those war years, the store hired many wives of local servicemen, so there was quite a turnover of employees," Stoudt recalled. "At that time, the store managers were all men; women were the department managers. Most of those people are now gone."
Send questions to Paula Lloyd, The Fresno Bee, Fresno, CA 93786; fax to (559) 441-6436. The columnist can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (559) 441-6756. Please include a phone number.