ASK ME: Cary Park named for kin, former city leader

The Fresno BeeJuly 13, 2013 

Question: I've grown up with the story that Cary Park was named after my great-uncle Chester Cary. Is that true?

— Gwyn Kim, Fresno

Answer: Cary Park was, indeed, named for Chester H. Cary, a member of the Fresno City Commission — forerunner of the City Council — who died of a heart attack at City Hall the day before Christmas in 1953.

According to a Fresno Bee story, Cary, 61, "was stricken at 10:30 o'clock during a recess in the commission meeting … City Hall employees said he collapsed while preparing to make a telephone call in the mayor's office and fell unconscious to the floor."

Dr. Lynn W. Fawns, who had appeared before the commission that morning, rushed to Cary's aid. Dr. O.B . Doyle — described as the city's physician — and Dr. George Sciaroni also were called in, the story said, "but all efforts to revive the city official were to no avail." Cary was pronounced dead at 11 a.m.

Mayor Gordon G. Dunn adjourned the rest of the meeting and ordered flags flown at half-mast at City Hall, police headquarters and all fire stations.

Cary was born in Selma about 1892 and moved to Fresno about 1912. He served in the Navy during World War I.

He was president of the machinist's union local from 1932 to 1941. In 1945 he was elected executive secretary of the Fresno County Labor Council and also became a business agent with the International Association of Machinists.

He was elected to the city commission in 1947 and again in 1951.

Cary was active in several civic organizations, including Post 509 of the American Legion, and was a member of the North Methodist Church in Selma.

He was survived by his wife, Florence Cary, and brothers Ralph, Harold and Frank Cary, all of California.

The mayor, three city commissioners and Fresno's city clerk were honorary pallbearers at Cary's funeral on Dec. 29, 1953.

He is buried at Belmont Memorial Park.

In 1955, the city commission named the park on Fresno Street north of Gettysburg Avenue for Cary, who had served on a joint city and schools recreation board.


Question: Why isn't there a Sixth Street in Clovis?

— Kerry Parker, Clovis

Answer: Clovis did have a Sixth Street in the early 1900s. Maps of Clovis drawn by the Sanborn Fire Insurance Co. indicate Sixth Street from at least 1904, according to Peg Bos, who runs the Clovis-Big Dry Creek Museum.

A 1912 map at the museum shows Sixth Street running from some point west of DeWitt Avenue to where it dead-ends at Fulton Street, which was renamed Clovis Avenue.

Other maps indicate that the street was renamed Bullard sometime in the early 1920s. The change was made because Bullard had become a major thoroughfare, according to Dwight Kroll, Clovis planning director.

Bullard Avenue was named for Fresno pioneer and land developer E.J. Bullard, who came to Fresno in 1895. He served as a Fresno County supervisor from 1900 to 1904.


Question: I was born in 1939 at the Nygren Maternity Home in Fresno. Who ran it, for how long, where was it located and is the building still there?

— Richard Mehelic, Fresno

Answer: Anna M. Nygren operated the Nygren Maternity Home at 2226 E. Thomas Ave. in the 1930s and 1940s.

The dates Nygren owned the maternity home are unclear, but a Fresno Bee obituary for Nygren says she operated the home for 23 years.

The 1920 U.S. Census doesn't list an occupation for Nygren, but the 1930 census lists her as owner of the home where women came to deliver their babies. The 1938 Fresno city directory carries an advertisement for Nygren's maternity home: "Expecting the stork? Come see us." Nygren is still listed as owner of the home in the 1940 census.

The maternity home is also listed in Fresno city directories in 1944. The Fresno County Library doesn't have city directories for 1945 or 1946, but the maternity home isn't listed in the 1947 directory.

A house still stands at the Thomas Avenue address and is of the same architectural style as other houses on the block.

Nygren was born in Oakland and lived in Fresno for 80 years. She died in 1982 at age 89.

Ask Me publishes on the second and fourth Sunday of each month. Paula Lloyd is a freelance writer. Send questions to or by mail to Paula Lloyd, c/o The Fresno Bee Newsroom, 1626 E St., Fresno CA 93786. Please include your name, city of residence and a phone number.

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