Ask Me: Roosevelt High land was poorhouse farm

Special to The Fresno BeeAugust 10, 2013 

Roosevelt High School was built on land where a cow pasture and a poorhouse once stood. The then-Fresno City School District owned part of the property by 1925.

GARY KAZANJIAN — Fresno Bee Staff Photo Buy Photo

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled Ed Lavonian's last name as Lavonia.

Question: A friend and lifelong Fresnan says a poorhouse and cow pasture sat on the land where Roosevelt High is, and that neighbors' complaints about the cows prompted the school district to buy the land. How much did the land cost the district?

— Ray Ensher, Fresno


It's not clear whether neighbors' complaints moved the then-Fresno City School District to buy the land near Cedar Avenue and Tulare Street for Theodore Roosevelt High School, but a cattle pasture and later a poorhouse were once there.

According to the book "Front Row Center," the Fresno County Board of Supervisors bought an 80-acre parcel between Tulare, Kings Canyon Road and Barton and Cedar avenues from Edwin Munsey for $9,600 in 1887 for use as a poor farm and future county hospital. The land was initially used for growing alfalfa and raising a few county-owned cattle.

In 1907, the county built a brick "almshouse" at the farm. The almshouse, or poorhouse, was for people "temporarily down on their luck," the book says. The home previously stood on the Fresno County Fairgrounds, about where the grandstand is today.

By 1922, the Fresno County Hospital had remodeled the poorhouse for nurses' housing and a nursing school.

According to a 1925 Fresno Bee story, the school district bought about seven acres of the former poor farm from the county in 1923 and acquired another 27 acres at a public auction on the steps of the old Fresno Court House in 1925. The district paid a total of $40,960 for both parcels.

Question: What is the history of the Peacock Market chain that operated in Fresno in the 1950s?

— Perry Valeh, Fresno


Ed Lavonian opened the first market in Fresno named Peacock at 590 Van Ness Ave. in 1934.

He opened a second Peacock Market at 1533 Belmont Ave. in 1935.

Aram Arax and his sons Navo and Ara owned the two markets by the 1950s. The Belmont Avenue store became their Peacock Market #1. They added their second Peacock Market when they bought the C and C Market at 520 Blackstone Ave. in 1956.

The Arax father and sons bought the Mayfair Market at 4161 Tulare St. in 1957 and sold it in 1960. It was later known as the Tulare-Cedar Market.

In 1958, the Araxes opened another Peacock Market at 1036 Martin Ave. near California Avenue. In 1959 they opened the Peacock Market at 1430 Clinton Ave. at West Avenue, which they sold to Neils and Carl Christensen in 1960.

Question: What is the history of the Pinehurst Lodge in Miramonte?

— Skip Severance, Clovis


According to a history from owner Cindy Warner, the original 120-acre property was a ranch belonging to John Stansfield, who came to California in 1887.

In 1909, Charles Neff bought the ranch for $10 in gold coin. Neff built a sawmill where the lodge now stands. The millpond he built later became a swimming pool.

The kitchen Neff built to feed area loggers is still in use as the lodge's kitchen, Warner said, and original shingles are visible under the building's metal roof.

Neff built a store, bar, gas station and dance hall across the street from the lodge.

He sold 40 acres of his land to Will Unger in 1919. Unger added a dining room to the kitchen to turn it into a resort he named Pinehurst Lodge.

Unger sold the lodge in 1921; it had several owners through the early 1950s, when it was known as Dick's Resort.

By the early 1960s the name reverted to Pinehurst Lodge. The lodge had several owners and renovations over the next two decades.

Warner bought the lodge in 2007. "Stories abound about the 'good old days,' from dances and pajama parties, bar fights and brawls to family reunions and weddings," Warner wrote.

"Many people have said, 'It's a good thing these walls can't talk.' "

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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