Reconstruction of Fulton Mall into Fulton Street uncovered an interesting find Monday.
Telephone line workers repairing a bundle of damaged lines under Mariposa Street found old tubing and redwood planking likely used for early phone lines, perhaps dating back to 1910.
The first telephone lines installed in Fresno came in 1881, five years after the invention of the telephone, when Fresno businessman Frank McDonough installed a phone line down Mariposa Street between his shop and his warehouse, about two blocks away.
In 1883, S.A. Miller, publisher of the Fresno Morning Republican, installed public telephone lines in the newspaper office on J Street, now Fulton Street. There were 20 subscribers to those public lines, including the Republican’s rival, the Fresno Daily Evening Expositor.
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Herman Eggers acquired a Bell Telephone franchise in 1886 and strung the first long-distance line between downtown Fresno and his ranch, where Fresno Yosemite International Airport is today. Eggers also published the first phone book with 135 listings.
By 1890, the statewide Sunset Telephone and Telegraph Co. had purchased Eggers’ phone company. It later became Pacific Telephone and Telegraph. By the 1920s, Fresno (population about 50,000) had 1,000 telephones.
Efforts to restore Fulton Mall to Fulton Street began in April. The $20 million project will allow automobile traffic on a six-block stretch in downtown Fresno between Tulare and Inyo streets. The pedestrian mall was created in the early 1960s and dedicated on Sept. 1, 1964.
It is expected to be completed in mid-2017.