In 1897, the New Dexter Livery Stables — not to be confused with the old Dexter Stables — was something of a wonder for Fresno and the central Valley. The Fresno Morning Republican described it this way: “The building contains every convenience that taste could suggest and money could buy.”
Unlike the old Dexter stables location, just down the street, which was built of wood and vulnerable to fire, the new building was made of brick and had a corrugated iron roof that was said to be “absolutely fire-proof.”
A livery stable was a necessity in the horse and buggy days. Early inns and hotels were required to have livery stables, or at least access to one, for travelers. Basically a large barn-type structure, the stable would tend, feed and house the horses and secure the buggy or wagon for a fee.
The new McKay and Wilbur stable could accommodate 70 horses “in comfort.” It had large stalls, was well-lit and ventilated, and featured chutes used to feed the animals automatically. At the rear of the building was a large enclosure to exercise the horses. Travelers especially liked the layout of the stable, which was wide-open and free of posts that might scratch their buggies. Next to the “neat as a pin” business office, was a ladies waiting room — a feature unheard of in other such establishments. A blacksmith and shoeing shops also were on the premises.
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John R. McKay, a Boston native, started out in Fresno as a blacksmith in the old Dexter Stables, which he bought in 1891. He later sold half-interest to partner, Henry W. Wilbur. The section of I Street, later Broadway, and Kern Street, where the stable stood no longer exists. The spot today is about 20 feet below street level in the Fresno Grizzlies infield, just about at second base.