Ask Me

Readers’ Fresno memories rekindled | Yosemite Brewing, legacy of the Woodward family

Coverage of the Yosemite Brewing Company’s opening is shown in the May 25, 1934 issue of The Fresno Bee.
Coverage of the Yosemite Brewing Company’s opening is shown in the May 25, 1934 issue of The Fresno Bee. ezamora@fresnobee.com

Q: I recently learned of the Yosemite Brewing Co. that was in Fresno, but I can’t find information about it. What details can you give me?

Andrew Fennacy, Fresno

A: The three-story Yosemite Brewing Co. at 1312 Blackstone Ave. was opened in March 1933 by Carlo Giometti and brothers Emilio and Guido Giometti, all of Fresno.

In a Dec. 22, 1934, Fresno Bee story, Emilio Giometti said that “the initial output (would) be sold under the name of Sequoia Beer” and would be ready the following spring.

Yosemite Brewing’s first brewmaster was Robert Neidhart, formerly with the Pabst brewery in Milwaukee and Humboldt Brewery in Eureka.

The steel-frame building cost nearly $200,000 to build and was constructed of reinforced concrete. Three stories in the front housed brewing kettles, aging tanks and ice machines. The bottling plant was in the one-story portion in the rear.

The brewery closed shortly after it opened after the State Board of Equalization “charged the firm with having an interest in retail beer establishments in violation of the state liquor laws,” according to The Bee. “After several court hearings, Superior Court Judge Arthur Allyn … (upheld) revocation of the brewery’s license.”

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Coverage of the Yosemite Brewing Company’s opening is shown in the May 25, 1934 issue of The Fresno Bee. ERIC PAUL ZAMORA ezamora@fresnobee.com

The owners sold the brewery to Oliver Riccomini, a “San Anselmo capitalist,” in February 1934 and focused on the ice cream and ice business that they had been operating in Fresno for several years, The Bee said.

A 1935 Fresno Bee advertisement for Riccomini’s brewery described Sequoia Beer in glowing terms: “This palatable and delicious beverage is the outstanding favorite of the great San Joaquin Valley. Its purity and goodness towers above its competitors like the towering trees for which it is named.”

According to Fresno city directories, Yosemite Brewing Co. closed in 1939 and the building was listed as vacant for a few years.

In 1944, Bessie K. Peters, owner of Peters Lumber and Roofing Co., bought the building to expand her business. Peters told The Bee she would use the ground floor of the three-story portion for the retail and wholesale store and the top two floors for storage. The business sold building materials and roofing and plumbing supplies.

There is no city directory for 1950, but the 1951 directory lists the building as housing the California Department of Fish and Game. The building was vacant again in about 1959.

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The former Yosemite Brewing Company building is shown at the northeast corner of Blackstone and Hedges Avenues, Aug. 8, 2018 in Fresno. ERIC PAUL ZAMORA ezamora@fresnobee.com

Herb Bauer Sporting Goods occupied the building from about 1962 to 1984. Dugovic’s European Antiques was the tenant from 1986 until about 2003.

Q: Who was Woodward in Fresno history? Everywhere one goes in Fresno, one sees the name Woodward.

Ray Ensher, Fresno

A: Oscar J. Woodward and sons Ralph W. Woodward and Roy J. Woodward were pioneers in Fresno from the late 1800s through the mid-1900s.

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O.J. Woodward, pioneer Fresno banker.Died Dec. 1935

O.J. Woodward was born in Clinton, Ill. In 1849. He married Anna Ludolph and they had two sons, Roy and Ralph, and a daughter, Abbie. The family came to Fresno in 1885 during a boom time for the city.

O.J. Woodward, who had been a shoe merchant in Illinois, went into the real estate business here. He developed the Woodward Addition, a subdivision near Hamilton and California avenues.

In 1888, Woodward went to work as a cashier for First National Bank and within one year he was president of the bank. He continued his real estate business, eventually owning “considerable property,” according to his Fresno Bee obituary. He was a director for the fledgling Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Co. and sponsored activities for local schools.

Woodward was a world traveler, visiting North Africa, Italy, France and Asia during the 1920s. On a round-the-world trip in 1928, he planned to see the King Tut artifacts, discovered just six years earlier.

Woodward died in 1935 at age 86.

His eldest son, Roy Woodward, died in 1940 at age 62. He was born in Illinois in 1872.

Roy Woodward graduated from Fresno High School in 1896 and helped start the student newspaper, The Owl. After college, Woodward and his brother, Ralph, opened a farm implement firm.

According to his Fresno Bee obituary, Woodward was a “prominent businessman” who owned “considerable business property in Fresno.” He was also one of the founders of Home Title Co. and contributed to the Fresno Nutritional Home.

His extensive collection of early California historical books is housed in the Roy J. Woodward Memorial Library of Californiana at Fresno State.

Ralph W. Woodward was born in Illinois in 1882 and died in Fresno in 1961 at age 79.

He was a businessman and property owner, including the former Temple Bar Building at Mariposa Street and Van Ness Avenue downtown. Like his brother, he contributed to the Fresno Nutritional Home, hosting movie parties for some 600 children.

Ralph Woodward left $1.6 million to the city of Fresno for the creation of a park and bird sanctuary that bears his name.

Another, perhaps lesser known, landmark with the Woodward name is the Anna Woodward Memorial Fountain in Courthouse Park. Dedicated by O.J. Woodward to honor his late wife, the fountain was designed by the Woodwards’ granddaughter, Atha, and installed in 1921.

O. James “Jim” Woodward III of Fresno, great-grandson of O.J. Woodward, said there are six generations of Woodward descendants. Some are living in Fresno, including Jim and Judith Woodward’s seven grandchildren.

More about: After the answer about a 1969 anti-war protest was published on June 24, former Fresno resident Vincent Lavery of Dalkey, Ireland, wrote to share memories of the march.

“Several Fresnans sent me copies of your article regarding the protest march against the Vietnam War in which my name is mentioned,” Lavery wrote.

“Sad memories. Students marching from Fresno State, Fresno Pacific and Fresno City College – joined by some students from McLane and Roosevelt high schools,” he recalled.

“Not because I was heavily involved in the demonstration, believe me, but it was a truly remarkable day, to put it mildly. Fresno was not expected to be out on the streets protesting in those numbers,” Lavery said. “The day changed my life forever and I am sure that of many others.”

Ask Me publishes on the second and fourth Sundays of each month. Paula Lloyd is a freelance writer. Send questions to askpaulalloyd@yahoo.com 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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