Ask Me

Ask Me: Rosenberg Bros. historic building still stands in Fresno County

The Rosenberg Bros. Co., once called the largest dried fruit packing business in the world, used this 1918 storage facility at Cherry Street and Broadway. The company closed in 1958.
The Rosenberg Bros. Co., once called the largest dried fruit packing business in the world, used this 1918 storage facility at Cherry Street and Broadway. The company closed in 1958. ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

Qn: Where was the Rosenberg packing house? My family worked there in the 1920s.

Frank McKelvie, Clovis

Ar: Brothers Abraham, Adolph and Max Rosenberg founded Rosenberg Bros. Co. packing firm in San Francisco in 1893 and expanded the operation to the San Joaquin Valley in 1908.

By 1935 the business had nine plants, including a former storage facility at 1844 S. Cherry Ave. that still stands.

A report on the South Van Ness Industrial District prepared by Karana Hattersley-Drayton, Fresno’s historic preservation project manager, includes this description of the former Rosenberg building: “Although the windows have been in-filled and there are alterations to the first floor, the 1918 building retains sufficient integrity to its period of significance. Rosenberg’s was a major fruit packer and seasonal employer with importance to Fresno’s commercial and social history.”

A 1935 Fresno Bee story said the local operation was a “large complex of buildings on the Cherry Avenue entrance to Fresno.” The company also had several buildings in other parts of town.

The Rosenberg brothers’ business began in San Francisco.

The Bee story called the Rosenberg Bros. Co. “one of the best known packing firms in the entire Valley.” The firm employed 2,000 workers and had a weekly payroll of $40,000.

The Rosenbergs’ Fresno plant processed and packed raisins, prunes, dried peaches, apricots and figs, honey, walnuts, almonds, rice, beans, cherries, blackberries and loganberries.

But by 1935 the company was being run without the three brothers. A 1931 Fresno Bee obituary for Max Rosenberg was headlined “Last of Brothers Called by Death.” Abraham Rosenberg died in 1929 and Adolph Rosenberg died in 1923.

The packing company was being managed by Arthur Oppenheimer, whose wife was Max Rosenberg’s niece, when the company was sold to a San Francisco firm in 1947. At the time the Rosenbergs’ firm was called “the world’s largest processors and packers of dried fruit.” The sale price was $18 million.

The former Rosenberg packing plant at Orange and Church avenues and the storage facility at Cherry Street and Broadway closed in July 1958.

Q: An early-day Stanford University publication lists Fresnans W.J. Dickey and Mrs. J.M. Braly as creators of scholarships. Can you tell us more about the Dickey and Braly families?

Phil Tavlian, Fresno

A: William J. Dickey and James M. Braly were business and civic leaders in Fresno, philanthropists and supporters of Stanford University.

Dickey, a native of Ohio, was 24 when he came to Fresno in 1877. He helped take the 1880 census when Fresno’s population was 930. His early jobs included working as a stock clerk at the Kutner Goldstein & Co. store and a desk clerk at the Morrow House.

Dickey built his fortune on real estate, banking and oil. He was a stockholder in the First National Bank and a shareholder in the People’s Savings Bank. He helped establish the Mountain View Cemetery Improvement Association.

Dickey died in 1912 at age 59; local historian Paul Vandor profiled him in his 1919 two-volume “History of Fresno County.”

“At the height of his financial prosperity he made a lucky strike when at the crest of the excitement oil was discovered on a parcel of land in Coalinga which he had bought for a trifle at a tax delinquent sale,” Vandor wrote. Dickey made $125,000 on the oil strike.

At the height of his financial prosperity he made a lucky strike when at the crest of the excitement oil was discovered on a parcel of land in Coalinga.

Local historian Paul Vandor, describing how William J. Dickey made his fortune

Vandor described Dickey as “a most approachable man, genial and unassuming.”

Dickey left $25,000 to public causes in his will. He bequeathed $10,000 to the city’s fledgling playground department for the purchase of play equipment “of such character and kind as will be most beneficial and enjoyable” to children, Vandor wrote. The city had spent most of a $75,000 bond measure to buy park land and had little left for equipment. Today Dickey Park at Blackstone Avenue and Divisadero Street is named for him.

Another $10,000 was left to be used for charities “in and about the city,” at his wife’s direction.

Vandor says the remaining $5,000 was given for “a university scholarship for a deserving student,” but he didn’t name the school. The report “A Rare Promise: A Brief History of Scholarships at Stanford,” published by the university says Dickey endowed a $10,000 scholarship to Stanford University.

Dickey was “the first person outside the (Stanford) family to endow a scholarship at the university,” the report says, and that he created the scholarship “partly because he admired (California) Gov. (Leland) Stanford and the Stanford (family’s) model of philanthropy.”

James Braly was born in Missouri and came to California by wagon train in 1847. He settled in the Sacramento area and was engaged in mining near Aurora, Nev. He laid out the town; Mount Braly south of Aurora is named for him.

Braly moved in 1864 to San Jose, where he opened a store and married. He and his wife, Susan, had two daughters, Elizabeth and Bertha. They came to Fresno in 1881, and in 1885 Braly was elected to Fresno’s first board of trustees, the forerunner of the city council.

Braly and O.J. Woodward established the Woodward Addition subdivision bounded by Cherry, Hamilton, Pearl and California avenues. Braly died in 1911.

The Bertha Hyde Braly scholarship was created in memory of the Bralys’ daughter, an 1897 graduate of Stanford, who died in 1913. Although Stanford University records from the early 1900s say the scholarship was created by her mother, Susan, a university official said archives show the scholarship was established by her sister, Elizabeth Madison Braly. The earlier records say the $250 scholarship was open to women of Fresno and Santa Clara counties.

Both scholarships still exist, a Stanford official said.

More about: After an answer about the Temple Bar building was published on Nov. 22, artist and author Joseph G. Garcia of Fresno sent a copy of his unpublished story about Dr. Henry St. George Hopkins, the only physician with an office in the building. The Temple Bar was located across from the courthouse, and most of the tenants were attorneys and judges.

“During research for my book ‘Prelude to Fresno,’ I came across an article printed by The Fresno Weekly Expositor on Sept. 3, 1890 headed ‘A Haunted House,’ subtitled ‘Dr. Hopkins narrates a Weird Experience,’ ” Garcia wrote.

Hopkins told the story to his friend Bill Marshall, who related it to the newspaper. The events took place in Baltimore, Md., “where as a practicing physician (Hopkins) finds residence in a presumed haunted house following the end of the Civil War in 1865,” the story says.

Without spoiling Garcia’s story, which he says he may yet publish, in the end Hopkins says, “Come, let us go,” and makes a hasty retreat.

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.

  Comments