Lewis Griswold

Griswold: Visalia Fox Theater appears headed to historic register

The Visalia Fox Theater should soon be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The nomination of the downtown landmark is on the agenda of the State Historic Resources Commission, which meets Friday in Sacramento. Approval is expected.

Following approval, the final step usually follows: The keeper of the National Register in Washington, D.C., accepts the nomination.

The Fox was built in the 1930s as part of the 20th Century Fox movie empire and retains most of its original features, said historian Chris Brewer of Exeter.

Inside the theater, "the wall has a line of elephants, with an East Indian motif. Outside is a Spanish motif," Brewer said. "It's very rare for a theater to be designed like that."

In the 1970s, the building on Main Street was converted into a triplex theater. But in 1999, the owners donated the theater to Visalia Friends of the Fox, and the new group launched a community campaign and restored it to near-original condition.

Today, it is home to the Tulare County Symphony, and traveling acts perform there.

Only four places in Visalia are on the register: the Bank of Italy building in downtown, which is now home to the Bank of the Sierra; the Hyde House on Court Street; the downtown post office; and Sequoia Field north of Visalia, which was the site of air training for World War II pilots.

"It recognizes the Fox as being an important part of the community," Fox general manager Paul Fry said.

CarMax: The used car chain CarMax wants to locate on Mooney Boulevard but is having trouble finding a space large enough.

Council Member Warren Gubler said the company told local officials it needs five or six acres.

The issue came up a couple of weeks ago at a Visalia City Council debate about the city's long-term growth plan.

The city should keep businesses like CarMax in mind when it sets development boundaries, Gubler said.

CarMax is "very interested in Visalia as part of our growth plan," company spokeswoman Michelle Topping Ellwood said in a statement. "The main commercial strip (Mooney) is the area that would fit best for CarMax, but we will continue to look for opportunities for a store location in the overall Visalia area."

The chain has 117 locations. It can take one to three years to open a store.

Summer school: After two summers of no classes, College of the Sequoias will again be offering summer school from June 10 to July 18.

The passage of Proposition 30 boosted the college's budget, allowing it to resume the tradition, spokesman Kevin McCusker said.

About 50 classes will be offered, but the subjects still are being decided. The list will be ready by April 1. Priority registration begins May 6.

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