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Sunday, November 16, 1997

Downtown landmarks date to the mid-1800s

Kristin Delaplane

Plaques hint at story behind two buildings

Two downtown Vacaville buildings will become prominent landmarks Saturday when historic markers are placed on them.
Both the Triangle Building and the building that houses the Heritage House Cafe date to the 1800s. Here is a peek at their history up to the turn of the century:

Business at the Heritage House site dates to late 1853 or early 1854, when Edward F. Gillespie arrived in Vacaville and started a general store in what was a small toolhouse owned by Mason Wilson.

In spring 1855, Gillespie built a two-story wooden structure that served as his general merchandise store until 1863. The Odd Fellows Lodge was headquartered upstairs.

Gillespie advertised that he carried dry goods, groceries, boots, shoes, hardware, tinware and farming implements. He was the town’s postmaster and the agent for the Solano newspaper.

In 1857, photographers McKnown and Bishop set up a studio in a room above Gillespie’s store. Only a few days after settling in, the flame from a candle leaped to the canvas-lined walls. The fire nearly destroyed the photographers’ entire stock of pictures, cases and apparatus. Their loss was about $400.

The citizens of Vacaville quickly extinguished the flames, and the fire damage was confined to the one room. McKnown announced they would be back in business within a few days.

In 1863, Gillespie won his bid for sheriff of Solano County. He gave up his business and moved to Suisun City.

Little is known of the building’s use until the 1890s. By 1897, J. and I. Blum owned Gillespie’s old store and were using it as a warehouse. An article noting the sale of the property that year described the warehouse as a landmark: “One of the first, if not the first, business buildings in town. Thousands of dollars worth of merchandise have passed through its doors, and in the upper story was organized Vacaville Lodge No. 83, IOOF.”

The property was purchased by L.H. Peterson and his partner, Joseph Legler.

Peterson had been the business manager of the Dixon Tribune since 1893. In 1896, he purchased Constable Joe Stadtfeld’s fruit and vegetable business, which was housed in the Triangle Building, and moved to Vacaville with his new bride.

Peterson and Legler removed the landmark Gillespie’s store and replaced it with a one- and two-story brick building. Peterson was to have his fruit and produce store in half of the building, which was one story. Legler was to open a bakery in the other half, a two-story building. An ice cream and soda parlor was to occupy a portion of the bakery.

Half of the basement was to be fitted with a baking oven and other necessary appurtenances for a “first-class’’ bakery. Legler was considering having his living quarters on the second floor.

In December 1897, construction was under way. Legler’s share of the cost for building the Vienna Bakery was $3,200. Peterson’s share for building Peterson’s Cash Store was $2,200.

In March 1898, Legler disposed of a bakery he had in Winters. In September 1898, he sold his Vacaville bakery to Karl Kopp.

The Triangle Building’s history dates to 1859, when Mason Wilson purchased the triangle-shaped lot from land partners S. Clinton Hastings and John Currey. In 1882, Wilson died, leaving the property to his wife, Luzena. The lot was unimproved.

In July 1883, Luzena Wilson sold the triangle lot to James D. McClain for $300. McClain, publisher of Reporter, declared it, beyond doubt, the most valuable location in Vacaville. He proposed building a five-story structure with a marble edifice there.

McClain signed the property over to his wife, Mary, and proceeded to build a modified version of his grandiose dream. The completed two-story wooden structure was built by local contractor J. M. Daggett. Ornamental tin work provided a nice fronting for the building. The Reporter moved its operation to this site and stayed until 1885.

The records become confusing with a listing of several sales that apparently did not ever reach fruition. In September 1883, it is recorded that McClain sold the property to M.R. Miller for $1,000.

Miller was a most prominent citizen who had a developing interest in town property. Then the property was sold to S.C. Walker, another prominent citizen. In 1884, a 25-by-50-foot piece of the triangle lot was sold to an Ernest M. Treuholtz of Petaluma for a drugstore. The record then shows that in 1889 McClain sold the property to Frederick Hutton for $4,000 and Hutton signed the property over to his wife, Charlotte A. Hutton.

In 1896, Dr. C.A. Weldon, a dentist, had his offices in the Triangle Building, also know as the Hutton Building or the Hutton Triangle. Hutton made an addition to the building for a watermelon store, and Louis Landsberger opened an ice cream parlor there.

In 1897, the Vacaville Bookstore, agent for the San Francisco Chronicle, was located in the Triangle building. J.T. Pendegast moved his real estate office to the building in an office formally occupied by Dr. Scraggs.

It was this year that Charlotte Hutton received a loan of $6,000 to construct a new building on the triangle. This was going to be a two-story brick structure.

Contractor George Waggoner drew up the plans and construction commenced May 21, 1897. Mary McClain still owned a 25-foot portion of the lot fronting Main Street. In August, she conveyed this piece to Hutton for $2,000.

In descriptions of the progressing construction, it is apparent there were several buildings on the triangle. In March and April, at least two old buildings were taken down. Later, the two-story structure McClain built was removed. This may have been the “four-room building’’ Hutton had moved to Merchant Street, where it was to be remodeled for a total of $500.

The cost of Charlotte Hutton’s new building was $12,000. It was described as a large, two-story brick with basement covering the Triangle Block and facing Main, Merchant and Dobbins streets. It featured three units for stores on the first floor and 16 offices upstairs. Part of the basement was to be fitted for businesses; the rest was to be used for storage by the first-floor occupants.

It was announced that Crystal Bros. would occupy a store in the Hutton (Triangle) Building fronting Main. Among the store’s key features were two large windows fronting Main Street. A corner room facing Merchant and Dobbins was fitted for an office.

At the same time that Charlotte Hutton was having her building constructed, L.H. Peterson was in the process of building his store at Gillespie’s old stand. However, he was still operating the produce business he bought from Stadtfeld in the store in the triangle.

Back in 1897, when Charlotte first announced her intentions to build the Triangle Building, Peterson signed a lease for a store on the first floor. When the old building was removed, Peterson was forced to move out temporarily. Then Hutton did not want to honor Peterson’s lease. An arbitrator was brought in. The lease was canceled and Hutton paid Peterson $100 in gold coin.

The Triangle Building was finished May 2, 1898. Rents ranged from $2.50 to $65 a month.

In 1901, Charlotte Hutton signed a Quit Claim Deed over to attorney Raleigh Barcar. In 1908, Raleigh Barcar died. The building was put up for sale.

Markers will be placed on the Triangle Building and the Heritage House Cafe at 10 a.m. Saturday. The street will be roped off and the public is invited to this event.

Persons who wish to donate to the Historic Markers, dedicated to identifying historic sites and buildings and placing plaques to commemorate their importance, can send a check to “Historic Markers,’’ City Hall, 650 Merchant St., Vacaville 95688.