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Food And Lodging

John Rico

In the days of the horse and buggy, Vacaville had many hotels, among them being The Davis House, operated for a time by a Gen. E. S. Davis of Oakland. This was back about 80 years ago.

The hotel offered such services as free carriage from all trains; all rooms were outside; and were newly papered and painted. You could have good board, good water, and clean linen, and there was good sewerage.

Vacaville in those days was known from the Pacific to the Atlantic for its fruit growing, and easterners accustomed to the cold climate of many of the states wanted to see the promised land of California, and especially the area around Vacaville famed for the delicious fruits. They came to Vacaville by train, sometimes special trains, and it took several hotels to accommodate the number of persons who made these trips.

There were no radio or TV In those days, and an interesting night spent at the Davis House was around the hearthstone and the swapping of stories about gold diggings, Indians, bears and the crossing of the plains.

Vacaville residents of today —22,500 of them — perhaps are not too concerned with the past. They accept Vacaville as it is, and although they know vaguely of the days of the pioneers Vaca and Pena, the long hard past road here is only a memory.

In the days of the pioneers, Vaca and Pena, there was virgin soil here, with streams in abundance, and wild oats growing taller than a horse. But the lands here were destined to grow more than oats and grains. The bountiful sunshine, long summers, brought about the planting of vegetables and fruits.

In the early days of Vacaville’s yesteryear when migrants came here to discover the new land, one of the largest land owners was Dr. W. J. Dobbins, who purchased 1200 acres of valley lands and thousands of acres of hill lands, with cattle raising his prime objective. Today much of Vacaville’s residential area is built on lands formerly owned by Dobbins.

The raising of cattle soon gave way to wheat crops, and before long vegetable growing and the planting of orchards and vineyards came upon the local scene. As soon as the fruits reached eastern markets Vacaville’s fame spread.

It took large quantities of laborers to handle the fruit crops because once ripening there was no waiting. Thousands of Chinese, brought to the California coast from China to work in the gold fields, were available to work on the ranches and for $1 a day there was an unlimited source of this labor. Hard working and trustworthy, the employer found the Chinese were far more dependable than the whites.

A similarity between this part of California and parts of Italy tempted many Italians to come to the area, settling in the hills north of Vacaville where they labored hard to grow vegetables for the San Francisco market. This was all done without irrigation. As time passed many of these newcomers planted vineyards and orchards, and the procedure skyrocketed to a point where for miles and miles and as far as the eye could see, there was an endless array of vineyards and orchards.

There was money to be made in this new-found agricultural pursuit. An energetic San Francisco banker knew about this Vacaville wealth and he made many trips to the area seeking accounts for this fast-growing bank. It was A. P. Gianini and his Bank of Italy.

And then came the depression years of the ‘30’s. Fruit was a luxury and hungry mouths wanted bread to eat. The decline of the fruit industry here was underway and today many of the hills are dotted with dying stumps of trees which for decades represented green, thriving orchards.

Fruit growing and hotels went hand in hand. Today without the fruit industry Vacaville is without a hotel.