Imprisoned! A Reedley History Article

Dec 6, 2014 | 2014 Articles, Hometown History, Jim Bulls

by Jim Bulls

In this article Jim Bulls is Speaking for the Granger Building.

From Craycroft bricks kilned on G Street by Chinese immigrants some 122 years ago, I rose near the railroad tracks of Reedley. I was called the Granger Warehouse and I would soon be known as the largest wheat warehouse west of the Mississippi River. When the bottom fell out of the wheat market, I became the home of the largest raisin plant in the world. I had a part in providing tasty treats to our doughboys during World War I.


Granger building

A little side story here, when I was owned by Sun Maid, Reedley resident Bob Melgard’s father was my night watchman. He wore one of those leather-clad time clocks around his neck to mark time as he made his rounds. One night, for some reason long forgotten, four-year-old Bob had to accompany his father to work. As they made the rounds, Bob would clasp his Daddy’s hand tightly. I was a pretty big building, and it was dark and “spooky” to a child. Bob grew up to join the Navy and serve in World War II.

In the 1950s, I served as a warehouse for agricultural chemicals under the ownership of Grower’s Supply. Someone ran into one of my walls with a forklift and I suffered a crack. My next venture into agriculture was with Max Fleming and the new generation cardboard box technology for produce shipping. When Fleming expanded his business into Parlier, the City of Reedley offered him a land deal in the new industrial park and I became city property in the exchange.

For a while Ed Croissant leased me for an auction house. That was a very successful enterprise, bringing people into town for the auction and also to visit downtown Reedley stores and dine in our many restaurants. Then the City Inspector “condemned” me. Evidently I was in compliance for light industry but not for public occupancy. The auction house closed.


I sat cold and empty for a long time. Only the sparrows could penetrate my walls, flying from rafter to rafter with their songs echoing through my 20,000 square foot chamber. Then there was another strange sound, different from the braying of mules or forklifts or the auctioneer. It was teenagers on skateboards! Somehow they found a way in and had fabricated ramps and jumps out of old lumber. Did I mention how smooth and level my 122-year-old floors are? I liked the sound of laughter and even the groans when someone “wiped out”. It made me feel alive again.

Then one day, my large front door was rolled up, letting in the warm sunlight and a ray of hope. The shadows of men stood in the doorway. They were from the City, the Historical Society and the Friends of the Library. The Historical Society and Friends of the Library had contracted an engineering firm to evaluate my structural condition and to see if I might be retrofitted as a new library and events center.


Artist's renditions of what the building could look like as a library/events center

Later I heard someone said I had “passed” the structural tests. Retrofitting costs were estimated, and plans were drawn up showing how I might look after retrofitting. I was excited, but then I heard that the county librarian was not convinced and that there were two factions in the Friends of the Library: some for retrofitting and some who proclaimed “It ain’t gonna happen!”


Artist's renditions of what the building could look like as a library/events center

About this time, I also learned that I had changed owners again. Now the State of California owned me. Governor Brown had rescinded all the community redevelopment monies and the properties involved went back to the State. An oversight committee was formed to decide what to do with me and I was “sold” to Kings Canyon Unified School District for $1.00. There was no one on the committee who was interested in local history or historical building preservation. Some people said I was being “fed to the wolves”.

Just a week ago, I found out that there were still a lot of people who cared about me. About a hundred of my loyal supporters gathered around my front steps and spoke about me and the important role I played in the beginnings of our town. A lot of people said a lot of nice things about me and I felt very proud of my service to Reedley, but now I am imprisoned behind a chain link fence. The very next day after my supporters gathered around me, a demolition crew erected the fence.

I understand that I might have a very slight reprieve from the wrecking ball. The State of California Office of Historic Preservation has informed the City of Reedley and the school district of certain protocols that must be followed before demolishing a historic building. It is rumored that these protocols have not been followed and that a public town meeting has to be held.

So now I am just waiting, and hoping. Maybe it is too little, too late. But stranger things have happened. I hear that Charles Manson is getting married!

For more local and California history articles, including more Reedley history articles by Jim, be sure and check out our Hometown History section.

Jim Bulls is a contributor to our Hometown History section, being a charter member of the Reedley Historical Society; he also restores vintage cars.


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