Shopping in Fallbrook, 1892: Businesses along Main and Alvarado Streets

Change comes regularly to Fallbrook. We view with regret the loss of Jack and Dorothy Tanner from our Main Street business community. However, we will always have good memories of shopping at their Village Stationers. The Historical Society wishes them well in retirement and reminds them of their promise to come to the History Museum occasionally to share with visitors a bit of themselves and their forty-five years of service to Fallbrook.

When the Tanner's sold 101 to 113 N. Main, the new owners and prospective businesses asked a number of questions. When was the building completed? Who built it? What was in that location earlier? While searching for the answers, I looked again at our copy of an 1892 fire map of Fallbrook's downtown. There, on what we know as Tanner's corner, is a little building labeled "Post Office." This map shows structure outlines and details and the type of use, but no names of owners. To find who served as Postmaster, I read the 1891 to 1894 lists of Fallbrook families and occupations which I had copied from San Diego County Directories. The name listed as Postmaster was George Scott. He was also an insurance agent and broker, and he was secretary to the Fallbrook Board of Irrigation.

I tried to picture what it might have been like to go shopping in Fallbrook in those days. Using the 1892 map, the directory lists, and old newspapers, I imagined a Fallbrook rancher bringing his family to town for their regular Saturday visit. From the Directory, I chose J.G.Martin, 47, whose homestead of 240 acres was out on Alvarado Street. His wife, Emilia, 33, was the daughter of Fallbrook pioneer, Vital Reche. She was born in Temecula before the Civil War, and had come with her family to Fallbrook District in 1875. The Martin children were Arthur (9) and Emily (7). J.G. Martin would have driven his family to town in their buggy, and he could have hitched their horse to the rail between the little Post Office building and the Fallis Brothers' general merchandise store. (The map shows a space between the two.) While Mr. Martin and Arthur could have visited the Post Office, Mrs. Martin and Emily might have gone to Fallis' General Store to buy sugar for the apricots they were canning. Continuing our imaginary visit, parents and children then walked north on Main Avenue (there were no sidewalks). They passed Morrison's two story furniture store and Fisher's little photo shop, to reach the shoe store owned by Mr. Fish (about where the Two Bees is today). When Arthur's boot was repaired, they retraced their steps until they were in front of the Post Office. {In the entire block, which extended from Alvarado to Ivy, the only other structure was a vacant two story building (location of today's frame shop, The Artery)}.

It had rained the night before, and the dirt street called Main Avenue was muddy. A light rain began falling and the children were hungry, so their parents discussed whether or not they should cross Main and visit the bakery at the FallBrook House. This was a two story hotel on the northwest corner of the intersection. It had a wide sheltering verandah on Main and along the Alvarado Street side. Owned by Matthew Tomlins, it had a dining room, kitchen and bakery in the one story addition on the north side. (This small hotel was located where Stewart's is now.) But the rain stopped, and Mr.Martin wanted to do more shopping, so they carefully crossed Alvarado Street, which still had a tiny stream of water flowing down the middle, to reach Bartlett and Shipley's hardware store on the opposite corner (now the Village Square). There they bought a stove for the kitchen Mr. Martin was adding to their little house. After this purchase, they walked a few steps east on Alvarado Street to the Livery Stable of H.M.Bush, to arrange for a wagon to deliver the stove to their ranch. (In 1916, after the railroad was routed into town from its original location down by the river, the livery stable was remodeled into the two story building now occupied by Massage Arts.)

By now, everyone was hungry, and they decided to go to the big hotel to have lunch. They followed Alvarado Street back to Main, walking close to the hardware store to keep out of the mud. They crossed Main at the intersection and followed Alvarado nearly to Pico Street, where, coming down the hill, was a surrey loaded with passengers who had arrived on the morning train from San Diego. They watched while it pulled up to the steps of the big three story Willard Hotel (located in today's big parking lot, up toward the Library), which had 40 rooms, and a large parlor and dining room on the first floor. The sign over the entrance still read THE WILLARD, but the hotel had recently been purchased by Dr.N.C.Clark, MD, a homeopathic physician, who was planning to specialize in medical services, and operate it under a new name, the FALLBROOK SANITARIUM.

After lunch, Mr. And Mrs. Martin and Arthur and Emily, walked down to the corner of Alvarado and Main again, this time to the southwest corner, to see A.J.Clark, cashier at the Fallbrook Bank. Their path took them beside the long building which fronted on Main (today the Art and Cultural Center's location), where the Fallbrook Trading Company sold general merchandise and drugs. They stopped here briefly at Dr. Parker's new little office, which was reached from inside the Trading Company's store. However, the doctor wasn't in his office, and they learned that he and a partner's discovery of a quartz ledge near De Luz was still keeping him busy. The new mine was thought to be rich in gold and silver, but assay results were not yet available. Leaving the store, they went next door to the bank's tiny office, so Mr. Martin could make a payment on his loan. {These were the only businesses in the entire hotel block, which was bounded by Main, Elder, Mill (today's Mission) Avenue, and Alvarado Street.}

It was mid afternoon by that time, and they hurried across Alvarado, past the Fallbrook House, and up Main to the newspaper office, where Van Velzer published his paper, The Fallbrook Union, every Friday. After Mr. Martin arranged to have the newspaper sent to his brother, he and Arthur went back to the little barbershop near Fallbrook House, while Emily and Mrs. Martin walked up to the store at the corner of Main and Hawthorn, where Mrs. Anna Robinson sold hats and fancy goods. She advertised the latest styles from New York. (Now the location of the Main Street Mini Mall.)

Finally finished with all their errands, the family again crossed Main Avenue to reach the hitching rail between Fallis' store and the Post Office. Mr. Martin untied their horse while the others climbed into the buggy, and they rode home to meet the wagon with their new stove.

A word about the Martin family, which I selected to be the hypothetical Fallbrook shoppers. In 1882, Joseph George Martin, who was a teacher as well as a rancher, became owner of 240 acres in Fallbrook District by using the U.S. Homestead Law. A year earlier, he had married Emilia, a daughter of pioneer, Vital Reche. In 1892, when he was 47 and she was 33, their children were Arthur, 9, and Emily, 7, and in the years after 1892, they had two more children. Son Arthur grew up in Fallbrook, married, and had several children, including a son named Reche. Arthur later owned a successful drygoods store in Fallbrook named Ridgley and Martin. (After many moves, the building which housed his business still exists. It is now called Heritage Hall, and is located on West Beech Street, part of the Heritage Square complex.) Daughter Emily grew up, became a teacher like her father, and taught at Fallbrook Grammar School. The reason there is more information about them than the usual Fallbrook family is that in 1915, five members of the family died of food poisoning. Mrs.Emilia Reche Martin, her daughters Emily and Florence, son George, and grandson, Reche, all died after eating home canned apricots. Newspaper coverage was extensive and provided much background information.

Copyright © 1998 by Fallbrook Historical Society
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Comments and feedback: Elizabeth Yamaguchi
Last update: 25 December 1998.