Board of Directors
Sunnyside Property Owners
2018-2019 Board of Directors
· President: Debbie Christian | 559-287-3019
· Vice President: Jackie Grazier
· Treasurer: Randy Sakamoto
· Recording Secretary: Debby McCann
· Corresponding Secretary: Sue Williams
· Parliamentarian: Karen Musson
July 1, 2018 - June 30, 2020
July 1, 2018 – June 30, 2019
Meetings are the second Thursday of the month at 6 pm at the Sunnyside Fire Station conference room and are open to the public. If you have an agenda item, please contact the President.
SUNNYSIDE CITIZENS PATROL
The SUNNYSIDE CITIZENS PATROL is a volunteer organization focused on maintaining the peace and tranquility of the Sunnyside area. One of the most successful neighborhood watch groups in the San Joaquin Valley, the Sunnyside Citizens Patrol started in June 1997. The group’s success is built on a close working relationship with the Fresno County Sheriffs Department, the support of Sunnyside Property Owners Association and the Sunnyside residents. Two-person teams can be seen driving their vehicle with a large magnetic star and signs spelling out Sunnyside Citizens Patrol on any given day of the week–morning, noon or night.
Volunteer and Responsibilities: The Sunnyside Citizens Patrol always need and welcomes volunteers. Potential volunteers are required to fill out an application, which is reviewed by the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department. Once cleared, volunteers will meet with patrol trainer, Ron Johnson to learn the proper protocol for patrolling the Sunnyside Community.
In 1920, the Fresno Irrigation District (District) became the successor to the privately owned Fresno Canal and Land Company. The District inherited over 800 miles of canals and distribution networks that were constructed between 1860 and 1890.
The section through the Sunnyside area is known for its large trees and wildlife on the eastern side of the irrigation road and the western side of the barren ditch-bank between Kings Canyon Road and Butler was converted into a tree-lined parkway in November 1993 through the leadership of volunteers Al Hammerstrom, Del Runyon, Don McCall and Mel Kazarian, along with a number of other neighborhood volunteers. The group spent several years planning the project and securing financial support, permission from the County and the Fresno Irrigation District.
It is a favorite walking area for local neighbors due to the large trees offering shade and water flow attracting water fowl and other wild life.
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Sunnyside was the original settling place for many of Fresno’s Founding Fathers: Butler, Church, Easterby, Eisen, Roeding, Romain, Locan, Teague, and Kearney, names that remain prominent today as the names of Fresno’s streets, schools, and parks. Sunnyside’s rich history began in 1868 with the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad and the San Joaquin Valley Land Association. Sunnyside’s soil and climate were well suited for agriculture but without an ample water supply there were no crops for commercial market. Then in 1872, Moses J. Church devised an irrigation plan to divert water from the Kings River. Church converted A. J. Easterby’s “Banner Ranch” at Kings Canyon Road and Peach Avenue into a garden spot. This “miracle in the desert” -Sunnyside – attracted the attention of Leland Stanford visiting Fresno. Stanford, in seeing the Easterby Ranch decided to locate the Fresno Railroad Station and the town of Fresno in sight of Sunnyside (6 miles away) rather than along the San Joaquin River as originally planned.
Sunnyside played an important part in Fresno’s history. It was Sunnyside’s green irrigated beauty that ultimately determined the location and development of downtown Fresno. It was also the birthplace of Fresno’s wine industry. Fresno County’s wine industry got its start in 1873 at Francis T. Elsen’s commercial vineyard on Fancher Creek at Kings Canyon Road and Clovis Avenues. His first vintage, reaped in 1875, eventually led him to build the Sunnyside Winery. With “Church Ditches” and the railroad, Sunnyside quickly became one of the leading wine growing districts of California. Today, the wine and grape industry plays a leading role in Fresno County’s economy producing $500 Million in sales in 1995.
Remarkably, the legacy of Sunnyside’s name was born in 1890 with William N. Oothout’s purchase of 560 acres from Frederick Roeding. Oothout’s ranch was located directly across the street from Eisen’s vineyard at Kings Canyon Road and Clovis Avenues. The first Thompson seedless grapes in the Fresno area were planted here by Oothout and closely guarded to prevent others from getting cuttings. The ranch was named the Sunnyside Vineyard by Oothout. This is thought to be the origin of the name Sunnyside.
Sunnyside was very different from the rest of rural Fresno. Here flowed great wealth, mostly from San Francisco. In 1911, a group of Fresnans, including George C. Roeding, C.C. Teague and Frank Romain, bought a portion of the old Sunnyside Vineyard and the Oothout’s colonial home for a golf course. The club perpetuated the name of the historic ranch from which its purchase had been made and took the name Sunnyside Golf and Country Club. The Oothout home was used as the clubhouse until it was destroyed by a fire in 1941. The Sunnyside Golf & Country Club is the oldest golf club in California.
Among the well-known early ranches in Sunnyside were those of Minna Eshleman Sherman, M. Theo Kearney, Frederick Roeding and son George C. Roeding. Minna Eshleman started with the purchase of 480 acres in 1886 from the Henrietta Vineyard Company at Minnewawa and California Avenues. Her “Minnewawa Ranch” was named from Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha. It was the first ranch in Fresno County to be developed by a woman. Minna was an educator, a business woman, a breeder, a farmer, a packer and a shipper. Her extensive work to improve agricultural standards, educate breeders and farmers, and keen business ideas were important contributions to Fresno’s history and California agriculture. Governor Hiram W. Johnson appointed her a regent of the University of California for her work. Her original home still graces the Minnewawa Ranch at the end of the beautiful tree lined road of Minnewawa Avenue.
The site of today’s Sunnyside High School was formerly the site of the Fresno Winery (a.k.a. Pacific Coast Winery). The winery was established in 1880-81 by M. Theo Kearney. Sunnyside was a lush and green spot in an otherwise forsaken and sparse area. Kearney realized the value of Sunnyside’s tree-lined roads and irrigation canals; he was the first important property developer in the area to buy and sub-divide Sunnyside property into smaller parcels. The original Kearney home was located on the site now occupied by the Elks Lodge on Kings Canyon Road. The palm trees lining the street between Willow and Peach were planted by Kearney over 100 years ago.
The Sunnyside Elementary School was open for only a short time in 1969 in the old one-room school house previously occupied by Easterby School. It was located between Peach and Minnewawa directly across Kings Canyon Road from Sunnyside High School. The Easterby School is now located on Tulare at Peach Avenue.
George C. Roeding, unlike his father, was fascinated with growing things. In 1885, he came to work and eventually own his father’s Fancher Creek Nursery (a.k.a. Roeding California Nursery) between Kings Canyon, Belmont, Fowler and Temperance Avenues developing it into an international horticultural business. Roeding, a leading California nurseryman and fruit grower, developed the Calimyra fig at Roeding Place. Roeding Place was destroyed by an electrical fire in 1917 and Roeding returned to the Bay Area. The few remains of the imposing home can still be found at the end of the palm tree lined drive at Kings Canyon Road and Armstrong Avenue on the Golden Dawn Ranch.
Today, the name Sunnyside is adopted by many enterprises and is applied to a broad and growing area; but, its “roots” actually date back to 1890 – over a hundred years ago – to W. N. Oothout’s “Sunnyside Vineyard”.
Sunnyside has a proud history and a bright future. Today, it remains one of Fresno’s finest communities with beautiful tree-lined streets and garden landscapes.
Sunnyside’s Historic Treescapes
Sunnyside is well known for its beautiful tree-lined streets, but did you know that two of these streets are on the County’s List of Historic Places?
Recognizing the historic significance of Butler and Minnewawa Avenues’ treescapes, the Board of Supervisors approved SPOA’s application to place Butler and Minnewawa Avenues on the County’s List of Historic Places. Butler Avenue from Clovis to Sunnyside Avenues was designated as Site #200. The treescape along Butler Avenue from Peach to Clovis Avenues, and Minnewawa Avenue from the California alignment to Kings Canyon Road was placed on the County’s List as Site #201.
The American Elms and Palms on Butler from Clovis to Sunnyside Avenues once lined the entrance to the William N. Oothout Vineyard. All the trees are in the Fresno County Road Right of Way.
The Palm and Olive Trees lining both sides of Butler, west of Clovis Avenue to Peach Avenue and on Minnewawa, south of Kings Canyon, are located in both the City and County of Fresno and on public and private property. Historians credit M. Theo Kearney with personally helping plant many of the trees that still line Butler, Peach and Ventura Avenues.
The area is historically significant because it is associated with early pioneer business families and land development in Fresno County.
Both Minnewawa and Butler Avenues are designated as Landscaped Drives in the Fresno County General Plan and as Scenic Corridors in the City of Fresno General Plan.
The Senator Ray W. and Marie C. Hays Home
The newest home on the City of Fresno’s Local Register of Historic Resources is the Senator Ray W. and Marie C. Hays Home, right here in Sunnyside. The home is located at 1616 South Minnewawa Avenue. Although the current parcel is a nearly two acres, the property was originally 44 acres and stretched south from the southwest corner of Butler and Minnewawa to its border with the Minnewawa Ranch at the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks. The house was built in 1937, and appears to have been built in tandem with the home of UC Regent Earl Fenston, located across Minnewawa (now 5424 E Butler). The olive trees in front of the Hays House (along with the others on South Minnewawa and East Butler) were designated historic landscape on the Fresno County Landmark list in 2000.
Ray Hays was born in Mineral Point, Wisconsin on July 9, 1889 and moved with his family to California in 1890 where they settled on a farm near what is now Jefferson Elementary School in Clovis. Hays received his BA in 1911 and JD in 1913 from the University of California Berkeley and practiced law in San Francisco and Fresno before enlisting in the Army in 1916. He served in General Pershing's Mexican Expedition in search of Pancho Villa and thereafter entered the Army's 91st Infantry Division in World War I, fighting in Belgium and France. Hays was a member of the California State Senate from 1930 to 1942, when he was appointed the Adjutant General for the State of California during World War II, attaining the rank of Brigadier General. After the war, he served as inheritance tax appraiser from 1946 to 1958. Ray and Marie raised four children on the ranch, two sons (both attorneys) and two daughters Senator Ray Hays died in 1973 and Marie died in 1993. One son, James, served as naval aviator in World War II, went to Stanford Law School after the war, and designed his own home in the style of Cliff May at the south end of the property – which still stands at 1908 South Minnewawa Avenue. When James was married in 1951, Ray planted a deodar cedar tree in front of the house that now towers over the property.
The house itself contains five bedrooms and six baths, and is largely in its original condition. It has a complex plan, multiple roof planes and a series of step backs along the principle elevation. Stylistically it draws from a diversity of architectural traditions: the Craftsman (with some exposed rafter tails), the Tudor Revival (with a front gabled facade bay and four cantilevered second story windows) and Colonial Revival with the interior main staircase, low pitched shingled roof and exterior white paint with green shutters. The main entrance is offset to the north and inset under a porch. The heavy wood door has a diagonal pattern and has fluted wood side panels inset within a wood casework surround. The roof of the one story porch is supported by distinctive brick piers, one at the corner and two engaged. Most windows in the home are 4/4 double hung sash with wood muntins and true divided lights. A fixed 12 pane window is on the first story of the east end of the front room and double French doors are located on the north side, leading out to a salt water swimming pool complex. An interior fireplace is located on the north elevation of the home. The residential portion of the home has both stucco and horizontal wood cladding. The south end terminates in a tack room with maid’s quarters above. An attached two car garage with newer door is immediately south. The tack room and garage are differentiated from the residential building through the use of vertical board and batten siding – indicating that this is the working portion of the home. The rear of the house contains an enclosed second story sleeping porch traversing the rear elevation of the main home, providing nightly relief from the summer heat.
Who is responsible for this home (and likely the Fenston home) remains a bit of a mystery. Hays family tradition attributes this home to Charles E. Butner (1888-1957), a well-known California architect active in Fresno in the 1920s and 1930s. Butner designed many stately homes in Fresno, as well as Twining Laboratories (1930) and the Physicians Building (1926) in Downtown Fresno. Other sources suggest the home was designed by another well-known Fresno architect – H. Rafael Lake (1894-1958). Lake designed his own house as a complex Spanish farmhouse built on four levels with a complex roof line, which still stands on the northeast corner of Clovis and Butler. Both Butner and Lake were members of the Sunnyside Country Club, as was Hays and Fenston. Still other sources suggest the home was built by the venerable Fresno builder Taylor-Wheeler.
When friends learn about the historic listing, they are initially concerned that we’ve made a mistake and unwittingly limited our use of the home. The truth is exactly the opposite. As a historic resource, we are able to utilize the more flexible historic building code for changes to the house. In the City of Fresno, we are also eligible to reduce our annual property taxes under the Mills Act. And experience shows that listing properties as historic resources actually increases the value of the property – as well as the surrounding neighborhood. There are so many great properties in Sunnyside that are worthy of recognition and should be celebrated as the gems they are.
One of the great things about Sunnyside is the abundance of unique, historic homes. The neighborhood is also central to Fresno’s history. Learning about the house and the history of the neighborhood has been a rewarding experience. Much of the contextual information was provided by Ray’s granddaughter, Chris Hays, who is an interior designer helping to bring out the original features of the home. The City of Fresno’s former Historic Preservation Director Karana Hattersley-Drayton was convinced to come out of retirement to help prepare the nomination for the Historic Preservation Commission.
Submitted by: Ryan Eddings and Brianne Marriott
Sunnyside Garden Club
The Kiss of the Sun for Pardon
The Song of the Birds for Mirth
I am Closer to God’s Heart in a Garden
Than anywhere else on Earth
The Sunnyside Garden Club was founded in 1952 and is an educational organization. Our objective is to study the phases of flower culture, gardening, and landscaping as well as to create order, beauty and comfort in our yards, homes, and community. Meetings are held from October to June on the third Wednesday of the month. Membership is by invitation with annual dues of $35.00. Contact Debbie Christian at firstname.lastname@example.org.