Posted by Fulton Corridor
If you’ve ever looked at an old map of Fresno or even just paid attention to the grid of street names, you’ve probably already inferred that I originally was called “J” Street. All in all, not a shabby letter to get saddled with so I’d certainly never complain about my humble beginnings, but I’d like to tell you the story of how I came to bear the grand name of “Fulton”.
This man was the owner of the Grand Central Hotel that was on J and Mariposa, Fulton G. Berry. Right now that site is where one of my favorite people in town, Mr. Body Fitness, spends afternoons working out and the preacher yells the Word to anyone who walks by. You probably know it as Mariposa Plaza or the Free Speech Area. However, in the late 1800’s this corner was a hub of activity for the hoity-toity high-brow people- you know, the type of refined folks who like things like “oyster parlors”. Look more closely at the image below if you don’t believe me. That was a thing! Being the street I never actually figured out what an oyster parlor really is, but the word on the, well, me, was that it was absolutely the best in Fresno.
Fulton G. Berry wanted to share the riches of Fresno with the rest of the world, and he may have been the perfect man to do so. What people loved about him wasn’t just that his hotel was clean (which it was) with a well stocked bar (which it had). It was the fact that he was a total spitfire that made him a local legend. His sense of humor was unrivaled and he was well known as a prankster.
He’s probably the only person who has legitimately slipped on a banana peel, too. He was knocked out and even had to be stitched up. I’d like to point out that this was NOT ON MY WATCH, thank you very much. San Francisco is full of unknown perils.
When he passed away (the night after seeing his daughter perform at the Barton Opera House.) a crowd assembled for his funeral, which he had planned beforehand. If you don’t plan for your own funeral they’ll never take your wishes for a parade seriously. And a parade there was- brass bands, a beer wagon- quite a raucous celebration! For a wonderfully detailed account, read this except from The Valley’s Legends and Legacies Vol. 1. He was so well known that his death even made the New York Times.
Often described as “Flamboyant“, Fulton G. Berry truly left his mark on Fresno. After his death in 1910 I was renamed “Fulton Street” in memorial to one of the most fun people to ever travel over me. On a white stallion. Dressed in all white as a Spanish Don. Just for kicks. It has been an absolute honor to bear your name, Mr. Berry.