Cross Posted with permission by Chris Rocha at VintageFresno.com
Thursday morning*, the Expositor building (Fresno’s first newspaper) was voted in by Fresno City Council as Historic Property #292. The oldest commercial building in Fresno (1881/1888 -it had two periods of construction in it’s early years for the 1st and 2nd floor) had been completely forgotten over the years by Fresno… until John Rupe. John Rupe is what you would call a self-made historian. His knowledge of Downtown is something to be admired. He could tell you where each building was located, for how long, who worked/lived there, what kind of business was there and.. if it still exists today behind the exterior that now makes up the Fulton Mall.
One of John’s passions is recreating Downtown Fresno as it was at the turn of the 20th century. (His pieces can be seen displayed in the window at Peeve’s Publichouse). He does this by meticulously creating models of the historic buildings that once made up a beautiful, intricate, and ornate Downtown Fresno. In 2013, while looking at Sanborn Insurance maps from the 1880’s to study the block to continue creating his models.. he found The Expositor.
Located at 1027/31, currently occupied as two separate botanical stores (the building was turned into two separate shops at some point in time), the Expositor lies behind years of added on “renovating” that include metal sheet paneling, stucco, and tile. In September of 2014, John and others from “Fresno’s Past” (a Facebook group I highly suggest joining if you love history!), along with the owner of the building, explored the building, including the second floor that hadn’t been accessible let alone used in decades since it’s staircase had been removed years ago. While searching the basement of the building, what he found inside would make any history lover envious.. newspapers from the Expositor from the 1890’s, glass bottles dated from the same period, a 1930’s/40’s watch display for a jeweler’s display, and a decorative horseshoe. His second trip into the basement at a later date, he found an original brick from “parapet” which once was a piece at the top of the building.
In January, John Rupe and Craig Scharton, this time joined by some of the folks from Johnson Architecture (they’re the ones who’s impeccable work renovated the Hotel Virginia, Kearney Mansion, Tower Theatre, T.W. Patterson Building, and the Sante Fe Depot.. just to name a few) climbed up to the second floor to explore, but with a purpose. Johnson Architecture’s Facebook page posted this photo after the event with the caption:
“Investigating the oldest remaining building in Fresno! More to be revealed later…”
Since then, in February the building passed a test it underwent which tested for any toxic materials in the building, asbestos for instance. This gives a green light to proceed with removing the interior that has been added and has been hiding the original foundation for decades. Craig Scharton, owner of Peeve’s Publichouse and Aaron Blair, President of the Downtown Fresno Partnership are working with John Rupe and the owner of the building to bring The Expositor back to life.
I will be posting updates , so stay tuned…