Martinez Historical Society

Walking Tour of Martinez

Join us for a walking tour of Martinez.  See what has changed over the years. Many of these sites have plaques dedicated by the Martinez Historical Society as historic places of interest.


MuseumMartinez Museum

1005 Escobar Street

Built as home and office of Dr. John S. Moore in 1890. Known as the Borland House after 1900 when Moore's daughter Emma and her husband James H. Borland owned it. Rented to businesses including a palm reader, in the 1930's. Acquired by the Contra Costa Community College District in 1948 and used for administrative offices until 1973. Became the Museum of the Martinez Historical Society in June of 1976.

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sharkeysqSharkey Square

Court Street between Main & Escobar

Street widening created area dedicated as Sharkey Square in October of 1954 to honor State Sen. William R. Sharkey, 50 years newspaper publisher of the Contra Costa Gazette.

Plaque in the Square  reads - Sharkey Square, dedicated in memory of Will R. Sharkey 1879 - 1948. Publisher, Legislator, and Conservationist.

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origcourtFinance Building

625 Court Street

To the left is the 1901 replacement for 1855-56 Court House. The dome was removed in 1957 for earthquake safety. The building was converted for use as the County Finance Building in the 1960’s as courts moved to thefinance Hall of Records Building.
(National Historic Site.)




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maincourtContra Costa County Court House

725 Court Street

Originally built as County Hall of Records in 1931. It became a Court House in the 1960's

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newcourtJustice A.F. Bray Courts

1010 Ward Street

The Justice A.F. Bray Courts Building was dedicated in 1988, to house the additional newcourt2court rooms needed due to continued county growth A.F. Bray was a City Attorney, Superior Court Judge and Appellate Court Judge.



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postofficeMartinez Post Office

815 Court Street

First Post Office Established in 1851 on land purchased by the U.S. government. The current building, which is the fourth built to serve the City, is a Public Building Services, a division of the Treasury Department building, built in 1937. It has a Maynard Dixon mural on inside south wall

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vetsVeteran's Memorial Hall

930 Ward Street

Built after World War I by county donations and dedicated to the memory of all veterans.

Martinez Historical Society Plaque #10 Reads:  A memorial to the 76 servicemen who died in World War One. Commissioned by County Board of Supervisors in 1923 on Former S. Blum Barn Property. Now commemorates the memory of all who served in all wars.

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Martinez Library

740 Court Street

Library from 1883-1896

In 1883, a small group of young women formed a reading society and opened a public reading room at 620 Main Street in a building owned by Dr. John Strentzel.  The goals were to discuss literature and raise money for a free library.  In 1885, the society dissolved and reformed as the Martinez Free Reading Room and Library Association.  Members were charged 25 cents per month for the privilege of borrowing books.  Reading in the library was free to all. 

libraryoldLibrary from 1896-1941

After Strentzel's death, his wife and daughter donated a parcel of land at the corner of Estudillo and Main Streets to the Library Association.  A new library was built at the cost of $6,371.  The library stayed at this location for 56 years, until it outgrew the building.  In a 1938 election, Martinez voters passed an $18,000 bond issue to fund a new library building.  The Library Association offered a site at the corner of Court and Ward Streets.library

1941 - Present

The present building was completed and opened to the public in 1941.

Martinez Historical Society Plaque #18 commemorates the entire history of the Martinez Library.

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rankinsmRankin Building

736 Main Street

Sarah Rankin, ranch wife, mother of 8 and entrepreneur. Wife of James Rankin, Contra Costa Sheriff from 1885 to 1889.

Martinez Historical Society Plaque #5 Reads: Built in 1905 by Mrs. James Rankin after fire destroyed two city blocks.  Palm Garden Grill, W.G. Reed - Confectioner Stationer, E Pasch - Haberdasher, A. B. Wilson Jeweler  & Optician.

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cythallbldCity Hall Apartments

700-716 Main Street

Built in 1914, first apartment house in city with retail stores on ground floor. So named because it was adjacent to the Old City Hall and housed the bachelor firemen.

cityhallapp02Martinez Historical Society Plaque #9 Reads: Built in 1914... 1st apartment building in Martinez, built during refinery boom. Unique because it sits astride Alhambra Creek, retail stores were on the first floor professional offices and apartments on 2nd floor. Named for City Hall next door 1913 - 1956.

Realignment of the creek was completed in 2000 and is meanders through the plaza next to the building.

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origcityOld Martinez City Hall

Main Street Plaza Parking Lot (orig.site)

The city's first hotel, the Hotel de Steward, owned by a black ships cook was built on this site in 1850, and it stood on Ward Street facing Estudillo Street. In 1852, the property was sold to Josiah Sturgis who renamed the hotel, the Alhambra Hotel. Sturgis continued to operate the hotel until his death in 1897. Several years later the city purchased the property and the hotel was demolished in 1912 for a new city hall. The Ward Street side of the building was used as a firehouse. cityhallplaza02

The property became parking lot #1 after the City Hall building was demolished in 1956. Landscaping and a fountain were added to the front of the parking lot to create a plaza in 1981. Realignment of the creek and redesign of the plaza to stop downtown flooding was completed in 2000.


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610 Main Street

Site of first mercantile store in Martinez. The general store of Capt. Fogg, begun in 1849, was sold to Simon Blum, who maintained it until the 1880's when he sold it to Baer Bros, of San Francisco who sold it to D.L. Hilson. Until 1991, this building housed the Hilson's Department Store which began operation in the city in 1913.

Martinez Historical Society Plaque #3 Reads: On this site in 1852, Huram Fogg began a mercantile store. Operating as 1854 - 1897 Simon Blum and Bro, 1897 - 1912 Baer Bros, 1912 - 1986 Hilsons.

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eurikaNational Bank of Martinez

659 Main Street

Chartered April 15, 1924, the firm later became the Bank of Italy, to be followed by Bank of America. In the late 1940's that Bank of America moved across the street. Since then a variety of businesses have occupied the building.

Martinez Historical Society Plaque #8 Reads:  National Bank of Martinez Founded 1924

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origbank02Bank of Martinez

634 Ferry Street

Site marked is the location of first bank building and first bank chartered in Contra Costa County in 1873. Building was destroyed by fire in 1904. Entrance was bnkmtzon Main Street. Building was moved to corner or Main and Ferry in 1906, Entrance was relocated to Ferry Street. The opening was delayed by the San Francisco earthquake. John Muir banked at the 1873 site of the bank.curbankmtz

Martinez Historical Society Plaque #4 Reads: Bank of Martinez Founded on this site - October 7, 1873.


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hookbldHook Building

801 Main Street

Built in 1927 to replace the old Hook building that dates to 1853. This new building housed the James Hotel and Coffee Shop along with various hookmoldbusinesses. A cigar factory was located on the Ferry Street side where the Hoffman family made widely known Blue Bird Cigars.

Martinez Historical Society Plaque #13 Reads:  Hook Building 1926 Built to replace building destroyed by fire in 1925.  Originally built in 1854 by Pioneer & Prominent Landowner William Hook.  Occupied by the James Hotel - James Bulger Proprietor until closed in 1979.


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mcmahonMcMahon-Telfer Building

600-610 Ferry Street

Built in 1914, this replaced the Curry Livery Stable and Hall that burned in 1904. The Royal Theatre was upstairs and the upper hall was used for prize fight arenas, dances and traveling shows. Building was restored by McMahon Telfer Trust in 1980's. Received award from California Conference of Historical Societies for restoration with integrity.

Martinez Historical Society Plaque #7 Reads: 1862 site of Seely J. Bennett's Livery Stable and Social Hall. Destroyed by fire, 1904. 1913 built by Henry J. Curry with retail and offices, Royal Theatre, the city's first. 1939 building acquired by Mc Mahon Family.

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olddepotSouthern Pacific Depot and Locomotive

End of Ferry Street

Site of original Central Pacific depot of 1877. Southern Pacific depot beginning in the 1880's, and Amtrak depot until the opening of the new station nearby in 2001. The locomotive across the street represents steam trains that passed through in large numbers in the 1880 - 1950 era.

newdepotMartinez Historical Society Plaque #6 Reads: First located here April 28, 1876 by Central Pacific RR. First passenger train passed through on September 25, 1877 with Leland Stanford aboard.

Southern Pacific 1258

Southern Pacific steam locomotive number 1258 was one of 38 SP built S-12 switch engines. It was one of 6 built in SP's Los Angles shop's as LA Shop job # 8. Weighing nearly 80 tons, and operating at 200 psi steam pressure the 1258 and her sisters were the state of the art of steam efficiency at their time of conception in 1921. She spent most of her life working in the northern California area. Southern Pacific retired all of it's steam power by 1956, and the 1258 sat on the deadline track at Oakland yard waiting for the scrappers torch, when in 1959 trainshe was donated to the City of Martinez as a museum piece. She was moved to Rankin Park in the hills of Martinez, where she sat until being moved adjacent to the Southern Pacific, now Union Pacific main line at the Martinez Amtrak station in the mid 1980's. She now sits there with her tender, a wooden Santa Fe boxcar, and a Santa Fe caboose. Vandalism took a good part of her features away, but a group of local residents went to work painting her up and today she sits as pretty as she has been in years.

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trnbridgeSouthern Pacific Train Bridge

Carquinez Straits

Train bridge completed by Southern Pacific, October 15th, 1930. Tracks are currently owned by Union Pacific and used by Amtrak. It was the longest (5,603ft), heaviest double track span west of the Mississippi River.

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bergaminiBergamini Building

624 Ferry Street

Maximillian Bergamini's building dates to 1905 and replaced an earlier building destroyed in the August 1904 fire that leveled the entire block. It was a grocery and general store for many years.

Martinez Historical Society Plaque #12 Reads:  Built by Maximillian Bergamini in 1905 to replace grocery and notions store that was leveled in the block-wide fire of August 1904.

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phoneoldBell Telephone Company Building

736 Ferry Street

The telephone was brought to Martinez and the Northern Pacific Railroad depot on Ferry Street in 1881 by James Borland. After several moves a permanent home was sought and after a 1904 fire this property was sold to the telephone company.

Although we know this building as the A.F Bray, Jr. law offices, it started life as the home of the Bell Telephone Company, successor to the Contra Costa Telephone Company of San Francisco in 1881. The grand opening of the originally art deco structure was delayed four months after it was badly damaged by the phonebld1906 earthquake.

Martinez Historical Society Plaque #14 Reads:  Built after the Fire of 1904 which razed the entire block.  Occupied by Contra Costa Telephone founded in 1881 by J. Borland which was sold to Pacific Bell Telephone company in 1892 with R. Borland as superintendent for 40 years.  Offices of Bray and Bray since 1961.

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Italian Fishermen Monument

Martinez Marina

The Plaque located at the Martinez Marina honors the Italian Commercial Fishermen who fished the local waters from Crockett to Rio Vista. They brought their families here hoping for a better way of life. Families listed on the plaque have descendants who still make Martinez their home. The river was closed to commercial fishing in 1957 by the State of California.

Information from "Pioneer Italian Fishermen of Martinez", by Katherine "Tina" Davi Collins.

fishing boat

The boat pictured was the type used by the Italian Fishermen in local waters.

Names listed on the Plaque

Aiello, Antinio & Family

Aiello, Francesco & Family

Aiello, Guiseppe & Family

Aiello, Mercurio & Family

Aiello, Vincenzo & Family

Amato, Peter

Balestrieri, Gueseppe

Bellecci, Francesco & Family

Bellecci, John and Salvadore C.

Bellecci, Giovanni & Family

Bruno, Gaetano & Family

Cardinalli, Francesco & Family

Cardinalli, Nino & Family

Ciaramitaro, Francesco

Compagno, Salvatore

Compagno, Salvatore R.

Costanza, Rocco & Family

Davi, Peter B.

Di Maggio, Giuseppe & Family

Di Maggio, Nino Francis

Di Maggio, Salvatore & Family

Drago, Salvatore & Family

Ferrante, Horace

Ferranti, Giuseppe & Family

Ferranti, Peter & Family

Fontanna, Giuseppe & Family

Franchi, Tony & Family

Galli, Salvatore

Giamona, Paul & Family

Gianno, Pietro & Family

LaBello, Vincenzo & Rocco

LiCavoli, Giuseppe

Lucido, Agostino & Family

Lucido, Francesco & Orazio

Lucido, Frank, Paul & Family

Lucido, Q. (Cavillo) & Family

Lucido, Nino Ray & Sal

Lucido, Peppi (Palido) & Family

Lucido, Pietro & Family

Marazzani Family

Marchi, Francesco

Mercurio, Dominic & Sal

Pagnini, Paul

Pellegrini, Luigi & Family

Pezzimenti, Natale & Family

Quontamatteo, Fred Sr & Family

Romeo, Vincent & Family

Rubino, Neno

Russo, Antonio & Family

Russo, Natalie

Russo, Salvatore & Family

Sanfilippo, Francesco

Sansone, Giuseppe & Family

Savaioni, Mario

Scola, Jik & Family

Tarantino, Guiseppe

Troia, Pietro & Family

Vatalie, NIck

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mcnamaramcmahonMcNamara - McMahon Building

701 - 707 Main Street

Built in 1906, this building replaced an earlier building that burned in a 1904 fire. It was the location of the Alhambra Meat Market and McMahon Grocery store.

Martinez Historical Society Plaque #11 Reads:  Built to replace buildings destroyed in devastating fire of 1904 which destroyed entire block.  701 - McMahon Grocery 707 - Alhambra Meat Market

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lasellLasell Building

Green and Castro

In 1885, L.M. Lasell opened a general merchandise store in a two story frame building he built on the corner of Castro and Thompson Streets. A new brick building was built adjacent to the old building in 1917 at the corner of Castro and Green Streets. It became the largest retail mercantile establishment in the entire county. Lasell's closed its doors for the last time in 1985.

Martinez Historical Society Plaque #2 Reads:   L.M Lasell Co. 1885 - 1985.

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martinimonumentsm)Martini Monument

Alhambra Ave, Lasell Parking Lot

Plaque reads "In 1874, Julio Richelieo, Bartender, served up the first Martini when a miner came into his saloon with a fistful of nuggets and asked for something special. He was served a "Martinez Special." After three or four drinks however the "Z" would get very much in the way. The drink consisted of 2/3 gin, 1/3 Vermouth a dash or orange bitters, poured over crushed ice and served with an olive."

Erected by Juaquin Murrieta Chapter 13 Clampus Vitus. Dedicated April 11, 1992.

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bruncherbldBruncher and Connolly Mortuary

1124 Ferry Street

This building was built in 1927 for Bruncher and Connolly as the first full service mortuary in Martinez. It was designed to accommodate 100 funerals per year. In 1965 the mortuary closed and the building was sold to the John F. Kennedy University. In 1976 the building was sold to the Patchin family and converted to a school.

Martinez Historical Society Plaque #15 Reads:   Occupied by Bruncher & Commolly Mortuary 1927 - 1956.  Connolly & Taylor, Inc. Mortuary 1956 - 1963.  John F. Kennedy University Campus 1965 - 1975.  Patchin’s School 1976 - Present.

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prosserProsser Building

815 Marina Vista

In 1855, William Jones built a pub on what is now the corner of Ferry and Marina Vista where it would be the first place passengers disembarking the ferry passed by. He lived above the pub with his family. The building was sold to Watkins Prosser in 1891. About 1914 - 1915 the building was moved to it's present location. It was then purchased by Dr. Buckman who lived in most of the house and used one or two rooms for his medical practice.

Martinez Historical Society Plaque #16 Reads: Built by  William Jones, hotelkeeper 1884 - Bought by W.J. Hough and became “Hough’s Saloon” 1891.  Bought by Watkins Prosser 1915 Moved to present site.  Residence of Dr. H.D. Buckman family for many years

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italhotelItalian Hotel

822-824 Alhambra Ave

In 1849, Col. William M. Smith, (who had married into the Martinez Family), established the town of Martinez. He hired Thomas A. Brown, son of Elam C. Brown, founder of Lafayette, to survey the area and paid Elam Brown in property including the north and south halves of lots 7 and 8 in Block 30 of the original Martinez Survey.
In 1903 Brown sold the property to Leontine Blum for $10 in gold coin. In 1905, Marco (Michael) Pistochini, his brother Antonio and another relative, P. Pistochini came from San Francisco and purchased the south half of the lot from Leontine Blum for $10 and in addition, bought the north lot from Leontine Blum for $800.
He then built the Italian Hotel and Boarding House which faced on Smith Street (now Alhambra Ave). Marco and Antonio operated the popular hotel/boarding house/restaurant until the early 1930's. The property remained in the Pistochini family until 1944 when it was sold to Maurice and Lillian Fuller. The property was eventually purchased by Jerry Kramer who then set up Jerry's Dental practice in the building. Today the building is still owned by Jerry and Joan Kramer.

Martinez Historical Society Plaque #17 Reads:  Italian Hotel & Boarding House Owned and Operator by The Pistochini Family.  Jerry and Joan Kramer owners of building 1964 to Present.

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State Theatre

The State Theatre opened July 2, 1926, and was one of five theaters in Martinez, including the People, Old Novelty, Royal and Avalon. The State Theatre presented four silent movies a week, which were shown between vaudeville acts. 

Two fires in 1931 closed the movie house, but it was rebuilt and reopened in 1932, and operated until Thanksgiving Day 1961.  It was boarded up in the 1970s, and it was notnewstate until the late 1990s that it was purchased by Contra Costa County and remodeled and reopened as the Public Defenders office

Martinez Historical Society Plaque 19 Reads: 

State Theatre - 800 Ferry Street Designed Art Deco Style by the Reid Brothers architects/San Francisco

Built by John McNamera - 1922
Premier Opening - July 2, 1926
Closed due to fire 1931, reopened 1932, closed 1961
Purchased by Contra Costa County
1998 - Presently the
Contra Costa County Public Defender

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DSCN298405406 Ward Street

The handsome brick building was constructed in 1925 and housed the DeRose Chevrolet Dealership until the Great Depression caused the owners to close the business in 1933. After being vacant for 3 years during the Depression Era, the bulding became the home of the John P. Serpa Pontiac/Buick Dealership, the Kaiser-Frazer Dealership, and the Martinez Auto Body Shop. After the body shop relocated in 1981, theDSCN2929 building has been the home of the Bay Valve Service Engineering business.

Martinez Historical Society Plaque 20 Reads:

406 Ward Street Built by B.F. Ferrario 1925

DeRose Chevrolet Dealership 1925 - 1933  ~ John P. Serpa Pontiac/Buick Dealershi 1936 - 1948 ~  Kaiser-Frazer Dealership 1948 - 1952 ~ Martinez Auto Body Shop 1952 - 1981 ~ Bay Valve Service Engineering, Inc. 1985 - Present

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canteenoutsideThe Martinez Canteen

On Ferry Street next to the Hot Dog Depot and across from the old train station, there is a parking lot.  If you look on a post in front of the parking lot, you can read the plaque commemorating the former location of Martinez Citizens Canteen.  Here’s what it says:canteen plaque

Former site of Martinez Troops –in-transit Canteen.

Opened October 17, 1943, and closed February 15, 1946.

World War II

401,322 traveling servicemen and woman, escorts and children, given rest and refreshment.  Served by 1,348 volunteer hostesses.  Community Supported.

USO Aided.