Visalia Heritage President’s Message, February 2024

Dear Visalia Heritage Community,

As we enter a new year, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the incredible progress we have made together and to express my gratitude for your support.

Over the past year, we have opened the Fort Visalia Heritage Room and completed our downtown walking tour of historic buildings. These two accomplishments have laid a strong foundation for our community to share in Visalia‘s rich history.

I am proud to announce that our next effort is to open a cultural center museum. Stan and Wendy Simpson purchased and donated land at the NW corner of Encina and Murray for our Center. At our Holiday Party, in appreciation for this generous gift, Visalia Heritage made Stan and Wendy Lifetime Members. This will be a community effort and will take the hard work of our dedicated volunteers and generous donors like yourselves.

In addition to our Visalia Cultural Center, we have also made significant strides in promoting cultural awareness and education. Our community events have provided valuable insights into the history and heritage of Visalia. Please join us for our upcoming event Understanding Fort Visalia and Beyond.

Looking ahead, there is still much work to be done. We are committed to expanding our outreach programs, engaging with local schools, and partnering with other organizations to further promote heritage preservation and education. With your continued support, I am confident that we can achieve even greater milestones in the coming year.

As we move forward, I encourage you to stay engaged and connected with our community. Attend our events, share your stories and memories, and continue to support our mission in any way you can. Together, we can ensure that the legacy of Visalia’s heritage remains strong for generations to come.

Best regards,
Walter Deissler
President, Visalia Heritage

History of Visalia Heritage

VISALIA HERITAGE came about as a result of the widespread ravaging of historic properties all California cities were undergoing in the 1970s. In Visalia, particularly, many single-family homes were being moved or demolished to build multi-family rental units. These cookie-cutter apartment buildings can be found on almost every block of the central part of town. In 1978 a group of concerned citizens pushed the city to complete an inventory of historic houses, buildings and landmarks.

The Survey area was bounded by Houston Avenue, Santa Fe Avenue, Tulare Avenue and Giddings Avenue. This was divided into six sub-areas to help manage the work. A coordinator was assigned to each area. A Preservation Training Seminar was held on March 11, 1978 to train nearly 160 volunteers in differentiating various architectural styles and terminology.

These volunteers, in groups of two or three, did the field survey over a six-month period. They noted the condition of each property (regardless of the age of the building), speaking to residents and owners, taking photos and searching through the records available. This included business properties and vacant lots. This information was entered on a form provided by the city. Funding was provided by a 50/50 matching grant from the State Office of Historic Preservation. Technical assistance was provided by Charles Hall Page and associates in San Francisco, specifically to nominate exceptional properties to the state or national registers.

Upon completion of the survey, city staff prepared a report, The Historic Preservation Element. The report recommended establishing a “Local Register” which categorized properties into several categories and assigned each an architectural style. The HPAC was to be responsible for administering the Historic Preservation District Ordinance, which preserved and promoted the city’s cultural heritage. The Preservation Element also recommended that a private, non-profit organization was needed. Thus, the 15 members of HPAC formed the first board of Visalia Heritage.