Last month I was invited to photograph remnants from Gilroy’s past, several fragments of circus posters from the 1800s revealed when rafters were exposed during renovations at 7533 Monterey Street, once the home of Mafalda’s Bridal Shop. As the circuses involved operated in the 1800s, our theory is the posters were applied to the 5th Street side of the new home of Mafalda’s at 7499 Monterey, and when the building was torn down, the siding was repurposed for rafters at the 7533 address.
While at the renovation site, I was invited to compile lists of all the occupants of eight URM (UnReinforced Masonry) buildings that are being upgraded for earthquake safety. Using the Gilroy Museum archives, I printed those lists, along with historic photographs, and received an invitation to attend a tour of those buildings.
All this has left me upbeat about the future of downtown, the heart of Gilroy. To see the investment of many tons of steel and cement reinforcement — not to mention several millions of dollars — makes me want to make sure I am in one of those buildings when the next quake comes! The engineering know-how and the commitment of owners, along with their perseverance in the face of delays and red tape, is inspiring too. So why would a history buff want to be involved with downtown? For one thing, I was struck by downtown developer Gary Walton’s statement that if no one stepped up to take on the reinforcing of these buildings, many would be torn down and more of our history would wind up as rubble. For another, just as downtown developers and businesses seek to create a richer sense of community — an attachment to an area we see as central to our lives — that’s what history buffs also seek. We want to help others bask in the richness of our town’s heritage and come closer together so our quality of life is all it can be.