Hardly just a wide spot in the road, Fresno, my hometown, is the centre of a metropolitan area containing nearly one million well differentiated souls, but now finding common cause in umbrage. The why of this? Meg Whitman’s characterization of Fresno as ‘awful’. So she is quoted, further comparing Fresno to Detroit, the poster child for urban blight.
As I have been asked this question countless times, let me say, yes, Fresno is still hot in the summer, and yes, Fresno can be damp and foggy in winter. But Fresno, my own family’s home for nearly 150 years remains beautifully sited amidst vineyards and orchards, with the Sierra Nevada range as a backdrop. The setting is remarkable and although the weather can be oppressive, for most of the year, it is enjoyable. Sadly, though, despite over a half century of effort to stem the tide, much of Fresno’s downtown and older residential and commercial areas seem victims of what I would term slash and burn development, with the newer areas at ever increasing remove always, however briefly, the most desirable.
Well, some say so, anyway. Fresno’s downtown, though no longer the city’s retail heart, nevertheless retains a welter of substantial and architecturally significant buildings from early last century, testimony to Fresno’s agricultural hegemony. The city’s first suburban commercial development, the Tower District, so named for the Tower Theatre, an art moderne marvel that survives from the 1930’s, is itself a beautiful, albeit under appreciated, cluster of mid-century architecture. Our own home in the Fig Garden neighborhood, a leafy enclave in the middle of town, was a joy, designed by Academy Award winning set designer Hilyard Brown.
My Fresno encomium and yet my gallery sited in San Francisco may beg some question, but, frankly, despite years there, we have found that Fresnans who would never consider trading with us locally gleefully seek us out in San Francisco. The ‘if it comes from somewhere else it has to be better’ phenomenon, while not unique to Fresno, exists there in spades. I suppose decades of jokes about Fresno on the Tonight Show have done their damage, with Fresnans consequently not having a very good conceit of their community. Or its appearance, at any rate.
Now Meg has caught them out. Sad, because Fresno remains in most ways a delightful place full of good things, including good people, fewer of whom, I’d venture, will now be supporters of Meg Whitman.