The Terminal Hotel Building at the northeast corner of Second and G Streets downtown was one of Davis’ finest pieces of local history.
Built in the 1920s, a stone’s throw from the Southern Pacific Depot where guests often arrived by train, the hotel for years served as the city’s social center, with Davis leaders and local organizations popularly reserving the large restaurant there as a meeting place to discuss city business.
After considerable public debate, however, the building was demolished in 2000 and replaced with the Chen Building, a multi-story retail and office building that’s since been filled with a variety of commercial tenants.
But while the historic hotel has been torn down for more than a dozen years, Davisites can now get a feel for what this corner of downtown once looked like, as several local historians have designed and helped facilitate the installation of a sign that commemorates the building and its long-standing history.
The display, titled “Remembering the Terminal Hotel,” was installed by city workers last week at the northeast corner of Second and G streets so it can be read while facing where the historic structure once stood, according to a city spokesman.
At the upper right-hand corner of the sign, text and an accompanying photo point out a cropping of tan bricks in front of the Chen Building that outline the “footprint” of the Terminal Building. The bricks were taken from the facade of the original hotel.
“It’s the location, this was the heart of the downtown at Second and G streets,” said Rich Rifkin, a member of the city’s Historical Resources Management Commission and the individual who, along with local historian John Lofland, helped shape the concept of the sign.
“G Street was the downtown, and the reason that Davis was created as a town was because of the train coming through and this was right next to the train station. It was sort of the heart of the town for its time,” Rifkin added.
The 24-by-36-inch free-standing sign features black-and-white pictures and historic tidbits of text describing the building’s history with additional details of the surrounding area.
In 1924, the hotel’s original owners — James Belenis and George Tingus — rebuilt their restaurant, the Terminal Cafe, on that corner. Three years later, the two decided to add a second floor that would house a hotel.
After World War II, G Street was considered out of date and the Terminal Hotel building, in addition to many other buildings near the hotel, were either torn down or remodeled “beyond recognition.”
The Terminal Hotel was not demolished, however, and in 1958 it was sold to new owners who updated the storefronts and added an “Old West” facade. The building then was renamed the Hotel Aggie and “served low-income clientele.”
Between the 1950s and the 1990s, restaurants, clubs and retail stores rotated in and out of the building’s ground floor, including a bar and nightclub that often featured live music acts called The Antique Bizarre, perhaps the most notable tenant during that period.
In 1976, a mural of the Davis Arch was painted on the north face of the Terminal Building by artist Terry Buckendorf as part of the city’s bicentennial celebration. The arch spanned Second Street, just west of G Street, from 1916 to 1924.
The sign was designed by DaRold DeSigns. It was paid for by funds collected by the city from developers Grace and Lee Chen when the Terminal building was demolished.
The sign will be unveiled officially during a brief ceremony at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Second and G streets, according to Bob Bowen, the city’s public relations manager, who also helped coordinate the sign’s design and installation.
Rifkin hopes this type of display can serve as a model for other locations in Davis that have history attached to them, but nothing to remind people of that fact.
“It’s part of promoting Davis history, to make it kind of easy and palatable for people to understand,” Rifkin said last week about the new sign. “You don’t have to read a whole book; you just take a look at this.”
— Reach Tom Sakash at email@example.com or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash