Woodland will return to the 1880s at the popular Stroll Through History on Saturday. The event features a Heritage Homes Tour of six Victorian residences, as well as bus, bicycle, and walking tours of historic neighborhoods and landmark buildings.
The selection of the Heritage Homes is based upon the age and historical significance of the building and the appropriateness of interior decoration and landscaping to the period of the building. All open homes tour sites are private residences within a short walking or driving distance of Main Street.
The landmark buildings that will be open to strollers include churches, lodges, offices, train stations and a Carnegie library surrounded by a stunning public rose garden.
The Stroll, celebrating its 24th year, has a long history in Woodland. In the spring of 1988, Lloyd and Ida Ingraham opened their Victorian home at 620 Cross Street as a fundraiser for the first Stroll through History, which took place in the fall of the same year to celebrate the history of Woodland.
There is no entry fee and no parking fee. Visitors can purchase an open homes tour ticket for $25 until Friday, $30.00 at the Heritage Plaza, at Second and Main streets, on the day of the Stroll. Purchase a bus tour ticket for $15 to ride in air-conditioned comfort.
Money raised during the annual celebration of Woodland is used to improve the Stroll through History event and to fund local historic restoration and community cultural resources.
To help set the mood, read on for a brief history of Woodland
A few Americans moved into the lower Sacramento Valley in the early 1840’s, settling on land granted to them by the Mexican government, but none of them came to what is now Woodland until after 1850, the year California became a state and Yolo County was established. By that time, many of the 49ers who had come to California to mine for gold were leaving the hills to try their luck at farming in the valley.
The Kentuckian “Uncle Johnny” Morris was the first to come to Woodland. In 1851, he and his family settled on what is now the corner of First and Clover Streets. He was followed two years later by Henry Wyckoff, who built a store he called “Yolo City”. Yolo City might have remained a general store if it had not been for the Missourian Frank S. Freeman. Freeman arrived in Yolo County in 1857, bought Wyckoff’s store, acquired 160 acres of land, and began developing a town he dreamed would someday be a trading center for one of the richest grain-growing counties in the nation.
Freeman first petitioned for a U.S. Post Office, which his wife Gertrude wanted to name Woodland “on account of the wooded country about.”
Families began moving into the new city, and they built homes, schools, churches and a cemetery. By the mid-1860’s, Woodland was the most important commercial center in the county, and its business district boasted two county buildings, the courthouse and county hospital, a steam flour mill, brewery, livery stable, two blacksmith shops, wagon shop, two hotels, drugstore and six other stores. There was also a newspaper, the Woodland News, the ancestor of today’s Daily Democrat.
What literally put Woodland on the map was the arrival of the railroad in 1869. Woodland was formally incorporated in 1871, and the next year the railroad tracks were moved to their present location along East Street. Connected to the outside world by regular train and telegraph service, Woodland residents soon enjoyed a full range of city services-gas, water electricity and telephones, streetlights and graveled streets. Main Street bustled with new stores, hotels and restaurants, and, most importantly, banks to handle the ample accounts of local business people and farmers. In 1888 Woodland was called the richest town in the U.S. in proportion to its population, with an accumulated wealth of $2,108,829.
In 19010, Woodland was the largest city in the county, with a population of 3,187. For the next 40 years, Woodland remained a remarkably stable community, growing slowly but steadily in population, businesses and industries. Its industrial plants were principally agricultural, and three rice mill, a sugar beet refinery and tomato cannery were built during this period.
The post-war period meant explosive growth for California and for Woodland as well. Between 1950 and 1980, Woodland’s population tripled, and the town today is growing faster than ever. Industrial plants and distribution centers have grown up in the northeast, and there are new subdivisions and shopping centers around the town’s perimeter. Since the late 1960’s, there has been a resurgence of interest in preserving the town’s historic building, and an impressive number of them have been restored for use as homes, offices, stores and museums.
— Prepared for the Residential Walking Tour Booklet by Shipley Walters, Yolo County historian