UC Davis Library Celebrates City’s Centennial

A 1951 photo looking south on G Street in Davis shows shops and vehicles.
A 1951 photo looking south on G Street is part of the UC Davis Library exhibit marking the centennial of the city of Davis.


Peter J. Shields Library is near the Quad at the heart of the UC Davis campus. You’ll find the exhibit on the left side of the main lobby, in the display cases outside of Special Collections.

The exhibition is free and open to the public during the library’s regular hours of operation.

Visitors are invited to take home a free souvenir: a postcard that shows what downtown Davis looked like in 1945.

Got local history? The UC Davis Library does when it comes to the city of Davis’ centennial. The library’s new exhibition, Davis 1917-2017: Celebrating 100 Years of Community, features archival materials from the library’s Special Collections that illustrate the history of Davis over the last century.

Davis 1917-2017 runs through June 18 at the Peter J. Shields Library.

The city of Davis was incorporated in March 1917. However, it was not always smooth sailing to get there. The first effort to create a city government was defeated in December 1911 by a vote of 92 to 103. By 1916, residents were again advocating for incorporation. A disastrous fire on Nov. 13, 1916, which destroyed much of the downtown business district, underscored the need for city services, including a fire department.

As The Sacramento Union newspaper reported at the time, “The businessmen believe if the town had a single line of hose the fire could have been checked at the start. It is probable that the fire will hasten the incorporation of the town.” And it did. On March 20, 1917, residents voted in favor of incorporation: 231-87. 

The story of the fire is one of the aspects of Davis history and culture that come to life through the exhibit. It also includes:

  • An 1858 lithograph of the stock farm owned by Jerome C. Davis, for whose family the city is named
  • Materials that promoted three of Davis’ best-known residential developments — Oeste Manor (circa 1950), Stonegate (circa 1972) and The Cannery (community site map circa 2015) — which together paint a picture of how real estate in town has changed since the days when a two- to three-bedroom home could be purchased for $9,250
  • A photograph of first lady Rosalynn Carter riding a bike through Davis’ Village Homes community in March 1979

The anatomy of an exhibition

Unlike most exhibitions, which highlight a single collection, the centennial display draws from more than 15 collections, ranging from professional and personal photographs to the institutional archives of The Sacramento Union and UC Davis. Among the featured collections are:

  • The library’s Map Collection, which includes aerial photographs of Davis
  • The personal papers of the Pierce Family, almond growers who were active in early Davis life in the 1800s; Harry Hazen, a student at the University Farm (now UC Davis) from 1916 to 1918; Julie Partansky, a Davis City Council member (1992-98) and mayor (1998-2000); and Alfred Smith, the designer, developer and general contractor for the Stonegate development
  • Photographs of the local area by professional photographers Jervie Henry Eastman (from the 1940s and ’50s) and UC Davis alum Norman E. Riley (from 1982 to 2004)

Online extras

The Davis 1917-2017 exhibit page includes additional photographs and links to each of the collections from which library staff gathered artifacts.

Also, every Tuesday through June, the UC Davis Library will share another archival item about Davis history — using the hashtag #DavisCA100. Look for them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, or use the same hashtag to share your own memories.

To access materials in these or other collections in the library’s Special Collections, or if you have materials related to the history of Davis that you would like to donate to the UC Davis Library, send an email to SpecColl@ucdavis.edu.

Media Resources

Jessica Nusbaum, UC Davis Library, 530-752-4145, jlnusbaum@ucdavis.edu

Kimberly Hale, UC Davis News and Media Relations, 530-752-9838, klhale@ucdavis.edu

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Society, Arts & Culture