Old Armenian Town
Each time I visit my hometown, I feel a little more sad nostalgia for the once-vibrant downtown. My parents lived in one of the old residential neighborhoods in downtown when I was born. I’m not sure our house on S St. was officially within the area now referred to as Old Armenian Town, but we had many Armenian neighbors, which was fine for our Greek immigrant family.
Of course, as a teenager and even young adult, I didn’t think much about the neighborhood in which I spent my toddlerhood. But a few years later when it dawned on me that it would be really nice to see the street (or even the house!) in which we lived, I was sadly disappointed to find that not only was the house gone, several blocks of S St. no long existed, having been turned into medical office complexes around nearby Fresno Community Hospital (where I was born). Even some of this is now gone and replaced with a disappointing-looking condo complex. Still, about every third or fourth visit to Fresno, I would drive down there and wander the streets hoping I would discover some hidden fragment of S St. that would be a little time capsule, an example of what it was all once like, an indication of where I came from. Eventually, I sort of, well, got over it.
Two years ago, however, I got worked up again when I learned that the City had approved (re)development plans for what sounded like a cheese-ball commercial project to commemorate Old Armenian Town, called, oddly enough, “Old Armenian Town.” They demolished the last of the former Armenian neighborhood, saved three or four small houses, and moved them over to an empty field directly next to the elevated freeway, where, I guess, they would be “on display.” There they have been on display ever since, up on blocks and surrounded by chain link and barbed wire, disintegrating in the Fresno summer. Links to an alleged page about the “Old Armenian Town” on the Fresno Redevelopment Agency web site return “page not found” and no mention of this “major commercial development” is made anywhere I could find on the site. This is no surprise. Counting the number of empty lots around Fresno where historic buildings once stood but now mark the sites of developments that stalled after the demolition phase is a lengthy, tedious exercise. If anyone knows anything more about the project, leave a note. I’d love to hear something good about it. At this stage, something would be better than nothing, I suppose.
Well, when I started this post, I meant to talk about my little photo walk in the neighborhood just to the south of the Fulton Mall and post some photos. Instead I became distracted by Old Armenian Town. Forgive me for that. I’ll get back to the photo walk shots in a day or so. In the meantime, here’s a couple more shots of the spot, including a nice one of the Sycamore trees I remember all over the neighborhood when I was small.