Front and Center: The Times-Herald has moved!
Published: 2/27/2016 3:04:00 PM PST
The Times-Herald has moved. The change — from its longtime building on Curtola Parkway to a beautiful new home on Virginia Street — is one of the few in the newspaper’s nearly 100 years of existence.
The move downtown, said Times-Herald Editor Jack F.K. Bungart, is as significant as it is exciting.
“This is a huge move for the Times-Herald — both literally and figuratively,” said Bungart, who joined the Times-Herald in December 1989. “To be sure, our old building on Curtola holds volumes worth of memories for all of us — I became both a father and a godfather during our stay there. But our new home on Virginia Street ushers in a new era for the only newspaper this city has. It puts us right where we
belong — in a beautiful new home, in the heart of Vallejo’s downtown, with both an interest and a stake in its stories and successes.”
Vallejo’s “era of modern journalism” began in 1919 with the arrival in town of Luther Gibson, Kenneth Knight, Leonid Laing and Jerry Motzko, according to the Times-Herald’s archives. Those men started a newspaper — The Mare Island Employee — in the south Vallejo garage of local businessman Harry Dubnoff at 5th and Lemon streets.
The following year, the paper moved to 511 Marin St., to be more centrally located.
The paper’s next home was on Maryland Street, which later became Curtola Parkway. The Times-Herald celebrated its new plant on Curtola Parkway with a special section on April 26, 1986.
The paper has been there until Friday, when computers, desks, files and more were moved downtown to 420 Virginia St., into what had been The Dream Center.
“My recollection would be back to Marin Street. The 500 block, I think. To a building that’s since been torn down,” said longtime Vallejo commercial Realtor Fred Sessler. “The important thing, the main thing, is that you’re returning to downtown, where they really started. It’s kind of a full-circle thing.”
Sessler said he handled both the sale of the Curtola Parkway building — which is set to become a work and showroom space for a local granite counter-top business — and the lease for the paper’s new digs on Virginia Street. Calling the move “a big thing, returning to downtown,” Sessler said that when the Times-Herald was on Marin, it increased foot traffic and brought “good people to the neighborhood,” something he said is likely to happen with this move.
“Bringing the 27 of you to the downtown will bring more fellowship; just meeting people in the street. It’s an exciting historical event, bringing the Times-Herald downtown. I’m sure if Gibson were still alive, he’d love it. He was a big champion of downtown.”
The other side of the coin, Sessler said, is what the move suggests about the Times-Herald’s owners.
“I have to think it indicates confidence in the downtown area, and that area is part of the paper’s history,” Sessler said. “I would think, from the point of view of a Central Core Restoration Corp. board point member, that bringing the personnel downtown will bring more activity downtown, and that’s good for downtown. It’s really a good deal all the way around.”
The Times-Herald’s new landlord, Buck Kamphausen, expressed a similar point of view.
“It’s a start of the rebirth of downtown,” he said. “With the Times-Herald moving into the building and the history tied to the Times-Herald, plus a San Francisco company coming in the same building, it’s the start of a change downtown. It will bring more people down there.”
Kamphausen said the significant population of older people and the growing artists community downtown set the stage for even more positive changes to the area’s atmosphere.
“Ken Ingersoll and Raymond (Prather) at the Victory Store, kept the streets as safe as they could,” he said. “And our museum’s down there. And with all of us working together, things are changing.
We still have some sub-standard buildings down there. But, this is building on what’s already been done — creating jobs downtown, bringing more than 20 people down there to eat down there and shop down there. That’s a pretty good group.”
Ingersoll, Vallejo Chamber of Commerce member and owner of Gracie’s Family Barbecue on Virginia Street, goes even further.
“It means a lot. It’s huge,” he said of the move. “A small business that opens in the downtown, there’s no question we make an impact by bringing more people downtown, but we’re treated as anomalies. When you have a business like the Times-Herald, with a committee involved in the decision, that says this is the future, that the downtown is going in the direction we want to go. It’s not only a big deal that the Times-Herald believes it’s a good move, but others will start looking down here and saying, ‘well the Times-Herald is down there.’”
Though it’s by far its longest-running, the Times-Herald was not Vallejo’s first newspaper.
That honor appears to go to The Bulletin, which seems to have published from November 1855 until 1962. A publication called the Solano Daily Times appears to have been operating in 1875.
Then, there was The Independent in the 1870s, bought in 1875 by George Roe and AB Gibson. This one may have been an early incarnation of the Times-Herald.
Luther Gibson, who later became a long-serving state Senator, bought that paper and three others and created the Mare Island Herald, which was later renamed the Times-Herald.
It appears that in 1931, a “Times-Herald plant” was built at Maryland and Napa streets, which suffered a fire in 1946. The paper moved to 516 Marin St., without missing an edition, then briefly to 820 Marin St., then back to 516, and then in May 1963, it moved to 500 Maryland — which was replaced by 440 Curtola Parkway — where it remained until last week.
Longtime Vallejo resident, former Associated Press reporter and local historian Brendan Riley said the move is a homecoming.
“The Times-Herald is coming home to its downtown Vallejo roots — even to the same street,” he wrote in a letter to Times-Herald officials. “An early-day predecessor, The Vallejo Chronicle, was started in 1867 in a house on Virginia Street, a couple blocks down toward the river from the Times-Herald’s new office.”
Partners Frank Leach and Wilmington Gregg came from Napa, scraped up money to buy a printing press, walked up and down Georgia Street selling ads, and came out with their first edition on June 29, 1867. Leach, about 19 or 20 years old at the time, said his was the second paper in town, just a couple months behind the Vallejo Recorder, Riley said.
“The Chronicle flourished, and went from a weekly to a daily in 1868,” Riley wrote. “Only a few months after its first edition, the paper also moved from Virginia Street to 104 Georgia St., and later to Sacramento Street between Georgia and Virginia.”
In 1885, the paper was sold to prominent Vallejoans Lewis Harrier and W.D. Pennycook, he said.
“In 1927, Luther Gibson bought the Chronicle and merged it with another afternoon paper, the News, to form the News-Chronicle. He previously had founded the Vallejo Herald, a morning daily, in 1922 and had merged it with the Vallejo Times to form the Vallejo Times-Herald.”
He had ceased publication of the News-Chronicle before his sale of the Times-Herald to Donrey in 1974, he said.
Gibson died in 1988 at 93. His obituary says he founded the Vallejo Herald in 1922 and that later that same year, purchased the Vallejo Times, and merged the two. Another report says he bought his first paper, the Antioch Tribune, in 1919. Five years after founding the Times-Herald, Gibson bought the Vallejo Evening Chronicle and merged it with another afternoon paper, the Vallejo News, to form the Evening News-Chronicle.
He owned the paper until 1974, when he sold it to the Donrey Media Group. It has since then changed hands several times — Stevens Media Group, Dean Singleton, Media News Group and Digital First Media.
A Democrat, Gibson represented Vallejo and Benicia in the Legislature from 1948 to 1968.
Riley said he’s pleased with the new twist in the story line.
“When I worked at the papers as a messenger in the early 1960s (after an illustrious 6-year career as a paperboy …), the office was on Marin Street between Georgia and York streets,” he said. “If you follow the chain of events for your paper, you can see it all started with the Vallejo Chronicle back in 1867, in a house next to a livery stable in the 100 block of Virginia Street. Welcome home!”
This move didn’t occur in a vacuum.
Publisher Jim Gleim said there were pragmatic considerations.
“For well over a decade we have under-utilized the space on Curtola Parkway, initially leasing more than a third of it to Comcast, which left as a tenant years ago,” Gleim said. “Subsequently, we moved press and pre-press operations to Vacaville. Today we utilize somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 percent of the available space, which made us a prime candidate for the parent company’s initiative to consolidate real estate holdings.”
Gleim, too, said he thinks this development is a positive one.
“This is a wonderful move for the company, staff and the community,” he said. “The single largest request from staff when we began discussing the move — windows. Anyone who has visited us in our (Curtola Parkway) location knows that the only view of the day outside is through the glass of our front door.”
The new space is immersed in natural light — skylights and roof-line windows, in addition to large windows lining the front of the space, Gleim said.
“But, by far, the most important aspect of the move, and a great step for our business, is the return to a downtown location, providing for a much stronger connection to the community,” he said. “We are so pleased that we can participate in the revitalization of Vallejo in general and the downtown specifically. To that, I can’t say enough about Buck Kamphausen and his staff in making certain we chose downtown as our new home. I have a number of similar moves occurring in communities across my division and Buck sets the standard for quality, execution and professionalism. We are thrilled with our new digs.”
With 21 years at the Times-Herald under his belt, Community Editor Rich Freedman is one of the oldest-timers at the paper today. “I hope the ghosts of former employees don’t follow me to the new building,” he said, in typical Freedman fashion. “It’ll be exciting to start fresh in a new environment.”
Freedman notes the staff will be “leaving carpet that hasn’t been cleaned this century, flickering florescent lighting, and fewer windows than a state prison. I’ll be doing cartwheels down Virginia Street the day we move in.”
Saying that as the move is expected to inject some energy into downtown Vallejo, he hopes downtown will reciprocate.
“I have a lot of memories from 21 years in this building. I’ve met a lot of deadlines and a lot of friends,” Freedman said.