Sunday, April 3, 2011

The White House

No, not that White House :-)  Who knew there would be a store in Monterey called The White House?  Okay, my Dad knew because I remember hearing about it as a kid but honestly, I never, ever thought I'd care about that place.

In 1884, when Ferdinand returned to Monterey after several years in San Francisco and Gilroy, the White House mercantile was established.  It was known as one of the finest stores south of San Francisco.  The store was a model of neatness, very roomy, and contained everything imaginable in the way of mens and ladies goods, notions, hats, caps, boots, and shoes.  In 1889, Ferdinand purchased part of Lot 6 from the David Spence heirs for the store.  Alvarado Street was a bustling place! 

Sketch of Alvarado Street
("Resources of Monterey County, California" by Salinas Daily Journal and the Salinas Democrat, 1890, page 34).

In about 1891, Ferdinand, in connection with Mariano Malarin, erected an immense 2-story brick building on Alvarado Street where The White House moved.

The White House
Photo courtesy of Montery County Historical Society

I try to imagine what it would have been like to shop here.  I'm guessing it was like the store in Little House on the Prairie - everyone knew you and everyone had an account.  The patrons strolled in, visited for a bit, picked up what they needed, and out they went.  Hopefully, they paid their bills on time.  My bet is they did since this establishment was successful for many, many years.

The White House advertised, too.  In 1915, this ad was in the back of the yearbook for Monterey High School.  I wasn't surprised to see it there since my grandmother was the assistant editor of the yearbook (more on that in a future post).

Monterey High School Yearbook, 1915
What's puzzling is the establishment year which shows here as 1854 yet the biographies and information I've read state the mercantile became known as The White House in 1884.  I'm thinking the confusion stems from Ferdinand being away from Monterey from 1872 - 1884 and upon his return, the "White House" was born.  I'll need to do more research on this to confirm the dates.

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