Vislalia Heritage presents history of Fort Visalia

Want to learn about the early, rowdy days of Visalia? Visalia Heritage will present the history of Fort Visalia and have their Heritage Museum open at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 24 at the place where the town began, now called The Lofts at Fort Visalia.

Visalia Heritage, whose mission is to preserve Visalia’s historic buildings and resources, became very active last year, opening the Fort Visalia Heritage Room at The Lofts and completing its downtown walking tour of historic buildings. It was also gifted land to begin plans for building a museum and cultural center, which has been a long-time goal.

“We want to engage more people in our fascinating history. Visalia is the largest town in our area, yet we are about the only one that doesn’t have a museum to show off and preserve that history,” said Walter Deissler, Visalia Heritage president. “We will need everyone’s support to make our dream a reality.”

Historian Terry Ommen will present the history, starting with Fort Visalia, which was actually Visalia’s first neighborhood back in 1852. The first settlers built the stockade-like structure for protection.

As more people arrived, the area around the old fort became known as “Spanishtown,” which was frequently portrayed as one of the toughest parts of Visalia with bordellos, saloons and dance halls.

Luckily for historians, Edgar Reynolds, who helped build the fort, returned to Visalia in 1915 and told the locals where the fort was located and how it was built. He also told them, “…a dance floor was constructed from puncheon timbers, and the settlers amused themselves in the evenings by dancing to the music of an old fiddle owned by one member of the party.” 

So to bring back a feeling of history, local fiddler Tim Johnson will kick off the event with fiddle music.

The event is free and open to the public.

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