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Don’t Cry For Me, Ukiah

Or put in a parking lot…

When tourists visit San Francisco they take photos of the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower and those beautifully painted Victorian houses lined up along Alamo Square.

In New York City visitors shoot shots of the Empire State Building, the grand Main Public Library, Carnegie Hall, St. Paul’s Cathedral and, perhaps, Grant’s Tomb.

In Chicago the major draw is Michigan Avenue featuring the old Chicago Bee newspaper building, plus Wrigley Field and Thalia Hill.

Cleveland has one attraction, the Terminal Tower, and it manages to make every page, every year, of every calendar featuring the city, and is the only building in all of Cuyahoga County visitors bother taking pictures of.

In Los Angeles tourists take photos of their lunch, and later that day a selfie at Dodger Stadium.

It’s this way in any and every town or city in America, and also the world. People appreciate certain aspects of cities no matter where they visit, and they shun the rest. The secret, at last revealed:

People love, admire, visit and take photographs of buildings and landmarks that are examples of old, beautiful architecture. People want to see the handsome structures that once stood proud across the lands, in the banks, hotels, schools, courthouses and neighborhoods.

And to prove it, again, every one of the cities mentioned above (and others across the country) feature the same architectural beauties on their tourist guides and hotel brochures. If you don’t see a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge on a ’Frisco visitor information pamphlet I’m guessing you landed at the wrong airport.

How about Ukiah? Tourist guides and publicity shots of Ukiah are inevitably variations on the same scant material: a block of South State Street that shows the backside of the courthouse, then a shopfront or two and, finally, the old Hofman Victorian across from Alex Thomas Plaza.

And that’s it. No one has ever taken a picture of the barren lands of South State Street, nor of the painful stretch of North State that runs out to Redwood Valley. Ukiah has dozens more neighborhoods and parking lots that are as bad or worse, remnants of slipshod construction, lousy planning and drab results, and each and every one of them has gone a lifetime without having their picture taken, except by a real estate agent.

The worst and ugliest of Ukiah has been installed during the last 75 years. We’ve gone from grand, handsome civic structures and lovely houses to shabby “modern” styles and “improved” building methods that cut so many corners builders used the discarded pieces to build an extra half mile on South Dora Street.

We all see it, we all know it, we all take pictures of the architectural beauties and drive six blocks to avoid the dreary new stuff. And yet we plow on.

Knowing there are pretty buildings and lots more ugly ones, we continue to allow, nay, encourage developers from 500 miles away to dictate the style and quality of proposed development.

Why doesn’t Ukiah say NO to their cheesy proposals?

Why doesn’t Ukiah demand modest concessions when some corporate entity comes to town with artist renditions of how a new hotel will look when carefully inserted next to Fort Holiday Inn down there on Walmart-Costco Boulevard?

They want to profit from the Ukiah area? Fine. In return, Ukiah demands the new building harmonize with our best architectural examples, not our worst. Make your new car dealership / hotel / box store / courthouse rhyme with the city’s old Post Office, or with the old Carnegie Library, not with Safeway.

Check the examples above that draw the customers to New York and SF and Ukiah, and you’ll see that the main attractions are a hundred or more years old.

If they tell us it’s too expensive to build an awe-inspiring courthouse in the 21st century, that there’s no way to have columns, marble cladding and turrets at the front corners of the new courthouse, tell them to take some of the money from the millions going to the Rail Trail.

More people will enjoy and take pictures of a beautiful Mendocino County courthouse in 2299 than a northbound weed-choked strip of nothing.


  1. Jan Caldera February 20, 2023

    As a former Ukiah, resident and student of Ukiah high school, I agree, 100% with everything that this man said. In addition to the feds transplanting gang bangers and criminals from Southern California you have the architectural atrocities that have been allowed and encouraged to happen in Ukiah. Then there is the selling off of the water from the lake to Sonoma county. All this and yet we build nothing for entertainment for the residents of this once beautiful town. I still visit occasionally and I’m horrified to see what has become of this town.

  2. Eric Sunswheat February 20, 2023

    RE: The secret, at last revealed:
    How about Ukiah? Tourist guides and publicity shots of Ukiah are inevitably variations

    —>. October 11, 2021
    There’s a plaque honoring prostitutes in downtown Ukiah that reads, “To the Ladies of the Night, who plied their trade upon this site.”…

    The city is committed to preserving the historic character of our community, and we do that through a number of ways,” said Deputy City Manager Shannon Riley when asked about the plaque, which the city recently returned to downtown about half a block away from its first home, now back on its original rock pedestal at the corner of West Church and South State streets…

    According to research by Alyssa Ballard of the Historical Society of Mendocino County, there was a brothel on Church Street called Irene’s Place that was particularly well-known because it was “right behind City Hall and the fire department,” …

    Many opposed to the plaque, Mulheren said, believe that prostitutes as a whole are victimized and exploited, and therefore find the memorial offensive.

    However, others believe that while the reasons many women turn to prostitution might be shameful, the women themselves should not be considered shameful.

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