The Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company building; and the history of the telephone in Redding
Guest Writer Spotlight: Jeremy M. Tuggle
The building at 1629 Market Street in Redding was once the official headquarters of the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company. According to Redding Electric Utility the building, which is located in between Yuba and Placer Streets on the east side of Market Street, is still in use to this day.
This building often attracts the attention of the public regarding its history and use. As Research Historian for Shasta Historical Society I’ve received quite a number of inquiries about it over the years and have enjoyed retelling its history each time.
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The building itself is a commercial building and has an intriguing architectural design, called Tudor Gothic. The architect of this building was J.P. Brennan, who erected the building at a cost of $60,000.
The first process toward the erection of this building began March 13, 1926, when a topographical and delineative survey was conducted on the one-hundred-foot lot for the purpose of furnishing information to the architect to design the plans for the building.
Above: 1629 Market Street in Redding, the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company building. Photograph taken by Jeremy Tuggle on August 3, 2019.
The Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company was the second telephonic service company in Redding which dates to 1898 when their original location was inside the Swasey building on Yuba Street between Market and California streets. Then, in 1907, the company relocated into a building at 504 California Street.
On April 30, 1926, George Wahl – the manager of the Redding Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company – announced that the plans were completed. Wahl also mentioned to the local media that the actual start of construction would begin in May of that year. It was also reported that their new building was going to be a first-class, semi-fireproof, one-story structure with a basement.
During May of 1926 the initial construction began and work continued for the next eight months.
Then, on January 12, 1927, the building was dedicated and after spending twenty years in their California Street location, Redding Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company moved into the new location, which opened for business the same day.
The date also marked forty-seven years of telephone progress in the City of Redding.
In 1978, the Western Electric Company began operating their business in the basement of this building, according to the City of Redding Directory, this company’s time was cut short in this building. During the 1970s the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company featured a traffic department and a toll department. Both companies utilized this building until 1980.
By 1981 the building became vacant after the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company spent fifty-four years at the location. In 1982, they moved to a new location at 1514 Market Street and their name appeared to be shortened to the Pacific Telephone Company at that time. During the early 1990s AT&T Communications moved into this building, and continued telecommunications in the Redding area.
Above: the Bell System logo on the front entrance to the building of 1629 Market Street in Redding. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on August 3, 2019.
Above: The full length front of the building at1629 Market Street in Redding. A view of the business office in the north-east corner of the building. Customers were able to place local and long distance calls here. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on August 3, 2019.
THE HISTORY OF THE TELEPHONE IN REDDING
A man named Charles E. Berry, a local tinner, installed the first telephone in Redding in 1880. According the 1880 U.S. Census he resided at 216 East Street with his wife Aarilla and their three children. A crude telephonic instrument was invented by Berry, who strung a copper telephone line from his house on East Street to his tinnery shop on Yuba Street. Now Berry was able to communicate with his family from work each day.
By June of 1881, several of these crude telephones were modeled after Berry’s design, which was never patented, but his design was used around Redding.
Among the people and businesses who had them were the following: Doctor O.J. Lawry, a physician and surgeon, who installed a telephone line at his residence to connect with the Gleaves and Averill drug store owned by Redding druggist James M. Gleaves, and Redding dentist, George W. Averill.
Harry Parker who was employed as an operator for the Postal Telegraph Company, also installed a telephone line from the Redding railroad depot to the Gleaves and Averill drug store. Telephonic communications in Redding were booming, and everyone wanted to ride the wave.
By 1884, Berry’s design was improved by Redding resident E. Newton Eaton, a brother to Redding druggist James P. Eaton, who according to the local media “constructed a single wire line using iron wire between the store of Gilbert, Miller and Eaton and the residences of S.J.R Gilbert, Dr. Miller and James P. Eaton. The instruments were made of tin, with an opening in front which was the transmitter and receiver across back of the box, which had been left open. A piece of rawhide was stretched to form the diaphragm and the end of the wire was run thru the diaphragm in the center and fastened inside the box. Later, the rawhide was replaced by a piece of drumhead which Eaton secured for the purpose and which improved the instrument. No batteries were used. The sound being carried purely by the vibrations from the diaphragm. A code of taps for signals was arranged and this served the purpose of the phone bell.” (SIC)
E. Newton Eaton stated at the time that the transmission of the voice was fine, it was clear, and it carried down the line. However, sometimes an electric shock was generated between the users of this crude device.
Five years later, E.W. “Pike” Roney constructed a grounded telephone circuit for the Enright Lumber Company at Bella Vista which was installed between that town and their yard in Redding. This was a line used by company officials only. The installation process that Roney used to create this telephonic line was: “black iron balling wire, salamoniac batteries and Bell company instruments secured from the Bell Telephone Company. Another instrument was connected to this line and located in the apartment of Vuave, assistant superintendent for Enright”. (SIC)
Preceding the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company in Redding was the Sunset Telephone and Telegraph Company which had their initial start in 1894.
This company began using what’s known as the village or automatic system which proved inefficient. Telephone customers who used this system had to handle the switching by themselves in Redding. There were no official switchboard operators then.
Later, a switchboard was installed in Eaton’s Drug store which was then located in the Bergh building on California Street and owned by James P. Eaton. The first official switchboard operator who handled the above switchboard was Redding resident Arvilla (Thompson) Paulsen, a daughter of Philip C. Thompson and Ida (Kelley) Thompson.
To see other articles written by Jeremy M. Tuggle, make sure to visit his blog, Exploring Shasta History.
In 1897, there were 87 telephones in operation and connected to this switchboard.
As the “hello” boom flourished in Redding the Sunset Telephone Company promoted their telephone services even more and brought the tally to 100 telephones in operation by the end of that year.
In May of 1898, telephonic communications were enhanced when the San Francisco to Redding line was connected by long distance. Later, the Redding to Portland line began serving the public.
A year later the City of Redding had 135 telephones in operation. Rapid growth of telephonic systems in Redding has changed drastically over the years far exceeding the initial design by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876, when he received a patent for it that year.
Meet the writer: Jeremy M. Tuggle, Research Historian – Shasta Historical Society
Jeremy M. Tuggle, born in Redding, is a descendant of 11 pioneer families who settled Shasta County between 1849-1889. Jeremy attended Shasta College and is the author of two published books, Rooted in Shasta County (2003), and A Journey Through Time: Ono and the Bald Hills (2008), as well as various articles on local history.
In 2017 Mr. Tuggle was awarded a Community Service Award, a prestigious national award for community service in historic preservation, by the Major Pierson B. Reading Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Jeremy is a member of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants in the State of California, and an Eagle Scout. Tuggle has been employed at the Shasta Historical Society as their Research Historian since November of 2009. In this role, Jeremy digitizes collections items, maintains our social media sites, conducts research for library patrons and the historical society’s programs and publications.
Additionally, he is available to visit local schools, senior citizen homes, and other area organizations, to present engaging programs and lectures about Shasta County history.
1880 U.S. Census (Note: Charles E. Berry is also found as Charles E. Bong but has been corrected on Ancestry.com as Charles E. Berry.)
1881, History and Business Directory of Shasta County, California
Early Installations and Telephone Development in Redding and Shasta County, written by Tessie Coughlin, December 12, 1924. On file at the Shasta Historical Society in VF 621.0 Utilities. (621.382 Call Number)
Telephone Co. Can Now Build On Hoff Lots – The Courier-Free newspaper of Redding, January 8, 1926
First Work Is Done Towards Erection Of Telephone Building – The Courier-Free Press newspaper of Redding, March 13, 1926
$60,000 Pacific Telephone, Telegraph Building To Be Erected In Redding – The Courier-Free Press newspaper of Redding, April 30, 1926
Contract For Construction Of Telephone Building Let – The Courier-Free newspaper of Redding, May 24, 1926
New Building Marks 47 Years Of Telephone Progress Here – The Courier-Free Press newspaper of Redding, January 11, 1927
The Telephone Company Occupies Its New Building Wednesday, January 12th – The Courier-Free Press newspaper of Redding, January 11, 1927
New Telephone Building, Costing $60,000, Opened – The Courier-Free Press newspaper of Redding, January 12, 1927
First Telephone Operator Sends Congratulations – The Courier-Free Press newspaper of Redding, January 13, 1927
History of Telephones in Shasta County by Peggy Kesterson. On file at the Shasta Historical Society in VF 621.0 Utilities, 1973-1974.
1938 City of Redding Directory
1948 City of Redding Directory
1958 City of Redding Directory
1968 City of Redding Directory
1970 City of Redding Directory
1973 City of Redding Directory
1974 City of Redding Directory
1977 City of Redding Directory
1978 City of Redding Directory
1981 City of Redding Directory
1982 City of Redding Directory
1984 City of Redding Directory
1985 City of Redding Directory
1986 City of Redding Directory
1988 City of Redding Directory
1990 City of Redding Directory
1991 City of Redding Directory
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Trevor Montgomery, 47, moved last year to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he currently writes for or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, the (now defunct) Valley Chronicle, Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle, and Anza Valley Outlook; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.
Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)
During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.
Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.
Trevor has been married for more than 29 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 15 – but soon to be 16 – grandchildren.