One of the most reliable indicators of the rapid change that occurred in Modesto's early history was the notable development of its streets.
As the young town grew and expanded, its main streets began to represent specific functions and interests.
An example was 10th Street, which soon became the city's banking center, with at least 10 banks represented over the years.
Later, 10th also was the focus of Modesto's retail shopping, featuring stores such as Shackelford- Ulmans, Latzs, five-and- dime Woolworths, Kresses, and three menswear establishments: Platos, the Toggery and J.S. Williams.
During the same period, another main thoroughfare was I Street, which was 20 feet wider than the others. It was intended to be Modesto's main street, which never happened.
In the early teens, I Street assumed another role, becoming Modesto's street of culture, which continues today. It is now home to the county library, the McHenry Mansion, McHenry Museum and the Gallo Center for the Arts.
However, in the beginning, one especially busy thoroughfare evolved in another direction. That was Ninth Street that, in the early years, acquired an unsavory reputation. Nicknamed "skid row," it was referred to as the Front because it faced the train depot.
The Front was the location of notorious dance and pool halls, card parlors and many saloons.
Within 10 years after its founding, Modesto, with its population of 1,600 people, had at least 20 saloons.
Some had catchy names such as the Marble Palace, Golden Sheaf, Pioneer Saloon, White Oak and Old Corner Saloon.
The regulars who occupied the Front's littered sidewalks were mostly male, often in some stage of inebriation. During that era, no respectable female would consider walking on Ninth Street, especially alone.
Esther Tennant, in her book "California Was Built," explained. "To the women of Modesto, Front Street did not exist. If compelled by circumstance to ride down this broad way in the protection of their men, their eyes stared straight ahead," she wrote.
The town's hotels were also on the Front, well located to accommodate train travelers. The first was named Modesto House, originally pulled by horse-drawn wagons from the river town of Tuolumne City. It featured a "fine" restaurant and, on the day the building was moved to its new location, the proprietor's wife served dinner while it was still on wheels.
Another, called Ross House, was considered the most elegant hotel in the Central Valley. In November 1870, it was dragged from the river town of Paradise City to the new Modesto. After being cut in half, it was moved in two sections, several days apart, each portion pulled by 60 horses.
During the late 1800s, other nearby Front businesses were J.J. McKewen's general store with the town's first post office in the rear, William Brown's upstairs photography studio, a brewery, a harness maker and general stores such as Chapman Tin & Hardware.
Prohibition generated several illegal speakeasies on Ninth Street, resulting in police arrests regularly reported on the front pages of local newspapers.
By 1932, Ninth was well trafficked when Modestan Harry Ivy opened his Associated Oil service station at Ninth and I streets, next to the south end of the Modesto arch.
"It was an excellent location," said his daughter, Nancy Ivy Lee, during an interview. His station always provided full service, including gasoline fill-ups, windshield washing, tire care, oil changing "the works," she said. And it was open 24 hours every day, selling gasoline for 16.9 cents a gallon.
For work, Ivy and his five employees wore starched white shirts with bow ties and hats with visors, said Lee. She recalled the names of other nearby Ninth Street businesses, including the Hub that featured men's jeans, Turner Hardware across the street, San Francisco Fruit Market at Ninth and H and several pool halls, including Mehegans.
Did Ninth Street have a sordid reputation into the 1930s?
Lee said yes, explaining that when she took dancing lessons at a studio on H Street, she and her mother walked to and from the service station, always being careful to avoid the pool halls and bars en route.
Nancy's father, Harry Ivy, died in 1937, but his service station stayed in business until 1966. A Taco Bell restaurant now stands on the same location.
Bare is the author of several books about area history and the official historian of the McHenry Mansion. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.