Salinas: How Farming Created Great Architecture

RaboBank-Office Building is located at 301 South Main Street (at Alisal).It was built circa 1930 by Architects: Ryland & Schwartz

The RaboBank-Office Building is located at 301 South Main Street (at Alisal). It was built circa 1930 by Architects, Ryland & Schwartz.

Art Deco and Art Moderne were popular architectural styles from 1920 to 1940. One of California’s most renowned icons, the Golden Gate Bridge, has design elements of Art Deco. Salinas, a city famous for agriculture, not architecture, in fact has one of the largest collection of Art Deco to Moderne buildings in all of California. Why is this? Because it was one of the few cities to prosper during the depression.

The Golden Gate Bridge, 2006. Photo courtesy of and ©  Cary Bass.

The Golden Gate Bridge, 2006. Photo courtesy of and © Cary Bass.

Salinas During the Great Depression

In 1924, Salinas had the highest per capita income of any city in the United States. Agriculture, Salinas’ major industry, expanded greatly during the Depression, fueled by ideal soils and climate, and sustained by innovations such as irrigation systems developed for sugar beets. Carload shipments of lettuce went from a few dozen in 1922 to 26,650 in 1940 bringing considerable wealth to the Salinas Valley during the Depression.

Farm workers thinning lettuce in Salinas Valley, California. Photo ©  Dorothea Lange, 1939.

Farm workers thinning lettuce in Salinas Valley, California, April 1939. Photo © Dorothea Lange.

Read the rest of the story here to find out what businesses were originating in Salinas during the Great Depression more so than in San Francisco.

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This piece is part of a tour all about Downtown Salinas architecture excerpted from a tour published by the Salinas Historical Resources Board. Download the free app with many tours of the Santa Cruz area and beyond.

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Julia Gaudinski


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