Ever been intrigued by the history of Downtown Lodi or wonder who some of the influential people in the city's development were? All Seasons Carriage, an Acampo company that provides horse-drawn carriage tours during Downtown events, is expanding its services and offering historic tours of Lodi.
The 90-minute carriage tour loops around Downtown Lodi and the surrounding streets as a guide gives facts about Lodi's history — including who built the city's first library, where famous residents once lived and where a massive fire leveled a city block in less than an hour.
As the reins jingle and the massive charcoal horses strut up the street, passengers use umbrellas to shade themselves from the sun. The carriage makes periodic stops at points along the tour so the guide can tell information about locations like the Hill House museum and wine magnate Robert Mondavi's boyhood home on West Pine Street.
"I've been (in Lodi) for 10 years, and I learned an immense amount of history I didn't know during the ride." said Nancy Beckman, president and CEO of Visit Lodi! Conference & Visitors Bureau. Beckman was one of 12 passengers who participated in the practice run for the tour Friday afternoon, and said the educational value of the service could benefit the area's tourism.
"The timing for this is perfect," she said.
The carriage seats about 12 people, and two carriage operators steer it from behind the horses. As the tour progresses through the community, residents step outside their homes to look at the carriage and wave to the passengers.
"That's one way to beat high gas prices," a Church Street resident said as the carriage passed in front of his home, prompting laughter from passengers.
Deena Kirby, of All Seasons Carriage, navigated the vehicle as local business owners and community advocates rode along and soaked up the city's history. Christi Weybret and Lodi historian Ralph Lea helped compile the historical facts, and Weybret read them from a thick stack of index cards during the tour. As the carriage passed the Lodi Women's Club on West Pine Street, Weybret spoke of how the location is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and cost $51,000 to build.
As the carriage moved up the street, Weybret informed the group how Carnegie Forum was the city's first public library and built with funds from steel industry tycoon Andrew Carnegie. However, before Carnegie would commit the necessary funds, the land had to be purchased. That's when the Lodi Women's Club stepped up and bought the land, Weybret said.
The tour also discusses monumental moments in the city's history. Weybret told the story of how a fire in the late 1800s leveled the area stretching from Pine to Elm streets in less than an hour.
"They called over to Stockton to get volunteer firefighters to come over, but by the time they got here by train the block was consumed," she said.
History isn't always pretty, and the All Seasons Carriage tour doesn't shy away from seedy parts of Lodi's past. The sites of historic murders are also pointed out on the tour.
One notable slaying took place in June 1911, and was committed by the editor of the Lodi Sentinel, Samuel Axtell. The editor and area businessmen Charles Sollars had a contentious relationship, and after more than 10 years of feuding, Axtell shot Sollars three times at point-blank range in a Lodi garage. Sollars died the next day, and Axtell spent several years in prison for the crime.
For more information about dates and times of tours or to make reservations, contact All Seasons Carriage company at 986-3096.
Contact reporter Jordan Guinn at firstname.lastname@example.org.