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View from the Saddle: Historic Davis Arch

Updated: Dec 9, 2022

Included here is a brief history of the creation—and ultimately the destruction—of the Davis Arch, which includes the establishment of the Chamber of Commerce and the Women’s Improvement Club. It is interesting to note that the Chamber still puts on annual cleanup days—a tradition as old as the chamber itself.

Second Street looking West, c. 1917. This is one of the commonly copied and artistically rendered views of the Davis Arch, a structure spanning Second Street at G from 1916 to 1924 (UCD Special Collections).

We recommend bicycling downtown to the intersection of G and 2nd Streets. You’ll find several placards on historic topics, including the Davis Arch.

The Davis Arch (1906–1916) is a direct result of the formation of the Women’s Improvement Club in 1905, which was created after the founding of the Davis Chamber of Commerce earlier that year. These organizations quickly mobilized to clean, beautify, and upgrade Davisville in order to present it as a prime site for hosting the University State Farm, which would eventually become UC Davis.

An excerpt from the book Davisville ‘68 The History and Heritage of the City of Davis states: “On May 20th [1905], members of the Chamber of Commerce served as local hosts to Governor Pardee and State Farm Commissioners on a tour of six proposed sites in Yolo County. Representatives from Woodland and Davisville, united by the desire to bring the University Farm to their County, cooperated in providing an escort to the visiting dignitaries.”

A photograph and caption from John Lofland’s “Davis Radical Changes and Deep Constants.” The Davis Arch (1916–1924). This symbol of town-grown solidarity was built with private funds raised by the Women’s Improvement Club and other groups before Davis was an incorporated place. It was taken down in 1924, as it was considered an impediment to rapidly increasing automobile traffic.

Furthermore, “The board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce met in the following week and called for the community to support a new sewer system, new sidewalks, and a general clean-up of the town. June 3rd was set as the first of many community ‘Cleanup’ Days. The Chamber also urged the ladies of Davisville to form a Women’s Improvement Club, which they did on June 16, 1905, headed by daughters of two pioneer families. Jennie Drummond Lillard Read served as chairman, and Miss Maude Russell was named secretary. This early organization enjoyed a long history of community service.

“Foremost among their accomplishments was construction of the Davis Arch, originally planned in 1906 as a welcoming beacon to students at the University Farm. A shortage of funds delayed completion of the archway at Second and G Streets until the fall of 1916, when Cal Aggie students themselves helped to finish it.”

Forrest A. Plant, a resident who played a major role in developing the Articles of Incorporation for the City of Davis and served as a Superior Court Judge of Yolo County, spoke at the arch dedication ceremony. He said, “The unity of action in the building of the arch was a demonstration of the new spirit of good will—a monument dedicated to the town and UC Farm students alike.”

Despite its significant history, sources say that the arch was demolished in the 1920s, as it was becoming a traffic hazard for the increasingly popular automobiles.

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