Basque Block (Old Town Kern)

Wool Growers is located in a part of East Bakersfield, a district which is home to many Basque cuisine restaurants.  This is known to many as the Basque Block.

In 1874, the Southern Pacific railroad was extended to the southern San Joaquin Valley. Bakersfield was positioned to be a whistle-stop, but a land dispute developed between the city and the railroad. Southern Pacific wanted two blocks of land from the city, Bakersfield was only willing to give one block. The result of the dispute was Southern Pacific building its tracks five miles east of Bakersfield and founding their own town. That town was called Sumner in honor of Joseph W. Sumner, and mine owner and judge. It would eventually become East Bakersfield. The Sumner post office opened in 1876.

Since the train went through Sumner, instead of Bakersfield, it was a serious competitor to the city. However, the citizens of Bakersfield rallied, and maintained a presence in their city. By 1888, a street car line was built between Bakersfield and Sumner. The route was down 19th St, and was the only road that connected the two settlements.

By 1892, Sumner, which was now known as Kern City, would incorporate into a city. Bakersfield, which deincorporated (or dissolved as a city) in 1874, would begin to reconsider becoming a city. Six years later, Bakersfield would vote to reincorporate, and became a city again. It was also the same year Bakersfield became its own whistle-stop with the building of the San Francisco and San Joaquin Railroad, which was later bought by Santa Fe.

With the construction of the railroad, the need for Kern City diminished. By 1910, Kern City voted to join Bakersfield. It also became known as East Bakersfield. This became Bakersfield’s first major expansion outside its central boundaries. Most of the cities second service locations would be in East Bakersfield. These would include: second fire station, second library (Baker Street Branch), and high school (East Bakersfield High School).

Old Town Kern is located primarily around Baker Street, and was the former central business district for the town of Sumner (which was later renamed Kern City). This was the location of the original train station in Bakersfield and competed to be the commercial downtown, eventually losing to the present location west of Old Town Kern.