Let your fingers do the walking

I recently enjoyed going to the Sacramento Room of the Sacramento Central Public Library to research various homes and buildings in our neighborhood. One great way to find out more about the history of your home or a particular building is to consult the City Directories in your area.

While the old City Directories bear some resemblance to the phone books we receive once a year these days, they appear to be much more useful. Listings were available by name, address and phone number -- perfect for retrospectively cross-referencing with other documents for research purposes. Per the 1956 Sacramento City Directory:

"When you want to know:
-- where a person lives.
-- what his occupation is.
-- who lives at a certain number on a street.
-- where a street is located.
-- the correct spelling of a name.
-- the officers of a corporation.
-- the partners in a firm;
-- the solution to any of scores of problems that pop up unexpectedly to annoy and baffle you.
-- your can quickly find the answer in the City Directory."

In addition to being extremely informative, they also contain cool vintage advertisements. Surprisingly, some of these businesses are still around today -- and then there are others we wish still were!


More examples can be seen on my Flickr set.

As you can see they even used the old cool telephone exchange names back then. You know -- as an PEnnsylvania 6-5000?


Kimberly Lindbergs said...

I'm looking forward to doing more research about my own home as soon as I'm in Napa so I appreciate any and all tips like this!

We've been trying to ask the previous owners about floor plans, old photos, etc. since they've owned the house since it was built but they haven't been any help. I hope I can track down more information about my home in the local library.

Gretchen said...

Thanks, Kimberly. Every county keeps their records in a slightly different way.

To begin with, I'd start with finding the building permit, which might lead to more information about the developer, builder and/or architect. The city directory would tell you who lived there -- which you already know.

Do other people in the neighborhood have similar looking homes? I'd ask them too.

Best of luck with your searches and please keep me posted :)

azure said...

When I was growing up 'in the north end', my phone number was IV7-4932

Ivanhoe. Later converted to 48

They were just coming off of party lines, I think

BTW I have another early 60s picture of my grandmother getting on a plane at the airport

Gretchen said...

How cool and interesting, azure! Thanks for sharing your story. I'll look for your new picture when I return to my computer. I'm on my newfangled i-phone -- so seemingly far from the days of the rotary phone!