How Now Cow Town? Sacramento Moo-dernists

A friend, author, community activist and avid Sacramento historian recently expressed his disdain for the phrase "cow town" when used to describe Sacramento. We occasionally encounter this term in a pejorative context. To the derogatory label "cow town" -- I say bull!

I'd like to go on record to say I'm proud of our bovine history. Our Eichler Homes neighborhood in South Land Park Hills used to be part of land owned by the Reichmuth family, which I wrote about here. According to a book by Carlos Alcalá, "The Reichmuths... had a 358-acre dairy, which may explain why a street... is named Holstein." Our nearby neighbors in the Pocket area also had a dairy.

In addition to our rich history, we have had and continue to have a sophisticated lineup of artists, designers, innovators and thinkers in Sacramento.

Without further a-moo (yes, I'm going to run the puns into the ground), I'd like to mention just a few of the many sophisticated modernists from Sacramento.

Designer RAY EAMES: was born and raised in Sacramento. Her modernist legacy hardly needs any introduction; however, if you want to know more, I've written about her Sacramento roots in a previous post.

Artist WAYNE THIEBAUD: has proudly called Sacramento his home for nearly 60 years. Per a recent New York Times interview, " 'Aren’t the colors marvelous?' he asked one afternoon recently, as if seeing this watery Netherland-like country outside Sacramento for the first time... 'It is a pretty real place,' mused Mr. Thiebaud... 'There’s a sense of lineage, of families over generations,' he said. 'The Gold Rush and the Pony Express made Sacramento a substantial place in terms of enterprise.'"

Thiebaud's first solo show was at the Crocker Art Museum in 1951, when the museum director was....


Artist DON BIRRELL: Mr. Birrell was the Crocker Art Museum director from 1950 to 1953. When he was offered a job to work at the Nut Tree in Vacaville, it was such an enticing offer he couldn't refuse. When the Nut Tree's owner said Birrell could work in a place with toys, airplanes and food, he admitted, "I couldn't pass it up." And those who remember the Nut Tree in its glory days will recall what he did there with great fondness.

Per Reference Library, "He brought Eames chairs to the toy shop — for a time, Nut Tree was the sole retailer on the West Coast for Eames furniture. He commissioned dish patterns (which are now in the MoMA permanent collection) and brought Dansk flatware into the dining room. Dishes were plated exactly as Don Birrell designed it. In four years, he and the partners had expanded Nut Tree to include a toy shop, gift shop, toy train, airport, its own clothing line and its own design studio. All of this before Alexander Girard's Textiles & Objects shop opened its doors in 1961."

I will add that much of the Nut Tree's whimsical fabulousness predates Disneyland, and definitely predated the "It's a Small World" attraction. And you know who designed several of the legendary Nut Tree's iconic buildings?

Architects DREYFUSS & BLACKFORD: their renown Sacramento architectural firm has a noteworthy portfolio all over Northern California. I've written about them here.

Founder of Tower Records RUSS SOLOMON: Not many people realize that "the largest record store in the nation" started right here, in Sacramento -- four miles up the street from our Eichler Homes neighborhood. Mr. Solomon started the record store in his dad's drug store.

A huge proponent of the local art scene for years, Mr. Solomon is still active in the arts community. You can check out his photography exhibit of local artists through March 4th.

Fellow Sacramentans, it's udder-ly ridiculous not to be proud of Sacramento's history of moo-vers and shakers. When someone calls Sacramento a cow town, don't have a cow. Smile and say, "MORE COW BELL!"