Happy birthday, Bakersfield, which is either 124 or 149 years old

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Happy birthday, Bakersfield. You’re 124 years old and you don’t look a day over 110.  Yes, it was 124 years ago Tuesday that Bakersfield was incorporated as a city – Jan. 11, 1898. The city is actually a quarter-century older than that, though, to which many of you may say — huh?

1898 was a remarkable year in many ways. The U.S. invaded Cuba in the first decisive strike of the Spanish American War. Pierre and Marie Curie discovered radium. Composer George Gershwin was born. And the City of Bakersfield was incorporated.

The city is named for an Ohio native, Col. Thomas Baker, who was drawn to California by the mid-century Gold Rush. He homesteaded in 1863 on the Kern River or more accurately at the confluence of untamed swamps. His field, we might say, became a way station, a welcoming place for weary travelers. We now celebrate the city’s birth year as 1898 when it was incorporated – for the second time. When it was first incorporated in 1873, it was called Bakerville about as frequently as it was called Bakersfield – but, as the story goes, some residents didn’t like having a pasture attached to the city founder’s name. Financial problems compelled the city to disincorporate in 1876, and by the time the city re-incorporated 22 years later, the name Bakersfield had won out.

Bakersfield, now the ninth largest city in California with just over 400,000 residents within its convoluted borders, was a handsome city in its day, before the 1952 earthquake damaged buildings like the Southern Hotel and old Courthouse.

Many of those great old buildings are still standing like the Hall of Records and the Sill Building. But by and large Bakersfield has a markedly different look. Just like the people have a markedly different look.

So, happy birthday, Bakerville  – er, Bakersfield. You look pretty good, whether you’re 149 or 124.

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