BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — You probably know it as Sinaloa, the Mexican restaurant that served generations of Bakersfield families before closing two years ago. But the building has a long, rich history with connections to the city’s founding. And now it’s for sale.
What is to become of the downtown landmark that occupies one square block of the original Baker’s Field?
We’re waiting to learn.
In 1909 Ellen Baker Tracy, better known to many as Mrs. Baker’s-field, donated this land for an orphanage. The Bakersfield Children’s Shelter was the product of community compassion — starting with Mrs. Tracy — who married into the prominent Tracy farming family after the death of her first husband, Col. Thomas Baker, founder of the city that would eventually bear his name.
The rest of Bakersfield took it from there, raising funds to purchase what would become a 6,400 square foot home for parentless and abandoned children. Bakersfield historian Ken Hooper said construction and maintenance of the building was a community labor of love.
“It was a going entity where groups would bring fresh fruits and vegetables for the children, (and) fresh clothes when school started, that type of thing,” he said. “It was supported all through the community.”
Half a century later, after a couple of other incarnations, possibly including a mortuary, it became Sinaloa Mexican restaurant, and it served generations of families and prom dates until January 2019, when the owners finally called it quits. At that time, the building had already been on the market for six months, originally listed at $1.9 million.
In May of this year, its status changed to sale pending — for about half the original asking price at $899,000. Efforts to contact the buyers and learn of their plans have not been successful.
But one would hope they appreciate the building’s historical value — not just the connection to Col. and Mrs. Baker, whose homestead was the equivalent of two blocks away — but to the many homeless children who lived under the roof of the orphanage — their handprints and footprints still plainly visible in the concrete steps leading up the building from the south.
Preservationists have long bemoaned Bakersfield’s seeming disinterest in its history. And they hope the fate of the Bakersfield Children’s Shelter is not another example.
Rather, they hope, the city values the orphanage the way it values another once-decrepit building — the Padre Hotel, built in 1927.
Stephen Montgomery of the Bakersfield Historic Commission says this kind of preservation is important.
“A community that has a respect for its past is going to be more motivated to care about the present and have pride of community,” he said. “A good way to facilitate pride in the community is to have a past you can look back at that is attractive and valuable.”
How much does Bakersfield value its history? That’s an open question — open and ongoing.