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Ferndale, California

City of Ferndale
Main Street in Ferndale
Main Street in Ferndale
Location in Humboldt County and the state of California
Location in Humboldt County and the state of California
City of Ferndale is located in USA
City of Ferndale
Location in the United States
Country United States
State California
County Humboldt
Incorporated August 28, 1893[1]
 • Type Council–manager government[2]
 • Mayor Don Hindley[3]
 • City manager Jay Parrish[4]
 • Total 1.027 sq mi (2.659 km2)
 • Land 1.027 sq mi (2.659 km2)
 • Water 0 sq mi (0 km2)  0%
Elevation[6] 56 ft (17 m)
Population (April 1, 2010)
 • Total 1,371
 • Density 1,300/sq mi (520/km2)
Time zone Pacific (UTC-8)
 • Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7)
ZIP code 95536
Area code 707
FIPS code 06-23910
GNIS feature IDs 277513, 2410497
Reference no. 883

Ferndale is a city in Humboldt County, California, United States. Its population was 1,371 at the 2010 census, down from 1,382 at the 2000 census. The city contains dozens of well-preserved Victorian storefronts and homes. Ferndale is the northern gateway to California's Lost Coast and the city, which is sited on the edge of a wide plain near the mouth of the Eel River, is also located near the extensive preserves of Coast Redwood forests.


  • History 1
    • Early settlers 1.1
    • European immigrants 1.2
    • Chinese settlement and expulsions 1.3
    • Business and communications 1.4
    • Incorporation and services 1.5
  • Geography 2
    • Earthquakes 2.1
  • Climate 3
  • Demographics 4
    • 2010 4.1
    • 2000 4.2
  • Economy 5
  • Arts and Culture 6
    • Tourism 6.1
    • Annual events 6.2
  • Parks and recreation 7
    • City Hall Park 7.1
    • Firemen's Park 7.2
    • Russ Park 7.3
  • Government 8
    • Local 8.1
    • State and federal 8.2
  • Education 9
  • Media 10
  • Infrastructure 11
    • Affordable housing 11.1
    • Drinking water 11.2
    • Wastewater treatment 11.3
  • Notable people 12
  • In popular culture 13
    • Film location 13.1
    • Legoland Model Replica 13.2
  • See also 14
  • References 15
  • External links 16


Before American settlement, Ferndale was a glade of giant ferns, surrounded by Alder, Willow, Sitka Spruce, Douglas fir, Coast Redwood, swampy land and windswept prairies. The area was populated by the southern Wiyot people, centered along the Eel River where they caught lamprey eels, salmon and sturgeon in iris leaf fish nets, collected shellfish along the river and at its mouth,[7] while cultivating only a California species of tobacco[8] until settlement by Willard Allard, Seth Louis Shaw and his brother Stephen W. Shaw in the summer of 1852.[7]

Early settlers

The marble Centennial Plaque for Ferndale, California, on Main Street in Ferndale, erected in 1952.

In August 1852, Allard and the Shaw brothers borrowed a canoe from the Wiyots in the Table Bluff area and rowed it across the Eel and up Francis Creek to arrive with their supplies to the approximate vicinity of Main and Shaw streets.[7] In September 1852 they cleared a five-acre area of ferns and began building a cabin near the base of the Wildcat Road even though Allard was sick with the ague.[7] By January 1853, twelve men were living in the Shaws' cabin including Seth Kinman, who provided the group with meat, and Joe Russ (1825-1886), whose later holdings included the Fern Cottage Historic District.[7] About this time, Stephen Shaw painted the portrait of Wiyot elder Kiwelattah (or Ki-we-lah-tah)[9] and kept a detailed journal of two years of trying to grow plants in cold coastal fog.[10]

Seth Shaw settled in the area now marked by Main and Lewis streets where he began construction of the now-historic Shaw House on his property in 1854.[11][12] The Shaw House served as the area's first polling place in 1854,[7] post office[13] in 1860[14] and courthouse in 1863.[7] Seth Shaw was justice of the peace and postmaster,[15] and his home served for many gatherings although it was not finished until 1866.[7] After having been away from the area for two years, Stephen Shaw sold his holdings in 1856 to Welsh-born Francis Francis (1818-1877) who later established the city's water system[16]:67 through pipes laid initially in 1875.[7]

Other small towns were established around Ferndale, including Centerville, Port Kenyon, Waddington, Grizzly Bluff and Arlynda Corners. Produce from Ferndale was shipped out via Centerville and transferred to ships at anchor offshore prior to the opening of docks at Port Kenyon in 1876.[7] In 1865 the first shipment of coal oil from the Union Mattole Oil Company was shipped through Ferndale to San Francisco.[7]

While the earliest settlers were English speaking from England, New England, Canada or Ireland, waves of immigrants arrived in Ferndale from Denmark, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Portugal and China.[7]

European immigrants

Danish settlers founded and built Our Savior's Lutheran Church in 1899 and dedicated Danish Hall, which had been built as a warehouse by

  • Official website
  • Ferndale Chamber of Commerce site has an event calendar, history of town and much more information
  • Ferndale History Museum is an active research institution
  • Ferndale's Carnegie Library
  • Virtual Walk on Main Street A building-by-building description of Historic Main Street
  • The 1906 Earthquake More famous for its devastation of San Francisco, California, photographs and description of the destruction caused by the quake.

External links

  1. ^ "California Cities by Incorporation Date" (Word). California Association of  
  2. ^ "City of Ferndale, California". Retrieved April 7, 2013. 
  3. ^ "City Council for the City of Ferndale, California". Retrieved May 18, 2015. 
  4. ^ "City Manager for the City of Ferndale, California". Retrieved April 7, 2013. 
  5. ^ "2010 Census U.S. Gazetteer Files – Places – California".  
  6. ^ a b "Ferndale".  
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd Carlson, Beverly, editor; Ferndale Union High School; class of 1977 (1977). Where the ferns grew tall: An early history of Ferndale. Ferndale, California: Ferndale Union High School. p. 379. 0-7385-2890-0. 
  8. ^ Winter, Joseph C. (2000). Tobacco Use by Native North Americans: Sacred Smoke and Silent Killer. Norman, Oklahoma: Univ. of Oklahoma Press. p. 28. OCLC 247080904. 
  9. ^ Palmquist, Peter E.; Thomas R. Kailbourn (2000). Pioneer photographers of the far west: a biographical dictionary, 1840-1865. Stanford University Press. p. 491. ISBN 0-8047-3883-1, ISBN 978-0-8047-3883-5. 
  10. ^ Shaw, Stephen William (1852–1853). The Record Book of the Farm. Ferndale Museum reprint 2013. 
  11. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places.  
  12. ^ Genzoli, Marilyn (1994). The Victorian Homes of Ferndale: A Pictorial Guide and History. Ferndale, CA: The Ferndale Museum. pp. 1–24. 
  13. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places.  
  14. ^ a b Durham, David L. (1998). California's Geographic Names: A Gazetteer of Historic and Modern Names of the State. Clovis, Calif.: Word Dancer Press. p. 59.  
  15. ^ Tapper, Joan (2007). The Most Beautiful Villages and Towns of California, with photographs by  
  16. ^ Ferndale Museum; Bess Carol, Beryl Newman and Ann Roberts, editors (2004). Images of America: Ferndale. Charleston, South Caroline: Arcadia Publishing. pp. 1–128. 0-7385-2890-0. 
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Carranco, Lynwood (1961). "Chinese expulsion from Humboldt County". Pacific Historical Review (November).  
  18. ^ "Local News". The Ferndale Enterprise. February 28, 1899. 
  19. ^ "Local News". The Ferndale Enterprise. March 17, 1900. 
  20. ^ "Local News". The Ferndale Enterprise. February 5, 1960. 
  21. ^ Titus, Caroline. "History". Ferndale Enterprise. Retrieved October 10, 2012. 
  22. ^ "Hand Engine Sold". San Jose Morning Times. April 15, 1883. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  23. ^ "Old Fire Engine Leaves Ferndale". Ferndale Enterprise. November 30, 1923. 
  24. ^ Dengler, Lori (April 2008). "The 1906 Earthquake on California’s North Coast". Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America ( 
  25. ^ BSSA (June 1924). "Earthquake in Northern California January 22, 1923". Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America ( 
  26. ^ Byerly, Perry (1927). "The registration of earthquakes at the Berkeley station and at the Lick Observatory station from April 1, 1927 to September 30, 1927". Bulletin of the seismographic stations. University of California, Berkeley 2 (1).  
  27. ^ "Earthquake rocks California towns".  
  28. ^ a b Christensen, Arne (April 1, 2011). "The April 1992 Mendocino Triple Junction Earthquakes". Chronicling the Nisqually Earthquake and Other Northwest Quakes. Nisqually Multimedia. Retrieved January 14, 2012. 
  29. ^ Hevesi, Dennis (April 26, 1992). "Powerful Quake Shakes California". New York Times. Retrieved January 5, 2014. 
  30. ^ a b c NOAA (1992). "Natural Hazards Images". Cape Mendocino, California Earthquakes, April 25 & 26, 1992. National Geophysical Data Center. Retrieved January 5, 2014. 
  31. ^ USGS. "Cape Mendocino, California Earthquakes". Retrieved March 1, 2013. 
  32. ^ "Magnitude 6.5 earthquake rattles Eureka in Northern California". Los Angeles Times. January 9, 2010. Archived from the original on January 11, 2010. Retrieved January 9, 2010. 
  33. ^ a b c d "Ferndale, California". Climate Summary. Weather Base. 2013. Retrieved August 22, 2013. 
  34. ^ Corwin, Diane (2011). "Palm Tree Toupee". Sense of Place. National Geographic. Retrieved October 1, 2011. 
  35. ^ National Cooperative Soil Survey (2013). "Ferndale Series". Soil Series of California. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved January 5, 2014. 
  36. ^ Sawyer, J.O.; T. Keeler-Wolf (June 30, 2009). A Manual of California Vegetation. Sacramento, California: California Native Plant Society. p. 471.  
  37. ^ a b "Russ Park". California's Redwood Coast. Humboldt County Convention & Visitors Bureau. Retrieved October 1, 2011. 
  38. ^ Hasslinger, Tom (January 9, 2011). "Tall tree tale". Coeur d’Alene Press. Retrieved October 1, 2011. 
  39. ^ California. State Board of Forestry (1886). Biennial Report of the California State Board of Forestry for the Years ... J.J. Ayers, Superintendent state printing. pp. 203–. Retrieved August 22, 2013. 
  40. ^ "Weatherbase: Historical Weather for Ferndale California, United States of America". Retrieved August 1, 2011. 
  41. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  42. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  43. ^ "2010 Census Interactive Population Search: CA - Ferndale city". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  44. ^ "American FactFinder".  
  45. ^ Lopez, Ricardo (July 19, 2013). "Top 5 best and worst California cities for unemployment". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 20, 2013. 
  46. ^ "Ferndale". Office of Historic Preservation, California State Parks. Retrieved October 10, 2012. 
  47. ^ Humboldt County Fair, Cal Racing, accessed July 20, 2013
  48. ^ Genzoli, Andrew (1963). Down memory lane : 67th annual Humboldt County Fair, Ferndale, California, August 12–18, 1897–1963. Ferndale, California: Bert Wood Advertising Agency. p. 60.  
  49. ^ Humboldt County Convention & Visitors Bureau. "Lighting of America's Tallest Living Christmas Tree". Humboldt County Convention & Visitors Bureau. Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  50. ^ Mickey, R. "So, what is this thing called The Fray?". Inland Empire HO Raceway - Purveyors of fine fray racing. Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  51. ^ Phillis, Richard. "It happens at the Ferndale Fairgrounds". The Fray In Ferndale. Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  52. ^ "Ferndale Takes Note". The Ferndale Enterprise. March 7, 2013. 
  53. ^ Stan Bennett (1975). Crazy Contraptions: A Light-hearted Look at Ferndale's Kinetic Sculpture Race. Low Tide Lumber Company. Retrieved July 20, 2013. 
  54. ^ "Village Club deeds park to city". Ferndale Enterprise. 8 February 1918. 
  55. ^ a b c d "City Hall Park". Ferndale Enterprise. 29 May 1931. 
  56. ^ a b c d "City of Ferndale Facilities". City of Ferndale. Retrieved 10 December 2011. 
  57. ^ "Parks in Ferndale!". Ferndale Enterprise. 11 August 1922. 
  58. ^ a b c d e f g "2009-2010 Souvenir Edition". Ferndale Enterprise. June 2009. p. 4. 
  59. ^ "Ferndale's Russ Park". Explore the Eel River Valley. Fortuna Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved December 10, 2011. 
  60. ^ Kauffmann, Michael (2011). "Russ Park" (PDF). Conifer County. Retrieved December 10, 2011. 
  61. ^ Special Council Packet, November 23, 2012
  62. ^ "City Council of Ferndale, California". City of Ferndale, California. 2012. Retrieved November 29, 2012. 
  63. ^ "Election Results". Election Update. Humboldt County, California Board of Elections. 26 November 2012. Retrieved November 29, 2012. 
  64. ^ "Election Results". Humboldt County, California Board of Elections. 2004. Retrieved November 29, 2012. 
  65. ^ "Election Results". Humboldt County, California Board of Elections. 2006. Retrieved November 29, 2012. 
  66. ^ "Senators". State of California. Retrieved March 10, 2013. 
  67. ^ "Members Assembly". State of California. Retrieved March 2, 2013. 
  68. ^ "California's 2nd Congressional District - Representatives & District Map". Civic Impulse, LLC. Retrieved March 1, 2013. 
  69. ^ "Ferndale Wildcats 2012 Football Schedule". Oregon Prep Sports. 2013. Retrieved October 4, 2013. 
  70. ^ Tarpey, Neil (September 20, 2013). "Huskies host Wildcats in 48th Milk Can Game tonight". Eureka Times-Standard. Retrieved October 4, 2013. 
  71. ^ Tarpey, Neil (September 21, 2013). "Dug down deep: Huskies win battle of the trenches for Milk Can victory". Eureka Times-Standard. Retrieved October 4, 2013. 
  72. ^ "Prized Ferndale and Fortuna Milk Can recovered". Eureka Times-Standard. November 9, 2011. Retrieved October 4, 2013. 
  73. ^ Wilke, Lorraine Devon (June 16, 2011). "Women Of the News: Ferndale's Enterprising Editor, Caroline Titus". June 15, 2011 (Huffington Post). Retrieved December 10, 2011. 
  74. ^ "Ferndale Repertory Theatre". Retrieved December 10, 2011. 
  75. ^ Morris, Michael R. "Centerville Beach NAVFAC". Naval Facility (NAVFAC) Station History. Navy CT History Group. Retrieved December 10, 2011. 
  76. ^ Ad Hoc Committee on Navy Housing (September 2010). "Ferndale's Navy Housing Information about Measure S" (PDF). City of Ferndale. Retrieved December 10, 2011. 
  77. ^ "City of Ferndale Majority Approval Required". Smart Voter Humboldt County, CA. League of Women Voters of California. 2 November 2010. Retrieved December 10, 2011. 
  78. ^ Tam, Donna (2 September 2011). "Ferndale approves purchase of Navy housing complex". Eureka Times-Standard. Retrieved December 10, 2011. 
  79. ^ Tam, Donna (9 September 2011). "Ferndale chooses Lytel Foundation to take Navy housing". Eureka Times-Standard. Retrieved December 10, 2011. 
  80. ^ "Ferndale District". Del Oro Water Company. 2011. Retrieved December 10, 2011. 
  81. ^ a b Spencer Engineering and Construction Management (14 September 2004). City of Ferndale, USDA Rural Utilities Service Wastewater System Improvements Financial Assistance Grant Preliminary Engineering Report (PDF). Ferndale, California: City of Ferndale. pp. 1–115. 
  82. ^ a b c Spencer Engineering and Construction Management (December 10, 2003). Wastewater Treament Corrective Action Report City of Ferndale (PDF). City of Ferndale, California. pp. 1–100. 
  83. ^ FEMA (9 February 1998). "California Severe Winter Storms and Flooding Major Disaster Declared February 9, 1998 (DR-1203)". 1998 Federal Disaster Declarations. Federal Emergency Management Agency. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  84. ^ a b c d California Regional Water Quality Control Board North Coast Region (23 July 2009). Waste Discharge Requirements for The City of Ferndale, Wastewater Treament Facility ORDER NO. R1-2009-0034 (PDF). State of California. p. 124. 
  85. ^ Bullwinkel, Mary (29 April 2011). "Construction continues at the Wastewater Treatment facility". Humboldt Beacon. Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  86. ^ "Hobart Brown, Kinetic Sculpture Race founder, dies at 74". San Jose Mercury News. November 8, 2007. 
  87. ^ McClellan, Dennis (November 10, 2007). "Hobart Brown, 73; artist founded wacky yearly sculpture race -". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 5, 2014. 
  88. ^ Scott Jr, Jeremiah R (May 2002). "Len Casanova, A West Coast Football Legend" (PDF). College Football Historical Society Newsletter 15 (3): 1–9. Retrieved January 5, 2013. 
  89. ^ United States. Congress; Andrew R. Dodge; Betty K. Koed; United States. Congress. Joint Committee on Printing. Biographical directory of the United States Congress, 1774-2005: the Continental Congress, September 5, 1774, to October 21, 1788, and the Congress of the United States, from the First through the One Hundred Eighth Congresses, March 4, 1789, to January 3, 2005, inclusive. Government Printing Office. pp. 832–.  
  90. ^ "Sam Dungan Statistics and History". 2013. Retrieved January 5, 2014. 
  91. ^ Tam, Donna (15 August 2009). "Off the hook: Food Network to premiere "Chefography" on Ferndale native Guy Fieri". Eureka Times-Standard. Retrieved March 1, 2013. 
  92. ^ White, Allison (August 15, 2010). "Bringing success back home to Ferndale: Entrepreneurship the focus of local video project with Guy Fieri - Times-Standard Online". Eureka Times-Standard. Retrieved January 5, 2014. 
  93. ^ Michaelson, Judith (October 30, 1994). "The Sunday Profile : A Quiet Force : Dorothy E. Leavey loves sharing her millions with the needy and the deserving--especially children. But much of it is done anonymously. She doesn't like the fuss.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 5, 2014. 
  94. ^  
  95. ^ "The Majestic". Northern California Filming locations. Film in America. 2011. Retrieved January 14, 2011. 
  96. ^ a b c Haeseler, Rob (17 April 1995). "Hollywood Invades Humboldt County". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved January 14, 2011. 
  97. ^ "Outbreak". Northern California Filming locations. Film in America. 2011. Retrieved January 14, 2011. 
  98. ^ Ringwald, George (29 July 1999). "Ferndale's Dan Rather". North Coast Journal. Retrieved April 4, 2011. 


See also

Many of Ferndale's buildings have been recreated at the Legoland California theme park - the only American small town represented alongside New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas and other nationally known locations. Ferndale was settled by many Danes, and Lego is a Danish company. In 1995, Legoland staff took hundreds of photos in Ferndale, and used over 1 million Lego bricks to recreate the town in the Miniland section of the park.[98]

Legoland Model Replica

Ferndale has been featured in movies including The Majestic with Jim Carrey,[95] Outbreak starring Dustin Hoffman,[96][97] and made-for-television movies Salem’s Lot starring David Soul and James Mason,[96] and A Death in Canaan.[96]

Film location

Some of Ferndale's historic buildings at Legoland, California. Left to right top: Abraxas Building, Victorian Inn, NVB Bank Building, Hobart Galleries, and the IOOF hall. The order of the buildings is not the same in reality.

In popular culture

Notable people

The new wastewater plant was completed in 2011 and provides tertiary treatment for nearly 1,500 commercial and residential users.[84] The only other wastewater facility like Ferndale's in California is in Colfax.[85]

Less than ten years later, El Niño storms in April 1998 caused Williams Creek to change course due to debris blockage.[82] Williams Creek had been the major tributary of the Salt River near the treatment plant, so diversion lowered the volume of water available and caused the dilution ratios at the plant to exceed permitted levels.[82] Record stormwater flows also damaged the plant and the city applied for assistance[82] under the FEMA-1203-DR-CA El Niño storm Presidential disaster declaration.[83] On 15 May 2003, the Regional Water Board (RWB) placed a Cease and Desist order on Ferndale due to discharges of treated wastewater which exceeded 1 percent of the flow of Francis Creek / Salt River stream system.[84] The City paid a $48,000 penalty to the RWB and agreed to complete an environmental project instead of paying $78,000 more in penalties to the RWB[84] and began replacing the old plant in 2009.[84]

Ferndale's first sewage treatment facility and combined sewer system was built in 1953 and upgraded in 1973, 1994 and 2001.[81] Improvements were made to the sewers in 1989 under a $400,000 project funded by the California State Water Resources Control Board to improve the collection system and reduce inflow and infiltration.[81]

Wastewater treatment

Ferndale's spring water comes from 28 individual springs which produce 113 gallons per minute.[58] Historic tunnels under the hillside and a million gallon underwater reservoir collect and store water before distribution.[58] As a secondary source of supply, water may also come from Van Ness Treatment Plant which can supply an average of nearly 30 gallons per minute.[58] The Del Oro Water Company finished the Ferndale Mainline Replacement Project in 2011 which included larger pipes and new valves to reduce the number of customers affected during line repairs.[80]

The Ferndale water system was installed by Mr. Francis Francis in 1872.[58] In 1906, the Francis Land and Water Company was incorporated and in 1910 they bought the Cold Springs Water Company which supplied eastern Ferndale.[58] In 1954, the Citizens Utilities Company bought the system from the Francis Estate and sold it to Del Oro Water Company in 1996.[58]

Drinking water

The Ferndale City Council voted to purchase the housing from the Navy for $1.00 on 1 September 2011.[78] The city began negotiations with the non-profit O'Rourke Foundation, part of the Bertha Russ Lytel Foundation, to take over and run the 52-unit project as an affordable housing project. The Navy housing is ten percent of the available housing in the city.[79] The 24 single-family homes, 14 duplex townhouses, three playgrounds and two community buildings of the former Navy Housing were transferred from the Navy to the city in a public ceremony with Congressman Mike Thompson on October 23, 2011.

The U.S. Coast Guard subsequently occupied the Navy Housing but vacated the housing units in October 2008. The property was returned to the Navy which declared the units surplus.[76] In order to acquire the housing, a ballot initiative was required. The city placed Measure S on the ballot for the 2 November 2010 election. Measure S passed 516 (74.57%) to 176 (25.43%) approving the City's plan to acquire low- and moderate-income housing from the Navy.[77]

U.S. Navy Housing was built for staff of the 30-acre Naval Facility (NAVFAC) Centerville Beach, which was commissioned on March 25, 1958. Originally the base was staffed by 95 people, but grew to over 280 people. The 52-unit Ferndale Navy Housing was built as part of this project. The NAVFAC was decommissioned on September 30, 1993.[75]

Lt. Jeremy M. Schwartz hands the keys of surplus U.S. Navy Housing to Ferndale Mayor Jeff Farley at the Navy Housing Picnic Shelter in Ferndale, California on October 23, 2011.

Affordable housing


Ferndale is home to the oldest newspaper under a single name in Humboldt County, the Ferndale Enterprise.[73] Commercial radio station KHUM operates in a joint studio with KXGO and KWPT. Ferndale is also home to the North Coast's oldest theatre company, The Ferndale Repertory Theatre which has been in operation since 1972.[74]


In 2011, the Milk Can was stolen from Ferndale High School during a break-in by three Fortuna high school students, thrown over a bluff, and later recovered by police.[72]

Ferndale has an active sports program with Junior Varsity and Varsity Softball, Volleyball, Basketball and Football. The school has a long-time sports rivalry with neighboring Fortuna Union High School. The first Ferndale Wildcat versus Fortuna Huskies "Milk Can" football game was played in 1945 and each year since with approximately 20 years hiatus. Fortuna has won more games than Ferndale, as of 2013, the record was 27-20-1.[70][71]

The High School was founded in 1904 by the unification of smaller school districts across the Eel River Valley including Port Kenyon, Island School, Grant School, Salt River School, Coffee Creek School, Grizzly Bluff School and Pleasant Point School.[7]:209 The original building was in use from 1907 to 1951 when it was replaced by the present high school facility.[7]:212 Enrollment in 2004-2005 was 175 students in grades 9 to 12.[69]

The elementary school is older; it dates back to the 1860s with school rooms and houses in various locations.[7]:212 In 1890, school trustees started a new building, but it - and the old building - were completely destroyed in an arson fire before it was finished.[7]:214 A replacement three-story, redwood Greek Revival building was put up after the September fire and in time to open in February, 1891.[7]:212 The stucco one-story building which currently houses the Ferndale Elementary School was built in 1924.[7]:215 The baby-boom of the 1960s resulted in classes at the Fairgrounds as well as the addition of four modular classrooms (since removed), and the construction of a gymnasium in 1967.[7]:215 The following year, the closure of the Assumption Catholic School (1915–1968) rapidly increased enrollment as 117 students transferred and the rising enrollment resulted in the addition of five primary classrooms and a playground.[7]:215 In 1976 the building was retrofitted for earthquakes.[7]:215

The Ferndale Unified School District has two schools, the Ferndale Elementary School with grades K–8 and the Ferndale High School.

Ferndale Elementary


Federally, Ferndale is in California's 2nd congressional district, represented by Democrat Jared Huffman.[68]

In the state legislature, Ferndale is in the 2nd Senate District, represented by Democrat Mike McGuire,[66] and the 2nd Assembly District, represented by Democrat Jim Wood.[67]

State and federal

In 2004 the City Council placed Measure O on the municipal ballot to eliminate the elective office of Mayor, instead proposing to appoint the position by a vote of the City Council from the council members. The measure was defeated with 78.8% voting against.[64] When the Mayor's seat was next open for election in 2006, all of the mayoral candidates were write-ins.[65]

Ferndale was incorporated in 1893 and is governed by a four-member City Council and a Mayor, all of whom serve four-year terms chosen in the general election of even-numbered years. In November 2012, Stuart Titus was elected Mayor; council members include Dan Brown, John Maxwell, Ken Mierzwa, and Michael Sweeney.[62][63]

Guy Fieri receives the key to the city of Ferndale from the Ferndale City Council at a special council meeting, 23 November 2012.[61]



Russ Park, located three blocks east of Main Street on Bluff St., is open sunrise to sunset.[56] Four hiking trails cross the mature forest in the 105-acre park donated to the city by Zipporah Patrick Russ on 31 October 1920.[56] The deed includes "That the property be used forever as a park and recreation grounds… as a refuge and breeding place for birds."[56] Dominant trees include Sitka Spruce and Douglas Fir with a few redwoods which were planted in the 1930s.[37] More than 100 kinds of birds are known from the park,[59] which is the southern extent of the Pacific Northwest temperate rainforest.[60]

Russ Park

Firemen's Park at the southernmost end of town between Francis and Berding Streets is bordered on three sides by houses and to the south by restricted watershed property. It has ball fields, a playground, picnic area and three bocce courts.[56] The Community Center in Fireman's Park was built in 1922. It includes a large dance and meeting pavilion with attached kitchen.[57] The Ferndale Children's Center has occupied one end of the pavilion since 1991.[58]

Firemen's Park

City Hall Park was deeded to the City by the Village Club in 1918.[54] The triangular park was filled with material graded from the southern end of Main Street, and a Clubhouse (now City Hall) was finished in 1931.[55] The building was styled to look like an English cottage, although shingles were used in place of traditional thatch.[55] The fireplace was sent from England as a gift from the daughter of a resident.[55] Its granite comes from a Welsh quarry and was chiseled in San Francisco.[55] The Gazebo which contains Ferndale's California Historical Landmark Plaque is at the north end of City Hall Park. In 2011 new benches and trees were added to the park which hosts annual events including the Fourth of July Picnic.

City Hall Park

Parks and recreation

Each May since 1969, Ferndale is the finish line of the annual Kinetic sculpture race. The race began in Ferndale when Hobart Brown was challenged to race his odd-looking five-wheeled bike down Main Street on Mother's Day, 1969 by local sculptor Jack Mays.[53]

Each March since 1977, runners have taken to the streets of Ferndale and surrounding Eel River Bottoms for the Foggy Bottom Milk Run. Races are held in 2 miles (3.2 km),4 miles (6.4 km), and 10 miles (16 km) distances.[52]

Every February since 1997, Ferndale has hosted 'The Ferndale Fray,' a slot car race with the highest attendance of this type of event anywhere in the world. More than 100 racers on sixteen teams arrive to compete on eight-custom built tables.[50][51]

Every year since 1934 in early December, local volunteer fire fighters climb and light one of America's tallest living Christmas trees, an approximately 150 feet (46 m) spruce, during a celebration of song held at Fireman's Park.[49]

The Humboldt County Fair has been held every August since 1896 at the county fairgrounds on the edge of Ferndale,[47] and feature the only horse-racing events in the county along with the standard fare of agricultural, pastoral and artistic contests, carnival games, carnival amusement rides, and commercial or non-profit booths.[48]

Annual events

Other points of interest include the Ferndale City Hall, Ferndale Museum, Ferndale Cemetery, St. Mary's Cemetery, Our Saviors Lutheran Church, Saint Marks Lutheran Church, Church of the Assumption, the Congregational Church, and the Humboldt County Fairgrounds.

Six historic buildings as well as the Ferndale Main Street Historic District and the Fern Cottage Historic District are within or around Ferndale are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Ferndale, sometimes also referred to as "Cream City", is known for well-preserved Victorian store-fronts on main street and homes throughout the community, which are also known as "Butterfat Palaces," due to their construction wherein considerable wealth was generated in the dairy industry. Many of these buildings date from the 1880s. The entire town is registered as California Historical Landmark #883.[46]

Landmark #883 plaque in Town Hall Park


Arts and Culture

The local economy is a mixture of dairies and ranching, agricultural support, retail and services. On July 18, 2013 the California Employment Development Department identified Ferndale as having the second lowest unemployment rate (1.7%) of all cities in the state, led only by Carmel-by-the-Sea.[45]


The median income for a household in the city was $37,955, and the median income for a family was $49,706. Males had a median income of $32,404 versus $29,808 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,727. About 4.5% of families and 7.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.9% of those under age 18 and 3.6% of those age 65 or over.

In the city the population was spread out with 22.8% under the age of 18, 6.9% from 18 to 24, 24.2% from 25 to 44, 29.5% from 45 to 64, and 16.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females there were 86.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 81.8 males.

There were 611 households out of which 25.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.0% were married couples living together, 9.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.8% were non-families. 30.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.26 and the average family size was 2.83.

As of the census[44] of 2000, there were 1,382 people, 611 households, and 392 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,343.2 people per square mile (518.1/km²). There were 663 housing units at an average density of 644.4 per square mile (248.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 93.34% White, 0.29% Black or African American, 0.51% Native American, 0.58% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 1.30% from other races, and 3.91% from two or more races. 4.27% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.


There were 717 housing units at an average density of 698.4 per square mile (269.7/km²), of which 388 (63.5%) were owner-occupied, and 223 (36.5%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 1.8%; the rental vacancy rate was 3.0%. 926 people (67.5% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 445 people (32.5%) lived in rental housing units.

The population was spread out with 283 people (20.6%) under the age of 18, 75 people (5.5%) aged 18 to 24, 283 people (20.6%) aged 25 to 44, 422 people (30.8%) aged 45 to 64, and 308 people (22.5%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 47.2 years. For every 100 females there were 89.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.1 males.

There were 611 households, out of which 149 (24.4%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 294 (48.1%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 55 (9.0%) had a female householder with no husband present, 27 (4.4%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 38 (6.2%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 6 (1.0%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 194 households (31.8%) were made up of individuals and 91 (14.9%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.24. There were 376 families (61.5% of all households); the average family size was 2.84.

The Census reported that 1,371 people (100% of the population) lived in households, 0 (0%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 0 (0%) were institutionalized.

The 2010 United States Census[43] reported that Ferndale had a population of 1,371. The population density was 1,335.5 people per square mile (515.6/km²). The racial makeup of Ferndale was 1,281 (93.4%) White, 1 (0.1%) African American, 22 (1.6%) Native American, 20 (1.5%) Asian, 2 (0.1%) Pacific Islander, 17 (1.2%) from other races, and 28 (2.0%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 77 persons (5.6%).



Climate data for Ferndale, California
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 43.9
Average high °F (°C) 57
Average low °F (°C) 40
Record low °F (°C) 26
Average rainfall inches (mm) 8.45
Average rainy days (≥ 0.01 in) 20 12 14 12 6 6 4 6 5 11 17 17 130
Source: Weatherbase[40]

Ferndale's climate is moderated by being close to the Pacific Ocean and in the lee of the Wildcat Hills. Winter temperatures rarely go below freezing and summer days are rarely over 80 °F (27 °C). Ferndale has a warm summer Mediterranean climate indicated by the code "Csb" on some weather maps.[33] The average yearly temperature is 46.0 °F (7.8 °C): January is the coldest month, July is the warmest.[33] The record high temperature was 92.6 °F (33.7 °C) set in August, and the lowest ever recorded was 19.0 °F (−7.2 °C) in December.[33] Ferndale's average snowfall is zero, however rare dustings of snow have happened.[33] Ferndale receives most of its nearly 50 inches (130 cm) of rain from November to May, with lesser amounts in the summer months. Local microclimates are varied and support tropical palm trees[34] and Sitka spruce,[35] including a mature Sitka forest in Russ Park,[36][37] and the over 150 feet (46 m) tall spruce lighted every year for Christmas.[38] Morning fogs are common year round.[39]

Climate chart ()
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation totals in inches


On January 9, 2010 the 6.5 Richter magnitude, 2010 Eureka earthquake's epicenter was about 25 miles (40 km) offshore of Ferndale.[32] Occurring within a subduction fault associated with the interaction of three tectonic plates (Pacific, North American, and Juan de Fuca), it was the largest local earthquake since the 1992 Cape Mendocino earthquakes.

Smaller earthquakes were recorded from the 1920s through the 1980s, but the next big earthquake to strike Ferndale was actually three big earthquakes. The first "Best of the West" festival parade was in progress on April 25 when the first of three shocks of the 1992 Cape Mendocino earthquakes hit, shattering the glass windows of the stores out onto the street.[28] The brick facade of Valley Grocery collapsed, and police estimated damage to 80 percent of the downtown buildings.[28] Between 30 to 40 houses were knocked off their foundations from the first shock which was centered about 35 miles (56 km) south of Eureka[29] and had a magnitude of 7.2.[30] The other two large earthquakes that hit within 18 hours of the first shock, measured magnitude 6.5 and 6.7.[31] Both a large landslide and several small landslides occurred on the Mattole Road which also cracked due to downhill slumping and soil compaction of the road shoulders.[30] Damages in Ferndale were estimated at $10.4 million.[30]

On August 20, 1927 an earthquake centered about 60 kilometres (37 mi) west of Arcata caused considerable damage around Humboldt Bay,[26] and damage reports from Ferndale included broken chimneys, merchandise tossed from shelves and china and glassware broken.[27]

Seventeen years later, on January 22, 1923, a 7.2 earthquake centered off Cape Mendocino was said to be nearly as great a shock in Ferndale as the 1906 earthquake. Chimneys fell, water mains and plate glass windows broke, and the recently repaired Odd Fellows building fell off its new foundation. It arrived with a ground rumble and a flash of light.[25]

Ferndale experienced earthquakes in the 19th century, but the first shock to receive widespread news coverage was the 1906 San Francisco earthquake which damaged more than 40 structures in the downtown, with severe damages to the two brick buildings, and 98 percent of chimneys thrown down. The earthquake was estimated at a Mercalli intensity of VII (Very Strong) at Ferndale.[24]

2010 earthquake map.


According to the United States Census Bureau, Ferndale has a total area of 1.0 square mile (2.6 km2), all of it land.

Ferndale is located at .[6] Its location south of US 101, is very close to the mouth of the Eel River as it enters the Pacific Ocean. By car, Ferndale is 265 miles (426 km) north of San Francisco and just 12 miles (19 km) south of Eureka. California State Route 211 is the major road connecting the city with US 101. Directly to the south of Ferndale is the Lost Coast region, whose geology and terrain has made it very difficult to establish routes through the area. It has thus made that area only accessible by land via small county mountain roads, such as Mattole Road, running from Ferndale south to Petrolia.

Location of Ferndale, California


The national landmark Ferndale Public Library was completed in 1910 with local funds and an $8,000 Carnegie grant.[7] In 1876 the Ferndale Cemetery Association was established which manages the 5.03 acre burial ground.[7]

Electrical lighting was installed in May 1896, supplied by a wood burning steam electric generating plant that worked between dusk and midnight only; it was replaced in 1903 by a distillate burning steam electric generator a few blocks east of Main Street.[7] In 1911, the earlier generation and distribution systems were merged into Western States Gas and Electric acquired in 1927 by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company.[7]

After the 1875 fire which nearly destroyed south Main street was put out by volunteer bucket brigades, and other smaller conflagrations, the City purchased a used Hunneman hand pumper fire engine in April 14, 1883.[7] The end-stroke torrent pumper had been built in the 1850s and been shipped west in the 1860s.[22] The name on the side of this engine was "Franklin" because the city bought it from the Franklin Fire Company of American LaFrance Company, "as part payment on the fine new pumper recently purchased by this town."[23] Other sources say the engine was sold to a Hollywood film company.[7] Modern equipment arrived in 1905 with a motorized pumper engine, in 1917 with a Model T truck with chemical tanks and in 1948 the Hook and Ladder Company formed.[7] In 1883, water supplies were consolidated in local cisterns under present-day State Route 211 which were later filled in and water from the hill reservoirs was used to supply the hydrants.[7] In 1902 the fire alarm was placed in a wooden structure at the corner of Brown and Main which fell over entirely in the 1906 earthquake (see below) which led to the bell being hung at the firehouse, and a steam-whistle at the Creamery used for the fire alarm from 1906 until electric sirens came into use in 1931.[7]

The Hunneman end-stroke torrent pumper used by Ferndale for over 40 years pictured outside the Victorian Inn about 1890.

Ferndale incorporated with a vote of 89 in favor and 47 against on 17 August 1893 primarily to organize drainage and prevent dogs and other animals from running loose, according to the earliest ordinances enacted.[7] In 1915 the current firehouse was built as combined firehouse and city hall.[7]

Incorporation and services

The Ferndale Enterprise newspaper was founded in 11 May 1878 by three sons of the local Methodist minister and has published continuously since then, while moving offices and shifting from semi-weekly to weekly publication.[7][21]

Telephone and telegraph wires were run into the valley by private companies in the 1890s; by 1899 it was said that the telephone was in "almost universal use in this valley."[18] In 1900 the telephone line was extended to the Mattole Oil fields in Petrolia.[19] In 1911, the Eel River and Southern Telephone company consolidated operations around Ferndale and on February 6, 1960 dial telephones were introduced; the old switchboard and crank phones are on display at the Ferndale Museum.[20]

Main Street businesses supplied the needs of not only the Ferndale area, but for the inland Mattole Valley as well.[7] They included banks, hotels, stables, variety and merchandise stores, hardware and grocery stores, farm and machine implements, butchers, blacksmiths shoemakers, barbers, tailors, miliners, saloons and gambling halls, billiard parlors, coopers, doctors, dentists, drug stores, lawyers, engineers, surveyors, real estate agents, several photographers, furniture makers, undertakers, a telegraph office and a Wells-Fargo office.

In 1878 regular service on steamships carried produce, cargo and passengers from Port Kenyon, where by 1897, 188,652 pounds of wool and 965,010 pounds of butter were shipped out along with grains, chickens, potatoes, lumber, eggs, hides, vegetables and salmon.[7] The steamer trade declined as the Salt River silted up and the transport hub shifted to Eureka.[7]

Ferndale was a crossroads village and provided lodging, horses, blacksmithing and other services both to individual travelers and the Overland Stage and Express line which ran from Eureka to Cloverdale with connections to San Francisco over 80 hours of traveling for a cost of $20.[7] The first stage line was founded in 1862 with daily trips from Eureka, Centerville and Petrolia.[7] In 1868, twice weekly stages ran to San Francisco and by 1871 daily service was available. The first automobiles were used for the stage runs in 1911, the same year as Fernbridge (bridge) was built, eliminating the need for ferry boat service.[7]

Dairies were founded from the Bear River Ridge to the south side of the Eel River starting in the late 1860s.[7] Filled kegs of butter were transported along the beach river by four-horse teams from the Mattole to Centerville or Port Kenyon and the teams returned supplies from Ferndale.[7] The eighty-one dairies from the southern area faded as the land along the Eel River Valley was settled for dairying, first by the Danes and later by other settlers.[7] In the 1880s multiple cooperative creameries in the Eel River valley began to process milk into butter; by 1904 the Central Creamery on Main Street Ferndale had combined the smaller operations into a more modern production facility.[7] The use of paper wrapping on butter to reduce air oxidizing the product was pioneered here at the suggestion of Chester E. Gray (1881-1944) from the U.S. Department of Agriculture who studied the problem of unrefrigerated fine butter turning white within hours of production.[7] Gray patented a new spray-drying process (U.S. Patent #858,868 - 1907 and #1,157,935 - 1915) and went into business with Central Creamery owner Aage Jensen in a new dry-milk manufacturing process to utilize non-fat milk solids which had formerly been waste of the process.[7] Their new plant processed 75,000 pounds of milk a day, shipping to San Francisco and filling contracts for the U.S. Navy.[7] In 1916 Grey and Jensen moved to San Francisco and changed the company name to Golden State Creamery.[7]

Business and communications

Ferndale was incorporated in 1893.[14]

tong gangs, 480 Chinese residents were rounded up in two days and forced to relocate to San Francisco.[17] A year later, the Cutting Packing Company brought in a crew of Chinese for the season.[17] Following a heated meeting at Roberts Hall in Ferndale between local residents and an upset delegation from Eureka, the company guaranteed the workers would come nowhere near town and they were allowed to stay until the fishing season was over in December.[17] Chinese crews were used again at the same cannery in 1887 and 1889.[17] In 1906 Eureka and Fortuna citizens were again up in arms at Ferndale's violation of the unwritten law of the county when the Starbuck-Talent Canning Company of Port Kenyon brought in 23 Chinese and four Japanese to work at the cannery.[17] After threats of mass action, the Chinese were taken to an old cookhouse on Indian Island from which all whites were barred and where they were held until they left by sea.[17] The Japanese were permitted to keep working for Starbuck-Talent.[17]

Chinese settlement and expulsions

[7] Ferndale Portuguese have celebrated their traditional Festival of the Holy Ghost since 1924.[7] brothers who arrived in the 1870s and a few from mainland Portugal, most came from the Azores islands between 1900 and 1915.Portuguese Except for three [7]

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