‘Bored in Bakersfield’ show highlights Chain | Cohn | Stiles historic ‘haunted’ building

November 13, 2019 | 9:37 am


Downtown Bakersfield is full of history, and the Chain | Cohn | Stiles building in the heart of downtown is no exception.

In fact, since 1870, the southwest corner of 18th Street and Chester Avenue in downtown Bakersfield — where the law firm calls home now — has been home to various local businesses including mostly banks, and also a Goodwill.

Countless stories can be told about the happenings inside of the building’s walls, which is the reason the popular “Bored in Bakersfield” show decided to pay a visit and highlight the building’s history, and rumored paranormal activity.  The program showcases places, businesses, events, and people in Kern County, and is used as a tool for those looking for fun things to do in Bakersfield.

You can watch the show at the link below, and you can learn even more about the Chain | Cohn | Stiles building history by reading on.

 

BUILDING HISTORY

The southwest corner of 18th Street and Chester Avenue was the site of the first Kern Valley Bank until it closed in 1911, and would remain home to several other banks in the century that followed including National Bank, Crocker-Anglo Bank, and most currently Wells Fargo and Washington Mutual. Goodwill Industries took over the 30,000 square-foot building in the 2000s until 2011, and remained empty until Chain | Cohn | Stiles moved in 2014.

Chain Cohn Stiles, itself a longtime Bakersfield-based personal injury law firm, celebrating 85 years this year in downtown Bakersfield, occupies the ground floor and uses the basement for storage, while the second floor is leased out to the Kern County College of Law.

Here are some other interesting facts about the historic building:

  • 30,000 square feet occupied most recently by Goodwill Industries of South Central California.
  • Sixth-month, seven-figure renovation. Features include motion sensor LED lighting throughout, and high-tech energy efficient HVAC system with more than 20 thermostats.
  • Chain | Cohn | Stiles takes up the entire first floor: 10,000 square feet, 18 offices, four conference rooms and several open work stations.
  • Second floor is available for lease. Basement is used for law firm storage and files, and game room.
  • This building has views of most of the previous law firm homes since 1934: Haberfelde (1934-1938), Sill Building (1938-1970) and most recently Bank of America (1990-2015).
  • 5 new windows were cut from the 17-inch concrete on the north-facing wall. Each slab of concrete weighed 20,000 pounds.
  • Kern Valley Bank held a grand opening in this location on July 6, 1889. The next day, the great Bakersfield fire destroyed the building. It was rebuilt immediately after.
  • Anglo-California Bank opened at this location on Aug. 11, 1938, designed by Bakersfield architect Charles H. Biggar. Perhaps the only remaining featured from this building is the demarcation on the roof.
  • The building was remodeled on Aug. 4, 1954 by Anglo California National Bank, bringing much of the exterior to what is it today. Other bank tenants over the years include Crocker National Bank, Wells Fargo and Washington Mutual.
  • Still remaining in this building are three bank vaults: one on the first floor’s south end, and two in the basement, reportedly used as bomb shelters.
  • Our inside and outside sign lights can be changed colors to honor various holidays and observations.
  • The 18th Street entrance features an elevator lined with white marble and a staircase of beautiful green terrazzo flooring, probably a holdover from the 1954 remodel.
  • The arched roof from the original 1930s Anglo-California National Bank is still present.
  • In the basement is an incinerator from the Kerner Incinerator Co. of San Francisco, dated 1914, that still holds old bank transactions.

 

MEDIA COVERAGE

Solving a mystery of the history outside of the Chain | Cohn | Stiles building

November 11, 2015 | 6:15 am


Each week, The Bakersfield Californian features answers to questions posed by readers of the publication in a column called “Ask the Californian.” Recently, Chain | Cohn | Stiles asked a question in the column and requested help from readers of The Bakersfield Californian to help solve a mystery.

“There is a cement post sticking up outside of the front of the Chain | Cohn | Stiles building — on the southwest corner of 18th Street and Chester Avenue — and I’m wondering if anyone knows what it was used for? A small metal strip is attached to it, and the year 1950 is inscribed near the top.”

The publication asked anyone with answers to email at [email protected] or call The Bakersfield Californian. This week, the publication printed the answer.

“We got a big response: more than a dozen emails and phone calls,” The Californian said. “We received several different answers, leading us to believe maybe the post has had more than one use.”

HISTORY

First, a little history. The Bakersfield Californian earlier this year also highlighted the law firm’s move to its new home — on the southwest corner of 18th Street and Chester Avenue — and the renovation of the building. Read all about it here. As the article points out:

“Most recently a Goodwill store, the structure has been home to a succession of banks for most of its long life … Some sources indicate the building was erected in 1938; others seem to hint that portions of the structure might date to 1889.”

Kern Valley Bank opened at the corner in 1874. In 1889, Kern Valley Bank held a grand opening for a new two-story brick building, but was gutted the very next day in the great Bakersfield fire that destroyed most of the town. It was rebuilt shortly after.

In 1938, Anglo-California Bank opened at the intersection. That business remained until 1954 when Anglo California National Bank remodeled the branch. In the years that followed, other financial institutions took over including Crocker National Bank, Wells Fargo and Washington Mutual. Goodwill Industries took over in 2002, and vacated in 2012. The Bakersfield personal injury and workers’ compensation* law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles purchased the building in 2014 and began remodeling, and moved in 2015 after spending 30 years in the Bank of America building.

Several historic features remain in the building:

  • The 18th Street entrance features an elevator lined with white marble and a staircase of beautiful green terrazzo flooring, probably a holdover from the 1954 remodel.
  • The arched roof from the original 1930s Anglo-California National Bank is still present.
  • In the basement is an incinerator from the Kerner Incinerator Co. of San Francisco, dated 1914, that still holds old bank transactions.
  • Three bank vaults can be found in the building, two of which have ventilators inside.

But what about the cement post outside of the building with “1950” inscribed on it?

THE CEMENT POST

Another historical feature that remains, likely a part of the building, is the cement post just outside the front doors.

Readers of The Bakersfield Californian had possible answers of what it once was used for. Most of them believed the post was used to hold a United States Postal Service box. But some people believed the post was used to tie up horses.

“The iron rings buried in the concrete curbs were used to tie horses up,” reader Michael McAlister wrote. “I believe the short concrete posts were used to tie up a team of horses that pulled a surrey or wagon.”

Another reader, a local architectural design draftsman, thought the post was a surveyors boundary monument “used to locate a point on a lot, tract or parcel of real property also called a surveyors bench mark.”

Said The Californian: “We shouldn’t discount it. Here’s a description of one type of surveyors monument on the website eHow.com: ‘Stone obelisks are frequently used as survey monuments. Once set in place, they are inscribed with the date of placement as well as the latitude and longitude. If made of a heavy stone such as granite and left undisturbed, this type of survey monument will last for centuries.’ Sure enough, the post at Chester and 18th has ‘1950’ inscribed on it. Was it a surveyors monument before a mailbox was affixed to it? Could be. We didn’t see a latitude and longitude inscribed. Whatever the answer, this was a fun question and thanks to everyone who weighed in.”

You can read all of the responses in Ask the Californian online here, or read the PDF newspaper copy here.

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BUILDING MEDIA COVERAGE

New story for old building: The Bakersfield Californian features law firm’s move

July 29, 2015 | 10:00 am


Bakersfield oldest personal injury law firm has officially moved into its new home that is just as storied in Kern County as Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

On Monday, the 80-year-old Chain | Cohn | Stiles moved into 1731 Chester Avenue, on the southwest corner of Chester Avenue and 18th Street. The Bakersfield Californian, in a Sunday feature story, wrote about the law firm’s move and the history of the firm’s new home.

“It’s an old two-story — no one can say precisely how old, but old,” the article states. “Most recently a Goodwill store, the structure has been home to a succession of banks for most of its long life. But it will have yet another use Monday: Chain Cohn Stiles officially puts out its shingle after a six-month, seven-figure renovation that has brought energy and commotion to a downtown corner quiet and forlorn since 2012.”

What remains of the history of the 1930s-era building are three bank vaults, one with a working ventilator, an incinerator, and a demarcation of the structure, designed by noted Bakersfield architect Charles H. Biggar.

To read the complete article, including a timeline of the history of the new Chain | Cohn | Stiles building and pictures from history, click here.

Today, Chain | Cohn | Stiles is operating personal injury and workers’ compensation* practice in a new, (old) building — its fifth home, all of which have been in downtown Bakersfield. Founder Morris Chain opened his firm’s doors in 1934 in the Haberfelde Building. Later, the firm moved to the Sill Building, which is across the street from the new building on Chester Avenue. After 20 years at its M Street home starting in 1970, the firm spent the last 25 years in the Bank of America building.

Now, Chain | Cohn | Stiles is part of the continuing evolution of Bakersfield’s commercial and historical core. As senior partner Matt Clark said: “We like to think that, in some small part, we’re going to contribute to the ongoing revitalization of downtown Bakersfield.” The law firm’s partners — managing partner David Cohn, senior partner and workers’ compensation attorney James Yoro and Matt Clark — purchased the building last fall.

The building also includes better parking for clients and more office space, all while staying rooted in downtown Bakersfield.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles recently unveiled new videos aimed to inform Kern County residents of the move. The 30-second commercial is airing now throughout Kern County.

To watch the video, in English or in Spanish, click here.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

 

CCS plans move into historical downtown Bakersfield building

October 13, 2014 | 10:47 am


Last week, Bakersfield personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles completed the purchase of its next home — a two-story building in the heart of downtown Bakersfield.

As has been highlighted in local media reports this past week, the law firm is proud to be part of a continued revitalization of historical downtown Bakersfield.

This weekend, The Bakersfield Californian featured an article on the front page of Sunday’s newspaper discussing the “continuing evolution of Bakersfield’s commercial and historical core,” in particular the investment pouring into the intersection of Chester Avenue and 18th Street.

The four buildings on the intersection are in the process of being occupied, or increasing efforts to have them occupied in the near future, The Californian reported.

“Taken together, these and other changes at the intersection could signal a return to basics for an area trying to reinvent itself to bring more people back to downtown,” according to The Californian.

CCS attorney and partner Matt Clark told The Californian he optimistic and the future of the area, and is part of the reason the firm purchased the 33,000-square-foot building and a small parking lot to the west of the building. The firm will also install parking in the alleyway south of the building for clients, many of whom have been disabled by some kind of injury. The article reads:

Matt Clark, a partner at the firm that has existed downtown for its entire 80-year history, said leaving the area was never a serious option, considering its central location and proximity to courthouses.

But another factor in the decision to vacate the nearby Bank of America building was a perception that downtown is “on a real upswing,” Clark said.

“We like to think that, in some small part, we’re going to contribute to the ongoing revitalization of downtown Bakersfield,” he said.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been part of downtown Bakersfield for its entire 80-year history. The southwest corner of the intersection where CCS’ new home will next sit has been home to other historical buildings. The Kern Valley Bank was established in 1874 on the grounds as the first bank incorporated in Kern County. Goodwill Industries pulled out of the building three years ago. 

Chain | Cohn | Stiles will occupy the ground floor and lease out the upper level after it completes improvements to the building’s interior and exterior. For CCS clients, the new location will include better parking and more office space, while still remaining easily accessible in the heart of downtown Bakersfield.

Stay tuned for more information on CCS’ planned move into the building at 1731 Chester Avenue.

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MEDIA COVERAGE