San Benito County
"The Land of St. Benedict"
takes its name from the meandering San Benito River, seen for the first time by Father Juan Crespi in 1772.
Geologically, San Benito County is quite young, reflecting dormant volcanism and active faulting. It is one of the most active earthquake areas in the world and gives the visitor elevation extremes from near sea level to almost 5,000 feet. San Benito County was formed in 1874 from a portion of Monterey County. Thirteen years later, the state legislature expanded the county at the expense of Fresno and Merced counties. Territorially, it has remained unchanged since 1887.
The commercial hub and center of government for San Benito County was founded in 1868. The city was named for Colonel W.W. Hollister, who settled in the fertile San Benito River Valley following a cross-country sheep drive. The coming of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1870 spurred the growth of the new town, and when San Benito County broke away from Monterey County, Hollister was chosen as the county seat.
Primarily an agricultural community since its inception, the incredible economic growth of the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1970's and 1980's reached Hollister as well. The city became a popular relocation spot for many urban Californians looking for a simpler, more meaningful way of life.
The influx of new business and residential development blended with the century-old charm of Hollister's downtown. The Main Street revitalization program focused efforts to preserve downtown's historically significant architecture and encourage new economic ventures. This marriage of old and new added an intriguing vitality and depth to the city, strengthening its sense of community while expanding its horizons. Hollister has it all-a fascinating past, a challenging present, and an exciting future.
"Big Opportunity in a Small-Town Setting"
Hollister is an attractive, historic commercial hub and county seat
. Downtown contains Hollister's largest concentration of city and county government offices, library, county courthouse, and retail and other commercial activity, including a wide range of services, institutions, and new and used auto dealers. A pleasing mix of businesses and government offices, downtown is bordered on two sides by tree-lined neighborhoods of attractive single-family homes. Many of these homes and commercial buildings are part of Hollister's fine stock of historic buildings.
Downtown Hollister was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in January 1993. The district, concentrated along San Benito Street and intersecting streets between Fourth and South streets, is representative of the pre-World War II character of the city's downtown and has a period of significance that spans the years from 1880 to 1942. At the time of district nomination to the National Register, it contained 83 buildings constructed over the course of the past 120 years; however, in June 1993, some of the contributing buildings in the 400 block of Monterey Street were damaged by fires.
The district is comprised of 54 buildings (65% of total) that contribute to the historic character of downtown and 29 non-contributing buildings. The integrity of the district is high due to the concentration of resources. San Benito Street forms the spine of the district, extending north and south for more than four blocks. About half of the district's buildings front San Benito Street. All but a few of the remaining buildings face on five crossing streets, the most important of which is Fifth Street.
The design of the buildings within the district ranges in architectural styles including Italianate, late Gothic Revival, Greek Revival, Neo-Classical Revival, and Mediterranean Revival. All of the contributing buildings within the district retain original materials and design elements above the first floor. These include original cornice treatments, ornamentation and windows. Although only a few of the retail buildings have unaltered storefronts, many of the contributors not in retail use have first stories without substantial alteration.