City celebrates golden anniversary

LEAD PHOTO_exhibit_for website
On exhibit at the Clayton Museum through the end of the year are historic documents, photos and memorabilia from 1964, the year Clayton was incorporated. The exhibit includes a city map where residents can mark their home’s location. “Our Town” is the last exhibit to be mounted by Mary Spryer, who is retiring after serving 10 years as the museum’s volunteer curator.

On March 3, 1964, Sigrid Frank rang a hand bell and called out “Hear ye, hear ye. The polls are closed.”

When the votes were counted later that night, 80 percent of Clayton’s registered voters had voted to incorporate as a city. Voter turnout was 91 percent – the largest municipal turnout in the history of California. Independence was declared in a landslide and five men were named to guide the city.

Two weeks later, on March 18, the first city council met in Endeavor Hall under the leadership of Mayor Bob Hoyer, who would go on to serve 16 years on the council.

Fifty years later to the day, the city council once again met in Endeavor Hall; this time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of incorporation. Again, Hoyer took his place on the dais—this time as a guest with a standing ovation.

“After 50 years, I have a lot of words to say,” he quipped, looking around the hall which has been extensively renovated since he was mayor.

“I remember in the summers, it was hot so we had to open the windows. The people next door kept horses and the flies would nearly run us out.”

Although Clayton had been a town since Joel Clayton laid out the first grid in 1857, it always was a rural burg, dependent on the county for fire and police; and on themselves for everything else.

Downtown, looking pretty much as it does now, sat in the midst of rolling hills, ranchland and orchards. And the some 600 residents were content to keep it that way.

People liked Clayton the way it was – hard to get to and out of the way. They liked the open land, large lots and rural independence.

In 1961, a few large landholders began to talk of annexing to Concord to gain sewer and water services. There was some effort to incorporate, but it failed and things remained quiet for awhile.

In 1963, in a practice known as “cherry stemming” Concord made a move to annex Cardinet Glen, the subdivision on Mitchell Canyon east of Clayton Rd) which would have brought Concord’s city limits almost to Main Street, dividing the town and making future efforts at incorporation almost impossible.

The resistance began in earnest. Lead by Eldora Hoyer, the group filed a petition to incorporate. The election was held on March 3, 1964. Over 91 percent of the 364 registered voters turned out with the final vote 251 in favor, 61 opposed.

In the next 50 years, the city council would work at reining in development. While many would have liked Clayton to stay ranchland and orchards, stopping development was impossible. Clayton’s population in 2012 was 11,312 – 19 times what it was in 1964. Development – Regency Woods, Jeffry Ranch, Easely Estates, Oakhurst – was inevitable.

In future articles, we will look at the city’s housing growth – where it’s been and where it is now.