William H. Scribner, Bakersfield Icon

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Throughout Kern County’s fascinating history, we have certainly had our fair share of enigmatic characters who helped to build the great community that we currently enjoy. These people were not afraid to bring their visions into reality, and they made certain that they helped to better the lives of their fellow neighbors along the way.

The Scribner Building housed R. A. Edmund’s Men’s Clothiers and W.H. Scribner’s store in1886.

The Scribner Building housed R. A. Edmund’s Men’s Clothiers and W.H. Scribner’s store in1886.

William H. Scribner was one such pioneer, and from developing the water system in Bakersfield to owning some of the most prominent buildings during his time, his legacy can be appreciated to this day.

Owner of the William H. Scribner Building (which stood right next to the Arlington House Hotel and was home to two shops) and the Scribner Water Tower, he was known as a trailblazer from a young age. At just 13 years of age, he apprenticed as a jeweler and watchmaker. A few years later, and possibly inspired by his father’s own boldness as a soldier in the Civil War and the Indian wars, Scribner tried enlisting as a soldier before he had even reached legal age to do so.

In 1874, he came to Bakersfield with dreams of generosity and advancement in his heart. He established his jewelry business, was a director for the Kern Valley Bank, organized the Southern Hotel Association, was a chairman for the Republican County Committee, and even organized, promoted, and co-owned the water system for all of Bakersfield. Scribner was known for his determination to bring prosperity to whatever project he aligned himself with. The building that was named for him was just one of the many buildings that he owned during his life in Bakersfield. Unfortunately, both that building as well as the Arlington Hotel burned down in the disastrous fire of 1889. But he was far from finished, in spite of it all, and he promptly started rebuilding after the carnage had passed.

Scribner’s Water Tower (inset) was constructed as part of the Bakersfield Water Company in 1883.

Scribner’s Water Tower (inset) was constructed as part of the Bakersfield Water Company in 1883.

Almost as a testament to the man’s good work, his water tower was the only building to survive that great fire, and stood proudly up until around 1900, when it was no longer needed. The downtown scene and Bakersfield, as a whole, have changed since Scribner’s days, but the impact of that hardworking people like him still shapes our community, to this day.

Photos Courtesy of Chris Brewer

Article appeared in our 31-3 Issue – August 2014

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