By Derryl Dumermuth
Long before the construction of the Tulare Union High School Auditorium (recently renamed the Community Auditorium), the Tulare Theater, the Veterans Memorial Building, or other large meeting places in Tulare, there existed the "Pavilion". Located near the center of Tulare's first city park (now known as Zumwalt Park) and facing M Street, the huge wooden building was the venue for many banquets, dances and political meetings, and it was the only place in town big enough for the traveling Chautauqua programs which brought culture and entertainment to the growing little town.
Tulare's first agricultural exposition, a so-called "Citrus Fair", displayed local produce in the Pavilion for a five day run in October 1893, during the 22nd year of Tulare's existence. Five prominent Tulareans were named directors of the fair. They were W.F. Ingwerson, owner of a harness shop at the NW corner of Tulare Avenue and M Street, the present site of the Post Office, and Tulare mayor from 1905-1907; P.J.S Montgomery, manager of the huge Paige and Morton Ranch west of town, and builder of the mansion that he named "The Oaks"; John Touhy, land developer, mayor from 1903-1905, and considered one of the "fathers" of Sequoia Park; Andrew Young, blacksmith, real estate developer, and father of long time dentist Dr. Bob Young and A.E. Miot manager of the Tulare Board of Trade and mayor from 1899-1903.
In 1892, the California Chapter of the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) held their annual "Encampment", a reunion of Union Civil War veterans, in the Pavilion. The little town's hostelries were hard pressed to provide accommodations for the scores of aging veterans and their families.
For a number of years High School graduation exercises were memorable events in the Pavilion. Graduating seniors were seated on stage, with proud relatives and friends on the main floor. Underclassmen occupied the balcony, which ran around three sides of the interior, and conducted a "battle of the banners". On pulleys and ropes, they had contrived colorful class flags that were sent slipping and dipping over the heads of the audience below.
On February 26, 1896, famed bandleader John Phillip Sousa brought his musicians to Tulare for a concert in the Pavilion. The 100th anniversary of that event was observed with the unveiling of a historical marker and a brief visit to Tulare by Sousa's grandson. The dedication of the monument was sponsored by the Tulare Union High School Band (H. William Ingram, director), and the band's Booster Club. The Pavilion was demolished during the early years of the twentieth century. In 2004 a handsome gazebo was constructed in the park, just a few feet south of the site of the old landmark. On February 26, 2006, exactly 110 years to the day after Sousa's historic visit to Tulare, the gazebo was dedicated as the "John Phillip Sousa Pavilion".
Derryl Dumermuth is a retired TUHS mathematics teacher, past president of the Tulare City Historical Society, coordinator of the docent program at the Tulare Historical Museum, author of A Town Called Tulare, and co-author with wife Wanda of Tulare Legends and Trivia from A to Z.