The 1920s were an era of major development in Stockton – a golden age for local business and civic life. Stockton’s few highrise skyscrapers, such as the Bank of America building (now Cort Tower), were built in that time, and firms such as Holt Manufacturing, LeTourneau Industries, Stephens Brothers Boatworks, Hickinbotham Brothers Manufacturing, and the Shima potato empire were putting Stockton on the national map in a major way. City council voting rates were at all-time highs, and the city was involved in major public spending and fundraising campaigns to bring in the College of the Pacific, build new infrastructure, and convince the federal government to pay for the eventual Port of Stockton.

One of the most celebratory moments of the 1920s involved the opening of Stockton’s then-tallest building, the Medico-Dental.

A view from the top of the Medico-Dental building, from June 30, 1927 – the day the building opened. From the Stockton Independent.

The building cost $650,000 to build, and was the result of a public-private partnership conceived of by local architect Frank V. Mayo. The idea for a major skyscraper in Stockton to serve as a medical center was first put forth by Mayo in 1924 to solve a market need for more office space. The County of San Joaquin and the City of Stockton through their weight behind the project because there was a perceived need for improved radio communications infrastructure. The Portable Wireless Telephone Company was soon brought in as a partner, and KWG, the Stockton Record radio station, then jumped in – all parties of course attracted by the building’s height.

The three major players in the construction of the building. Courtesy of the Stockton Independent.

The 12-story, 170.5-foot building was constructed in the Gothic style, with modernist principles associated with the Chicago Style of Louis Sullivan underpinning the design of the superstructure. Walter Huber, the civil engineer of the building, laid a “mattress-type” foundation consisting of reinforced concrete poured all the way down to the bedrock. From there, twelve-story columns were attached to the foundation by girders. The columns were connected by horizontal steel slabs to create structure for the floor. The exterior was clad in terra cotta, and the interior was finished with Philippine Mahogany.

Views of the construction process, from the July 1, 1927 edition of the Stockton Independent.

The tenants of the building were provided with a large clubroom and library, which would serve as the headquarters for the local medical and dental societies. As the building hosted the city’s major phone, radio, and telecoms companies and infrastructure, the building had first-rate amenities for the day. According to the newspapers, the whole building was rented out by June 27, 1927.

Congratulatory advertisements for the Medico-Dental that were published in the July 1, 1927 edition of the Stockton Independent.

The building essentially housed all major medical and dental practices in Stockton not associated with the hospitals or segregated ethnic enclaves. A directory was published on June 27 and again on June 30:

A directory of the Medico Dental building, taken from the Stockton Independent. Prominent clients included doctors James Hull, Lynwood Dozier, and J.D. Dameron, as well as dentists H.H. Burgess and Carl Hogue. KWG Radio and the Associated Radiograph Laboratory also maintained large offices, as did all local medical societies.

Sadly, the good times did not last forever. In the stock-market crash of 1929, nearly two-thirds of the tenants of the building were forced to leave, and the building did not recover to 100% occupancy until 1941. The building was used for medical purposes for most of its existence and has recently been acquired and repurposed into the “Medici Artist Lofts” by local firm 3 Leaf Holdings. The building remains a landmark and a testament to the strength of Stockton’s business community in the 1920s.

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  1. I appreciate articles such as these. It reminds us of what a jewel of a city Stockton was, and that it can be so once again.

  2. Thanks for this article. I am the great-great-great-neice of I. F. Stein, President of the Medico-Dental Building, Inc. You can see his name on the lower left of the Directory of the building, the last image above. Uncle I. F., whose real name was Isaac Finkelstein, emigrated from Kraków, Poland, in the 1887. He is mentioned in my forthcoming documentary, Family Treasures Lost and Found.

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