Thursday, November 12, 2015


I spent a portion of my childhood in Independence.  We moved there when I was 4 years old.  I have many fond memories of this small town and still love to visit.  It is located in the Owens Valley -- in the high desert between the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Inyo/White Mountains.  In this blog I'm going on a little historical tour of the town.  

Independence is the Inyo County Seat.  The real focal point of downtown Independence is the Inyo County Courthouse.  It is actually the fourth Inyo County Courthouse.  Independence has been the county seat since 1866 but this neo-classical building wasn't built until 1922.  In 1998, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Three previous court houses were built in 1866, 1872, and 1886.  One was leveled by an earthquake, one was destroyed by fire, and the third one was outgrown.  When I was a child, my friends and I used to love to sneak into the courthouse and go all the way upstairs without being caught.  (photo 2014)

The Winnedumah Hotel was built in 1927 and was visited by movie stars and other celebrities in its heyday.  It was owned by the family of one of my classmates when I was a child.  It is still operating as a bed and breakfast.  In fact, I stayed there on a recent visit to Independence.  (photo 2009)

During the Civil War, an Army camp called Camp Independence was located a bit north of the present town.  This is a picture of The Commander's House which was moved into town in 1880.  When I was a child, the family of one of my classmates lived in this house.  It is no longer occupied but is being preserved for its history.  (photo 2009)

The Masonic Temple is the meeting place for the local Masons Lodge.  It was built in the 1920's .The Masons retain the upstairs in the building but rent the downstairs out to Jenny's Cafe.  One of the places I lived in Independence was a house across the side street from the Masonic Temple.  (photo 2015)

The American Legion Hall was built in the 1920's.  It has been a "community center" for almost 100 years.  Many events continue to be held here.  The bar inside the building was once part of an old saloon in Goldfield, Nevada.  I once lived in a house right across the alley from the back of the hall.  (photo 2001)

Mary Austin House.  Mary Austin was a prolific writer, poet, and playwright.  She lived in this house when she wrote her most well known book, "The Land of Little Rain."  The house is a Historical California Landmark and is still a private residence.  (photo 2001)

The Edwards House is one of the oldest homes still standing in Inyo County.  I was built in 1863 by Thomas Edwards who was the founder of the town of Independence.  When I was a child, one of my classmates lived here with her grandmother who was a great seamstress and made us matching Easter dresses one year.  (photo 2001)

The Post Office has been in several locations over the years.  Its present location was once a Waterson's Inyo Bank branch.  After that, it was a saloon for a time.  By the time my family moved to Independence, it was King's Drug Store.  Next, it became Austin's Drug Store.  We all loved the soda fountain!  When Austin's closed, the Post Office moved in and has been there for many years.  (photo 2014)

Pioneer Memorial Methodist Church is the oldest existing congregation in Inyo County.  It was founded in 1871.  The original building has had several expansions over the years.  I attended church here when we lived in Independence.  I loved to get to church first so I could help the sexton ring the bell.  My kindergarten class met in the church hall because the school's kindergarten class room was still under construction.  I also took piano lessons from the pastor's wife.  (photo 2009)

This building has become known as the Pines Cafe Building.  It is one of the oldest business building still standing in Independence.  It was still open when this picture was taken.  My memories of this building begin in the 1940's when my parents owned a hardware/sporting goods store in the corner half of the building.  At this time, the Pines Cafe was in the other half.  When we first moved to Independence, we lived in the upstairs and the back room of our store for about six months -- so this was also my first home in Independence.  When we moved our store across the street, the Post Office moved into the corner half.  When the Post Office moved out, the Pines Cafe expanded and took over the whole building.  The Pines Cafe closed in 2004 and now the building, sadly, is all boarded up.  (photo 2001, side view)
Here is a front view of the Pines Cafe after it closed.  (photo 2009)

When we moved to Independence in the 1940's, Mairs' Market occupied the left half of this building.  There was a variety store in the other half.  After about two years, my parents bought the variety store and moved our hardware/sporting goods store into it -- Hillier Hardware became and hardware/sporting goods/variety store.  My father did gun smithing on the side.  His most famous customer was John Wayne.  He was filming a movie in Lone Pine but was hunting in his free time.  His gun broke and someone sent him to my father to get it fixed.  When we moved from Independence, Omie and Glorian Mairs bought our store, took down the wall, and had one big store that sold just about everything.  Mairs Market continued in the this building until a few years ago.  It closed but recently the Owens Valley Growers Co-Op has moved in.  (photo 2009)

I have many more pictures and many more memories of Independence but I think I'll stop for now.  I hope you've enjoyed my little trip down memory lane.