Ferndale, California

Ferndale is a city in Humboldt County, California, United States. Its population was 1,371 at the 2010 census, down from 1,382 at the 2000 census. The city contains dozens of well-preserved Victorian storefronts and homes. Ferndale is the northern gateway to California's Lost Coast and the city, which is sited on the edge of a wide plain near the mouth of the Eel River, is also located near the extensive preserves of coast redwood forests.

Ferndale, California
Main Street in Ferndale
Main Street in Ferndale
Location of Ferndale in Humboldt County, California
Location of Ferndale in Humboldt County, California
Ferndale, California is located in the United States
Ferndale, California
Ferndale, California
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 40°34.6′N 124°15.8′W / 40.5767°N 124.2633°W / 40.5767; -124.2633Coordinates: 40°34.6′N 124°15.8′W / 40.5767°N 124.2633°W / 40.5767; -124.2633
CountryUnited States
IncorporatedAugust 28, 1893[1]
 • TypeCouncil–manager government[2]
 • MayorDon Hindley[3]
 • City managerJay Parrish[4]
 • Total1.03 sq mi (2.66 km2)
 • Land1.03 sq mi (2.66 km2)
 • Water0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)  0%
Elevation56 ft (17 m)
 • Total1,371
 • Estimate 
 • Density1,316.46/sq mi (508.46/km2)
Time zoneUTC-8 (Pacific)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-7 (PDT)
ZIP Code
Area code707
FIPS code06-23910
GNIS feature IDs277513, 2410497
Reference no.883


Before American settlement, Ferndale was a glade of giant ferns reaching more than six feet (1.8 m), surrounded by alder, willow, Sitka spruce, Douglas fir, coast redwood, swampy land, and windswept prairies. The area was populated by the southern Wiyot people, and centered along the Eel River, where they caught lamprey eels, salmon and sturgeon in iris leaf fish nets, collected shellfish along the river and at its mouth,[8] while cultivating only a California species of tobacco.[9] The town was established in 1852 from settlement by Willard Allard, Seth Louis Shaw, and his brother, Stephen W. Shaw.[8]

Early settlersEdit

The marble Centennial Plaque for Ferndale, California, on Main Street, erected in 1952

In August 1852, Allard and the Shaw brothers borrowed a canoe from the Wiyots in the Table Bluff area and rowed it across the Eel and up Francis Creek to arrive with their supplies to the approximate vicinity of Main and Shaw streets.[8] In September 1852, they cleared a five-acre area of ferns and began building a cabin near the base of the Wildcat Road even though Allard was sick with the ague.[8] By January 1853, 12 men were living in the Shaws' cabin including Seth Kinman, who provided the group with meat, and Joe Russ (1825–1886), whose later holdings included the Fern Cottage Historic District.[8] About this time, Stephen Shaw painted the portrait of Wiyot elder Kiwelattah (or Ki-we-lah-tah)[10] and kept a detailed journal of two years of trying to grow plants in cold coastal fog.[11]

Seth Shaw settled in the area now marked by Main and Lewis streets where he began construction of the now-historic Shaw House on his property in 1854.[12][13] The Shaw House served as the area's first polling place in 1854,[8] post office[14] in 1860[15] and courthouse in 1863.[8] The voting registers for Humboldt County and Ferndale are on file for viewing in the Andrew Genzoli Collection at Humboldt State University, starting in 1888.[16] Seth Shaw was justice of the peace and postmaster,[17] and his home served for many gatherings although it was not finished until 1866.[8] After having been away from the area for two years, Stephen Shaw sold his holdings in 1856 to Welsh-born Francis Francis (1818–1877) who later established the city's water system[18]: 67  through pipes laid initially in 1875.[8]

Other small towns were established around Ferndale, including Centerville, Port Kenyon, Waddington, Grizzly Bluff, and Arlynda Corners. Produce from Ferndale was shipped out via Centerville and transferred to ships at anchor offshore prior to the opening of docks at Port Kenyon in 1876.[8] In 1865 the first shipment of coal oil from the Union Mattole Oil Company was shipped through Ferndale to San Francisco.[8]

While the earliest settlers were English speaking from Great Britain, New England, Canada, or Ireland, waves of immigrants arrived in Ferndale from Denmark, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Portugal, and China.[8]

European immigrantsEdit

Danish settlers founded and built Our Savior's Lutheran Church in 1899 and dedicated Danish Hall, which had been built as a warehouse by Arnold Berding in the late 1880s, on October 10, 1929.[8] The Swiss who settled in Ferndale from Italian- and German-speaking families included the Oeschgers who moved to Ferndale in time for Joe Oeschger to play baseball at Ferndale High School before going to a career in Major League Baseball. A later influx of Romansh Swiss included the ancestors of College Football Hall of Fame coach Len Casanova.[8] Sausage, salami-making and wine-making can be traced to Italians who arrived later than the Danish and Swiss, beginning around 1897.[8] The Germans arrived early, the first was businessman Arnold Berding in 1857.[8] Most Germans worked on ranches or were dairymen, but at least one owned the Milwaukee Brewery Depot Saloon.[8] Congressman Don Clausen is descended from German settlers of Ferndale.[8] German settlers organized St. Mark's Lutheran Church in 1906.[8] Except for three Portuguese brothers who arrived in the 1870s and a few from mainland Portugal, most came from the Azores islands between 1900 and 1915.[8] Ferndale Portuguese have celebrated their traditional Festival of the Holy Ghost since 1924.[8]

Chinese settlement and expulsionsEdit

Chinese immigrants arrived in California in the earliest gold-rush days, and were settled in all parts of Humboldt County almost as soon as English-speaking whites.[19] They worked in gold mining on the Klamath and Trinity Rivers, before settling mostly in Eureka, with a few in outlying towns like Ferndale where two Chinese owned clothes washing businesses.[19] Chinese laborers built parts of the Wildcat Road between Ferndale and Petrolia, dug out the water reservoirs for the Francis Water Company and worked at two fish canneries on the Eel River, although - as in the rest of California - they were not truly welcome.[19] In 1885, after a city councilman of Eureka was shot dead in the crossfire from two warring Chinese tong gangs, 480 Chinese residents were rounded up in two days and forced to relocate to San Francisco.[19] A year later, the Cutting Packing Company brought in a crew of Chinese for the season.[19] Following a heated meeting at Roberts Hall in Ferndale between local residents and an upset delegation from Eureka, the company guaranteed the workers would come nowhere near town and they were allowed to stay until the fishing season was over in December.[19] Chinese crews were used again at the same cannery in 1887 and 1889.[19] In 1906 Eureka and Fortuna citizens were again up in arms at Ferndale's violation of the unwritten law of the county when the Starbuck-Talent Canning Company of Port Kenyon brought in 23 Chinese and four Japanese to work at the cannery.[19] After threats of mass action, the Chinese were taken to an old cookhouse on Indian Island from which all whites were barred and where they were held until they left by sea.[19] The Japanese were permitted to keep working for Starbuck-Talent.[19]

Ferndale was incorporated in 1893.[15]

Business and communicationsEdit

Dairies were founded from the Bear River Ridge to the south side of the Eel River starting in the late 1860s.[8] Filled kegs of butter were transported along the beach river by four-horse teams from the Mattole to Centerville or Port Kenyon and the teams returned supplies from Ferndale.[8] The 81 dairies from the southern area faded as the land along the Eel River Valley was settled for dairying, first by the Danes and later by other settlers.[8] In the 1880s, multiple cooperative creameries in the Eel River valley began to process milk into butter; by 1904, the Central Creamery on Main Street Ferndale had combined the smaller operations into a more modern production facility.[8] The use of paper wrapping on butter to reduce air oxidizing the product was pioneered here at the suggestion of Chester E. Gray (1881–1944) from the U.S. Department of Agriculture who studied the problem of unrefrigerated fine butter turning white within hours of production.[8] Gray patented a new spray-drying process (U.S. Patent #858,868 - 1907 and #1,157,935 - 1915) and went into business with Central Creamery owner Aage Jensen in a new dry-milk manufacturing process to utilize non-fat milk solids which had formerly been waste of the process.[8] Their new plant processed 75,000 pounds of milk a day, shipping to San Francisco and filling contracts for the U.S. Navy.[8] The first motorized milk truck was used here.[20] In 1916, Grey and Jensen moved to San Francisco and changed the company name to Golden State Creamery.[8] Local Ferndale resident Andrew Genzoli began recording the history of the Ferndale dairies during this time, culminating in scrapbooks of newspaper clippings from 1910 to 1954, which are on file for viewing at Humboldt State University Special Collections.[20]

Ferndale was a crossroads village and provided lodging, horses, blacksmithing and other services both to individual travelers and the Overland Stage and Express line which ran from Eureka to Cloverdale with connections to San Francisco over 80 hours of traveling for a cost of $20.[8] The first stage line was founded in 1862 with daily trips from Eureka, Centerville, and Petrolia.[8] In 1868, twice weekly stages ran to San Francisco and by 1871 daily service was available. The first automobiles were used for the stage runs in 1911, the same year as Fernbridge (bridge) was built, eliminating the need for ferry boat service.[8]

In 1878, regular service on steamships carried produce, cargo and passengers from Port Kenyon, where, by 1897, 188,652 pounds of wool and 965,010 pounds of butter were shipped out along with grains, chickens, potatoes, lumber, eggs, hides, vegetables, and salmon.[8] The steamer trade declined as the Salt River silted up and the transport hub shifted to Eureka.[8] The completion of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad in 1914 allowed for speedier transportation to Eureka and the San Francisco area. The track was built about 5 miles to the northwest of Ferndale in Fernbridge.

Main Street businesses supplied the needs of not only the Ferndale area, but for the inland Mattole Valley as well.[8] They included banks, hotels, stables, variety and merchandise stores, hardware and grocery stores, farm and machine implements, butchers, blacksmiths shoemakers, barbers, tailors, milliners, saloons and gambling halls, billiard parlors, coopers, doctors, dentists, drug stores, lawyers, engineers, surveyors, real estate agents, several photographers, furniture makers, undertakers, a telegraph office, and a Wells-Fargo office.

Telephone and telegraph wires were run into the valley by private companies in the 1890s; by 1899, it was said that the telephone was in "almost universal use in this valley."[21] In 1900, the telephone line was extended to the Mattole Oil fields in Petrolia.[22] In 1911, the Eel River and Southern Telephone company consolidated operations around Ferndale, and, on February 6, 1960, dial telephones were introduced; the old switchboard and crank phones are on display at the Ferndale Museum.[23]

The Ferndale Enterprise newspaper was founded on 11 May 1878 by three sons of the local Methodist minister and has published continuously since then, while moving offices and shifting from semi-weekly to weekly publication.[8][24]

Incorporation and servicesEdit

Ferndale incorporated with a vote of 89 in favor and 47 against on 17 August 1893 primarily to organize drainage and prevent dogs and other animals from running loose, according to the earliest ordinances enacted.[8] In 1915, the current firehouse was built as combined firehouse and city hall.[8]

The Hunneman end-stroke torrent pumper used by Ferndale for over 40 years pictured outside the Victorian Inn c. 1890

After the 1875 fire which nearly destroyed south Main street was put out by volunteer bucket brigades, and other smaller conflagrations, the City purchased a used Hunneman hand pumper fire engine on April 14, 1883.[8] The end-stroke torrent pumper had been built in the 1850s and been shipped west in the 1860s.[25] The name on the side of this engine was "Franklin" because the city bought it from the Franklin Fire Company of San Jose, California. The engine was transferred to the newly formed Ferndale Fire Department when they organized in February 1897. In November 1923, after 41 years in service, the hand pumper was shipped to the American LaFrance Company, "as part payment on the fine new pumper recently purchased by this town."[26] Other sources say the engine was sold to a Hollywood film company.[8] Modern equipment arrived in 1905 with a motorized pumper engine, in 1917 with a Model T truck with chemical tanks and in 1948 the Hook and Ladder Company formed.[8] In 1883, water supplies were consolidated in local cisterns under present-day State Route 211 which were later filled in and water from the hill reservoirs was used to supply the hydrants.[8] In 1902, the fire alarm was placed in a wooden structure at the corner of Brown and Main which fell over entirely in the 1906 earthquake (see below) which led to the bell being hung at the firehouse, and a steam-whistle at the Creamery used for the fire alarm from 1906 until electric sirens came into use in 1931.[8]

Electrical lighting was installed in May 1896, supplied by a wood-burning steam electric-generating plant that worked between dusk and midnight only; it was replaced in 1903 by a distillate-burning steam electric generator a few blocks east of Main Street.[8] In 1911, the earlier generation and distribution systems were merged into Western States Gas and Electric acquired in 1927 by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company.[8]

The national landmark Ferndale Public Library was completed in 1910 with local funds and an $8,000 Carnegie grant.[8] In 1876, the Ferndale Cemetery Association was established which manages the 5.03 acre burial ground.[8]


Ferndale is located at 40°34.6′N 124°15.8′W / 40.5767°N 124.2633°W / 40.5767; -124.2633.[6] Its location south of US 101, is very close to the mouth of the Eel River as it enters the Pacific Ocean. By car, Ferndale is 265 miles (426 km) north of San Francisco and just 12 miles (19 km) south of Eureka. California State Route 211 is the major road connecting the city with US 101. Directly to the south of Ferndale is the Lost Coast region, whose geology and terrain has made it very difficult to establish routes through the area. It has thus made that area only accessible by land via small county mountain roads, such as Mattole Road, running from Ferndale south to Petrolia.

According to the United States Census Bureau, Ferndale has a total area of 1.0 square mile (2.6 km2), all of it land.


2010 earthquake map

Ferndale experienced earthquakes in the 19th century, but the first shock to receive widespread news coverage was the 1906 San Francisco earthquake which damaged more than 40 structures in the downtown, with severe damages to the two brick buildings, and 98 percent of chimneys thrown down. The earthquake was estimated at a Mercalli intensity of VII (Very strong) at Ferndale.[27]

Seventeen years later, on January 22, 1923, a 7.2 earthquake centered off Cape Mendocino was said to be nearly as great a shock in Ferndale as the 1906 earthquake. Chimneys fell, water mains and plate glass windows broke, and the recently repaired Odd Fellows building fell off its new foundation. It arrived with a ground rumble and a flash of light.[28]

On August 20, 1927, an earthquake centered about 60 kilometres (37 mi) west of Arcata caused considerable damage around Humboldt Bay,[29] and damage reports from Ferndale included broken chimneys, merchandise tossed from shelves and china and glassware broken.[30]

Smaller earthquakes were recorded from the 1920s through the 1980s, but the next big earthquake to strike Ferndale was actually three big earthquakes. The first "Best of the West" festival parade was in progress on April 25 when the first of three shocks of the 1992 Cape Mendocino earthquakes arrived, shattering the glass windows of the stores out onto Main Street.[31] The brick facade of Valley Grocery collapsed, and police estimated damage to 80 percent of the downtown buildings.[31] Between 30 and 40 houses were knocked off their foundations from the first shock which was centered about 35 miles (56 km) south of Eureka[32] and had a magnitude of 7.2.[33] The other two large earthquakes that hit within 18 hours of the first shock, measured magnitude 6.5 and 6.7.[34] Both a large landslide and several small landslides occurred on the Mattole Road which also cracked due to downhill slumping and soil compaction of the road shoulders.[33] Damages in Ferndale were estimated at $10.4 million.[33]

On January 9, 2010, the 6.5 Richter magnitude, 2010 Eureka earthquake's epicenter was about 25 miles (40 km) offshore of Ferndale.[35] Occurring within a subduction fault associated with the interaction of three tectonic plates (Pacific, North American, and Juan de Fuca), it was the largest local earthquake since the 1992 Cape Mendocino earthquakes.


Ferndale's climate is moderated by being close to the Pacific Ocean and in the lee of the Wildcat Hills. Winter temperatures rarely go below freezing and summer days are rarely over 80 °F (27 °C). Ferndale has a warm summer Mediterranean climate indicated by the code "Csb" on some weather maps.[36] Ferndale receives most of its roughly 40 inches (1,000 mm) of rain from November to May, with lesser amounts in the summer months.[37] Local microclimates are varied and support tropical palm trees[38] and Sitka spruce,[39] including a mature Sitka forest in Russ Park,[40][41] and the over 150-foot-tall (46 m) spruce lighted every year for Christmas.[42] Morning fogs are common year round.[43]

A weather station was run in the town from 1963 to 1973. The climate is similar to that of nearby Eureka.[37]


Historical population
Census Pop.
2019 (est.)1,352[7]−1.4%
U.S. Decennial Census[44]


The 2010 United States Census[45] reported that Ferndale had a population of 1,371. The population density was 1,335.5 inhabitants per square mile (515.6/km2). The racial makeup of Ferndale was 1,281 (93.4%) White, 1 (0.1%) African American, 22 (1.6%) Native American, 20 (1.5%) Asian, 2 (0.1%) Pacific Islander, 17 (1.2%) from other races, and 28 (2.0%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 77 persons (5.6%).

The Census reported that 1,371 people (100% of the population) lived in households, 0 (0%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 0 (0%) were institutionalized.

There were 611 households, out of which 149 (24.4%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 294 (48.1%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 55 (9.0%) had a female householder with no husband present, 27 (4.4%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 38 (6.2%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 6 (1.0%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. One hundred ninety-four households (31.8%) were made up of individuals, and 91 (14.9%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.24. There were 376 families (61.5% of all households); the average family size was 2.84.

The population was spread out, with 283 people (20.6%) under the age of 18, 75 people (5.5%) aged 18 to 24, 283 people (20.6%) aged 25 to 44, 422 people (30.8%) aged 45 to 64, and 308 people (22.5%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 47.2 years. For every 100 females, there were 89.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.1 males.

There were 717 housing units at an average density of 698.4 per square mile (269.7/km2), of which 611 were occupied, of which 388 (63.5%) were owner-occupied, and 223 (36.5%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 1.8%; the rental vacancy rate was 3.0%. 926 people (67.5% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 445 people (32.5%) lived in rental housing units.


As of the census[46] of 2000, there were 1,382 people, 611 households, and 392 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,343.2 inhabitants per square mile (518.6/km2). There were 663 housing units at an average density of 644.4 per square mile (248.8/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 93.34% White, 0.29% Black or African American, 0.51% Native American, 0.58% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 1.30% from other races, and 3.91% from two or more races. 4.27% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 611 households, out of which 25.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.0% were married couples living together, 9.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.8% were non-families. 30.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 14.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.26 and the average family size was 2.83.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 22.8% under the age of 18, 6.9% from 18 to 24, 24.2% from 25 to 44, 29.5% from 45 to 64, and 16.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females, there were 86.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 81.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $37,955, and the median income for a family was $49,706. Males had a median income of $32,404 versus $29,808 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,727. About 4.5% of families and 7.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.9% of those under age 18 and 3.6% of those age 65 or over.


The local economy is a mixture of dairies and ranching, agricultural support, retail and services. On July 18, 2013, the California Employment Development Department identified Ferndale as having the second lowest unemployment rate (1.7%) of all cities in the state, led only by Carmel-by-the-Sea.[47]

Arts and cultureEdit


Ferndale, sometimes also referred to as "Cream City", is known for well-preserved Victorian storefronts on Main Street and homes throughout the community, which are also known as "Butterfat Palaces," due to their construction wherein considerable wealth was generated in the dairy industry. Many of these buildings date from the 1880s. The entire town is registered as California Historical Landmark #883.[48]

Six historic buildings as well as the Ferndale Main Street Historic District and the Fern Cottage Historic District are within or around Ferndale are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Other points of interest include the Ferndale City Hall, Ferndale Museum, Ferndale Cemetery, St. Mary's Cemetery, Our Savior's Lutheran Church, Saint Mark's Lutheran Church, Church of the Assumption, the Congregational Church, and the Humboldt County Fairgrounds.

Annual eventsEdit

The tallest living Christmas tree in the country lit in 2021

The Humboldt County Fair has been held every August since 1896 at the county fairgrounds on the edge of Ferndale,[49] and feature the only horse-racing events in the county along with the standard fare of agricultural, pastoral and artistic contests, carnival games, carnival amusement rides, and commercial or non-profit booths.[50]

Every year since 1934 in early December, local volunteer firefighters climb and light one of America's tallest living Christmas trees, an approximately 150-foot (46 m) spruce, during a celebration of song held at Fireman's Park.[51]

Every February since 1997, Ferndale has hosted The Fray In Ferndale, a slot car race with the highest attendance of this type of event anywhere in the world. More than 100 racers on sixteen teams arrive to compete on eight custom-built tables.[52][53]

Each March since 1977, runners have taken to the streets of Ferndale and surrounding Eel River Bottoms for the Foggy Bottom Milk Run. Races are held in 2-mile (3.2 km), 4-mile (6.4 km), and 10-mile (16 km) distances.[54]

Each May since 1969, Ferndale is the finish line of the annual Kinetic sculpture race. The race began in Ferndale when Hobart Brown was challenged to race his odd-looking five-wheeled bike down Main Street on Mother's Day that year by local sculptor Jack Mays.[55]

Parks and recreationEdit

City Hall ParkEdit

City Hall Park was deeded to the city by the Village Club in 1918.[56] The triangular park was filled with material graded from the southern end of Main Street, and a Clubhouse (now City Hall) was finished in 1931.[57] The building was styled to look like an English cottage, although shingles were used in place of traditional thatch.[57] The fireplace was sent from England as a gift from the daughter of a resident.[57] Its granite comes from a Welsh quarry and was chiseled in San Francisco.[57] The Gazebo which contains Ferndale's California Historical Landmark Plaque is at the north end of City Hall Park. In 2011 new benches and trees were added to the park which hosts annual events including the Fourth of July Picnic.

Firemen's ParkEdit

Firemen's Park at the southernmost end of town between Francis and Berding Streets is bordered on three sides by houses and to the south by restricted watershed property. It has ball fields, a playground, picnic area and three bocce courts.[58] The Community Center in Fireman's Park was built in 1922. It includes a large dance and meeting pavilion with attached kitchen.[59] The Ferndale Children's Center has occupied one end of the pavilion since 1991.[60]

Russ ParkEdit

Russ Park, located three blocks east of Main Street on Bluff Street, is open sunrise to sunset.[58] Four hiking trails cross the mature forest in the 105-acre park donated to the city by Zipporah Patrick Russ on October 31, 1920.[58] The deed includes "That the property be used forever as a park and recreation grounds … as a refuge and breeding place for birds."[58] Dominant trees include Sitka spruce and Douglas fir with a few redwoods which were planted in the 1930s.[41] More than 100 kinds of birds are known from the park,[61] which is the southern extent of the Pacific Northwest temperate rainforest.[62]



Guy Fieri receives the key to the city of Ferndale from the Ferndale City Council at a special council meeting, November 23, 2012.[63]

Ferndale was incorporated in 1893 and is governed by a four-member City Council and a Mayor, all of whom serve four-year terms chosen in the general election of even-numbered years. In November 2012, Stuart Titus was elected Mayor; council members include Dan Brown, John Maxwell, Ken Mierzwa, and Michael Sweeney.[64][65]

In 2004 the City Council placed Measure O on the municipal ballot to eliminate the elective office of Mayor, instead proposing to appoint the position by a vote of the City Council from the council members. The measure was defeated with 78.8% voting against.[66] When the Mayor's seat was next open for election in 2006, all of the mayoral candidates were write-ins.[67]

State and federalEdit

In the state legislature, Ferndale is in the 2nd Senate District, represented by Democrat Mike McGuire,[68] and the 2nd Assembly District, represented by Democrat Jim Wood.[69]

Federally, Ferndale is in California's 2nd congressional district, represented by Democrat Jared Huffman.[70]


Ferndale Elementary

The Ferndale Unified School District has two schools, the Ferndale Elementary School with grades K–8 and the Ferndale High School.

The elementary school is older; it dates back to the 1860s with school rooms and houses in various locations.[8]: 212  In 1890, school trustees started a new building, but it—and the old building—were completely destroyed in an arson fire before it was finished.[8]: 214  A replacement three-story, redwood Greek Revival building was put up after the September fire and in time to open in February, 1891.[8]: 212  The stucco one-story building which currently houses the Ferndale Elementary School was built in 1924.[8]: 215  The baby-boom of the 1960s resulted in classes at the Fairgrounds as well as the addition of four modular classrooms (since removed), and the construction of a gymnasium in 1967.[8]: 215  The following year, the closure of the Assumption Catholic School (1915–1968) rapidly increased enrollment as 117 students transferred and the rising enrollment resulted in the addition of five primary classrooms and a playground.[8]: 215  In 1976 the building was retrofitted for earthquakes.[8]: 215 

The high school was founded in 1904 by the unification of smaller school districts across the Eel River Valley, including Port Kenyon, Island School, Grant School, Salt River School, Coffee Creek School, Grizzly Bluff School and Pleasant Point School.[8]: 209  The original building was in use from 1907 to 1951 when it was replaced by the present high school facility.[8]: 212  Enrollment in 2004–2005 was 175 students in grades 9 to 12.[71]

Ferndale has an active sports program with junior varsity and varsity softball, volleyball, basketball and football. The school has a long-time sports rivalry with neighboring Fortuna Union High School. The first Ferndale Wildcat versus Fortuna Huskies "Milk Can" football game was played in 1945 and each year since with approximately 20 years hiatus. Fortuna had won more games than Ferndale, as of 2013, the record was 27-20-1.[72][73]

In 2011, the Milk Can was stolen from Ferndale High School during a break-in by three Fortuna High School students, thrown over a bluff, and later recovered by police.[74]


Ferndale is home to the oldest newspaper under a single name in Humboldt County, the Ferndale Enterprise.[75] Commercial radio station KHUM operates in a joint studio with KLGE, KSLG-FM and KWPT. Ferndale is also home to the North Coast's oldest theatre company, The Ferndale Repertory Theatre which has been in operation since 1972.[76]


Affordable housingEdit

Lt. Jeremy M. Schwartz hands the keys of surplus U.S. Navy Housing to Ferndale Mayor Jeff Farley at the Navy Housing Picnic Shelter in Ferndale, California, on October 23, 2011.

U.S. Navy Housing was built for staff of the 37-acre Naval Facility (NAVFAC) Centerville Beach, Centerville, California which was commissioned on March 25, 1958. Originally the base was staffed by 95 people, but grew to over 280 people. The 52-unit Ferndale Navy Housing was built as part of this project. The NAVFAC was decommissioned on September 30, 1993.[77][78]

The U.S. Coast Guard subsequently occupied the Navy Housing but vacated the housing units in October 2008. The property was returned to the Navy which declared the units surplus.[79] In order to acquire the housing, a ballot initiative was required. The city placed Measure S on the ballot for the November 2, 2010, election. Measure S passed 516 (74.57%) to 176 (25.43%) approving the city's plan to acquire low- and moderate-income housing from the Navy.[80]

The Ferndale City Council voted to purchase the housing from the Navy for $1.00 on September 1, 2011.[81] The city began negotiations with the non-profit O'Rourke Foundation, part of the Bertha Russ Lytel Foundation, to take over and run the 52-unit project as an affordable housing project. The Navy housing is ten percent of the available housing in the city.[82] The 24 single-family homes, 14 duplex townhouses, three playgrounds and two community buildings of the former Navy Housing were transferred from the Navy to the city in a public ceremony with Congressman Mike Thompson on October 23, 2011.

Drinking waterEdit

The Ferndale water system was installed by Mr. Francis Francis in 1872.[60] In 1906, the Francis Land and Water Company was incorporated and in 1910 they bought the Cold Springs Water Company which supplied eastern Ferndale.[60] In 1954, the Citizens Utilities Company bought the system from the Francis Estate and sold it to Del Oro Water Company in 1996.[60]

Ferndale's spring water comes from 28 individual springs which produce 113 gallons per minute.[60] Historic tunnels under the hillside and a million gallon underwater reservoir collect and store water before distribution.[60] As a secondary source of supply, water may also come from Van Ness Treatment Plant which can supply an average of nearly 30 gallons per minute.[60] The Del Oro Water Company finished the Ferndale Mainline Replacement Project in 2011 which included larger pipes and new valves to reduce the number of customers affected during line repairs.[83]

Wastewater treatmentEdit

Ferndale's first sewage treatment facility and combined sewer system was built in 1953 and upgraded in 1973, 1994 and 2001.[84] Improvements were made to the sewers in 1989 under a $400,000 project funded by the California State Water Resources Control Board to improve the collection system and reduce inflow and infiltration.[84]

Less than ten years later, El Niño storms in April 1998 caused Williams Creek to change course due to debris blockage.[85] Williams Creek had been the major tributary of the Salt River near the treatment plant, so diversion lowered the volume of water available and caused the dilution ratios at the plant to exceed permitted levels.[85] Record stormwater flows also damaged the plant and the city applied for assistance[85] under the FEMA-1203-DR-CA El Niño storm Presidential disaster declaration.[86] On May 15, 2003, the Regional Water Board (RWB) placed a Cease and Desist order on Ferndale due to discharges of treated wastewater which exceeded 1 percent of the flow of Francis Creek / Salt River stream system.[87] The city paid a $48,000 penalty to the RWB and agreed to complete an environmental project instead of paying $78,000 more in penalties to the RWB[87] and began replacing the old plant in 2009.[87]

The new wastewater plant was completed in 2011 and provides tertiary treatment for nearly 1,500 commercial and residential users.[87] The only other wastewater facility like Ferndale's in California is in Colfax.[88]

Notable peopleEdit

In popular cultureEdit

Some of Ferndale's historic buildings at Legoland California. Left to right top: Abraxas Building, Victorian Inn, NVB Bank Building, Hobart Galleries, and the IOOF hall. The order of the buildings is not the same as in reality.

Filming locationEdit

Ferndale has been featured in such movies as The Majestic[100] and Outbreak.[101][102] It has appeared in such made-for-television movies as Salem’s Lot,[101] A Death in Canaan,[101] and Joe Dirt.[citation needed] It was also the location of the iconic “I'm a Pepper” commercial for Dr. Pepper.[103]

Ferndale was featured by Huell Howser in Road Trip Episode 149.[104]

Legoland model replicaEdit

Many of Ferndale's buildings have been recreated at the Legoland California theme park, as the only American small town to be represented alongside New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas and other nationally known locations. Ferndale was settled by many Danes, and Lego is a Danish company. In 1995, Legoland staff took hundreds of photos in Ferndale, and used over 1 million Lego bricks to recreate the town in the Miniland section of the park.[105]

See alsoEdit


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External linksEdit