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Monument marks Macy's in Marysville
They came with gold to drink and dine when Marysville was the commercial king — before Yuba City became the business center — and where the Macy brothers began a general merchandise store in 1850 near what's now the closed Mervyn's.
"You can see a metal pole," Bob Barkhouse said Thursday as he pointed near 1st and D streets. "That's where the site is."
The store Charles and Rowland Macy started is 210 feet due west of the street corner monument the Sutter Parlor 261 of the Native Sons of the Golden West dedicated on Saturday.
Marysville was where miners came with gold from the Sierra foothills.
"When they came to town, whiskey flowed," said Barkhouse, a former Yuba City mayor.
Henry Delamere, city historian of Marysville, said Macy's acted as a bank because buyers often paid in gold dust.
Decades later shoppers would flock here when the city was home to three movie theaters and dozens of restaurants and bars. Yuba City, with more land and later more people, would surpass Marysville as the center of commerce.
But in the 19th century, and for most of the 20th, Marysville was where men like the Macys went to make money.
Yuba City resident Art Worledge, who grew up in Marysville, remembers walking through the business district.
"You had to work your way through the people," he said.
Roots of the commerce reach back to the mid-19th century when the land where the Macys began their store was as far as paddleboats along the Yuba River could reach, Worledge said.
Rowland Macy returned to the East Coast, after learning more about merchandising in the West, and went on to make Macy's one of the largest retail stores in New York before his death in 1877.
Marysville remained a commercial powerhouse for almost a century. They lost the chance to create an historic Old Sacramento-style district, Barkhouse said, when redevelopment in the 1960s demolished older buildings in the business district. A redevelopment advocate saw Mervyn's as the anchor of a new commercial center for the city, Barkhouse recounted.
"He was going to put Marysville on the map," Barkhouse said, who grew up in Marysville and later served on the Yuba City Council from 1990-2002.
Marysville Councilman Dale Whitmore said the community lost a lot during redevelopment.
"If you ever seen the old map of Marysville," Whitmore noted, "it shows all these large buildings."
"I don't think any of them are around anymore," he said.
The site that once housed Mervyn's, near where Macy's began, can still be home to commercial success, the councilman said. The building is in a good location off a heavily traveled road, Whitmore said.
Each city has its own strengths, he added, and Marysville can provide unique experiences through shopping or entertainment.
"The strength of Marysville has to come from the people within," Whitmore said. "I don't believe it can come from government."
A new business where Mervyn's once operated would pull people to that part of Marysville, he said.
"Until we get another tenant, there's not a lot of attraction to that end of town," Whitmore said.