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Deadly flu marred Manteca’s birth

Epidemic led to first hospital that today is homeless shelter

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Deadly flu marred Manteca’s birth

Manteca children Duane, Muriel, and Kent Miller are shown protecting themselves against the flu in 1918.

Bulletin file photo/

POSTED January 6, 2018 1:04 a.m.

Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series looking back on Manteca’s first 100 years as a city as the centennial date of the community’s incorporation nears on May 28, 2018.

It’s flu season.
There’s not much public concern in Manteca although there is at least one senior housing complex placed under quarantine.
That is a far cry from 100 years ago when Manteca incorporated as a city.
The fall of 1918 saw the nation in panic coast-to-coast as the United States was dealing with the impact of one of the most severe influenza outbreaks the world had ever experienced. By year’s end, city leaders took steps to secure a community’s first hospital.
The severe influenza epidemic hit a peak of 202 deaths daily in the United States on Oct. 1, 1918.
Manteca’s first case was reported in October of 1918.
It prompted the Manteca City Council on Nov. 1, 1918 to pass an ordinance requiring everyone on city streets to wear a mask or face a $100 fine. All public gatherings were prohibited. Churches discontinued services. All schools in the county were closed.
The teachers at the original Yosemite School – where the Manteca Day School now stands on West Yosemite Avenue – turned their classrooms into hospital wards. They then stayed there 24 hours a day to care for the sick.
The city sent representatives to homes where entire families were stricken to check food and clothing supplies. All groceries, linen and clothing were supplied by the city. It wasn’t uncommon for linen and clothing used by the sick to be burned.
There were 49 families quarantined by mid-November. Manteca’s only medical doctors — S.N. Cross — was treating 15 patients a day in Manteca as well as caring for the sick in Lathrop and French Camp.
Public gatherings returned as Christmas approached but then there was another outbreak prompting many businesses as well as schools to again close.
By the time the epidemic ended locally when no new cases were reported in February of 1919, it was estimate almost half of the greater Manteca community had fallen ill. Three people in Manteca had died. To put that in perspective based on population in 1918 that would have been the equivalent of 200 plus people dying in Manteca in a year’s time from the flu.
Nationally, a fourth of the country’s population became sick with 500,000 dying.
After public meetings resumed, the City Council promptly addressed the need for a hospital. They voted to advertise throughout California to seek someone willing to build a hospital in Manteca.
The result was the construction of a hospital with 18 private rooms, two wards, an operating room and two bathrooms built at a cost of $25,000 on the southeast corner of West Yosemite and Sequoia avenues. The hospital was dedicated on Aug. 1, 1919. It closed 10 months later as there wasn’t enough of a patient base to keep it going.
Shortly after its closure, the hospital was converted into the Sequoia Apartments.

Hospital now serves
as home for HOPE
Family Shelter
The hospital turned apartments was purchased in 1992 by the HOPE Ministries to establish their first family homeless shelter.
In 2011, the Manteca City Council made a $1.2 million performance loan to HOPE Family Shelters to modernize the building.
LDA Partners — a firm that counts East Union High grad Eric Wohle as an architect — was hired to handle the renovation. The direction the city gave the firm was simple: Keep the structure as close as possible to its original architectural, bring it up to code, make it energy efficient and low maintenance, plus make it a positive environment for homeless families that stay at the complex for two months at a time.
The building was taken down to its skeleton. Research prompted the installation of pillars for a grand entrance complete with a wrought iron fence to keep it with the architecture of the 1910s.
As a result the 99-year-old building stands as one of the two most prominent holdovers from around the time Manteca was incorporated as a city on May 28, 1918. The other is the 101-year-old IOOF Hall at Yosemite Avenue and Main Street that is now the Manteca Bedquarters.
The RDA investment assured that Manteca’s homeless families will have a shelter to turn to through at least 2066. If there is no default under loan conditions, the amount will be forgiven after 55 years of the signing of documents. That means the building must be used as a homeless shelter for the next 55 years.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email

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