Meat Markets on the South Side

As part of the Kelley House Museum’s current show, “South of Main,” featuring buildings and businesses that once existed on the south side of the street, let’s look at the evolution of our local meat market.

The interior of Quaill’s City Meat Market on Main Street in Mendocino, c. 1920. Butchers are Tony and Joe Quaill. Children are Virginia and Harry Quaill. On the left is a chopping block made from a very large tree stump. The building that housed the market was built in 1874 and torn down in 1960.

The building under discussion here was across the street from the Jarvis & Nichols building (now Gallery Bookshop) and was in a row of structures owned first by Mendocino Lumber Company, then after 1907 the Union Lumber Company. All business establishments on the south side of Main Street leased their places of business from the company.

In 1873 the Independent Dispatch newspaper announced Donald O. Philbrick was erecting a building for his Quincy Market. Beef, pork, mutton, lamb, veal, ham, bacon and fish would be available with canned fruits and vegetables. The Philbrick family was well known on the coast, especially in the lumber industry.

William H. Kent in 1877 bought the business and ran it for a decade, adding a sausage-making machine. The September 20, 1884 Beacon advertised “For Good Choice Meats go to Kent’s Market.” Kent raised much of what he sold on his large ranch located between Mendocino and Little River. His charming 2-story house still stands near Highway 1 and is now known as Spring Ranch.

George Bowman bought the business in 1888 when Kent retired. Bowman added fresh lard and more salt meats. Walter Huntley took over next in 1895. His meat came from Alex Jefferson in Caspar and also from San Francisco. The Beacon of November 3, 1895 proclaimed, “No More Bull Beef at Huntley’s.” This probably referred to the practice of butchering the bulls that pulled logs through the woods and selling the tough meat to merchants and the public. In 1896 he sold out to John Eglin.

With partners Frank Auser and William Elgin, the store was called the Mendocino Meat Market and its many advertisements asked Beacon readers to give them a try.

By 1899 Thomas H. Beggs had moved his City Meat Market business from William H. Kelley’s building on the southeast corner of Albion and Lansing Streets (Rotary Park today) to this Main Street Location. Beggs installed an ice plant on the premises so his meat was kept in cold storage. This also allowed him to sell ice in any quantity for making ice cream, an increasingly popular snack.

Tony and Joe Quaill took over in 1915 and ran Quaill’s City Meat Market into the 1950s. Joe Quaill was said to have the most valuable thumb in town, since he was jokingly said to have his thumb weighed with the meat as he held the scale and that thumb must have been worth its weight in gold.

From 1922 to 1924 Quaill, Leland Milliken, and P. Dixon of Fort Bragg were all involved in the business, and wholesale and retail customers were served. Livestock and dressed meats were being bought from the public at any time. In 1938 Joe Quaill sold an interest to David F. Bahrs but that partnership was dissolved in 1941.

Like many of the businesses along Main Street, there was an upstairs apartment for rent. It was first fixed up by Tony Catherena, and later occupied by Joe Quaill and his wife Elenora. In the mid-1950s they gave up the meat market and purchased a home in San Francisco but retained the lease on the upstairs apartment as their summer residence.

By the 1960s the lumber company was ready to demolish the few remaining buildings they owned on the south side of Main Street. Rumor has it the company didn’t like paying property taxes on old deteriorating structures. In August 1960, after Joe and Eleanor moved their remaining furnishings from their upstairs apartment, the Meat Market building was razed to the ground.

The Meat Market is just one of Mendocino’s long-gone businesses. Come see our latest exhibit at the Kelley House Museum, running through May 18, 2020, to discover the others that were once found south of Main.

Museum Hours: 11am to 3pm Fridays through Mondays. Historic walking tours every Saturday and Sunday at 11:00. Contact us at 707/937-5791, curator@kelleyhousemuseum.org