Live Oak: The Land of Coops and Co-ops

Hello friends and supporters. I spent the afternoon walking around Live Oak with Norman Poitevin. Norman, along with the Live Oak History Project and the Live Oak Neighbors created several walking tours of Live Oak’s historical landmarks, and of particular interest to this researcher, its poultry history.

Live Oak and Santa Cruz raised the second most number of chickens in the State after Petaluma, in the heyday of egg production in the first half of the 20th century. Chanticleer Ave is named after the Chanticleer chicken, and Live Oak was epicenter, being the location of the local Farmer’s Exchange, an enterprise modeled after the mid west member-owned Co-ops. Two trains a day brought ingredients for chicken feed to the Exchange and they were milled and blended into feed for the members. It’s large silos were torn down in 1979, and today the buildings are being reinvented as the 17th Avenue Studios for artists. You can see the building on 17th Avenue between Kinsley and Felt Streets.

You can also still see the laying houses, put to various new uses. Any long low building in Live Oak is likely a converted hen house.

Walking across Chanitcleer Ave onto Harper St is like stepping back in time. Away from the busier streets you can walk along the quiet “Flag Lots” – subdivisions with deep parcels that used to be chicken ranches – with no side walks, and small farm houses from the 20’s and 30’s. Some residents still have chickens and other livestock.

One of the best parts about our project is the new perspective you gain of your own town. If you’d like to join a Live Oak historical tour, Norman leads the walks each summer. The Sentinel and Researchers Anonymous post their dates and times.

– Jody Biergiel Colclough

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