Today, the Swift Street Courtyard area, in combination with the adjoining businesses off of Ingalls Street, has become a nexus for locals who like fresh local products, cool shops, and hand crafted wine and beer. During the middle part of the last century this area was a busy center of vegetable processing and packing. In 1948, the Artichoke and Sprout Growers Association built the building at 334 Ingalls Street – now home of the West End Tap and Kitchen. Birds Eye Frozen Food leased a portion of it but their space needs soon grew. In 1951, to accommodate Birds Eye, the building at 402 Ingalls Street was built. Under this roof, vegetables were packed, primarily by women, and sold with the labels: “Coast King”, “Coast Queen” and “Coast Prince.”
The external infrastructure needs of these packing plants were large.
• A new water main was brought in by the City to handle the huge water needs.
• A new railroad spur was added running along the back side of the buildings.
• During peak harvest, refrigerator cars were loaded around the clock via a dedicated steam-powered “switcher.”
• A permanent nursing station was on site to care for the workers (located where El Salchichero is now).
• A huge concrete vault or storage pond was located on the east side of the parking lot to temporarily hold the vegetable waste.
• There was a a huge open air truck scale where the dining area inside Kelly’s French Bakery is today.
Within 402 Swift Street, water entered the building and was fed into two concrete troughs or “flumes” that ran the length of the building in the concrete slab floor. All discarded vegetable waste was thrown into the flumes where it was then carried in the water stream to the buildings exit and then via a pipe to an open concrete vault/pond. The water was pumped back to the head of the flume and the vegetable waste was then scooped out and put in a flatbed truck for disposal.
Prior to shipping, a portable ice blower was used to top off the produce in each car with a layer of ice cubes. An ice crusher was needed to crush the block ice which came from the Union Ice Company on Laurel and Chestnut. A screw auger/trough system then brought the ice to the blower. Known as “top icing”, the ice generally lasted until the train got to Council Bluffs, Iowa or Saint Louis, Missouri before being replenished.
A cold room for storage was located in the southeast end of the building (today the home of Sawyer, Illuminee and Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing). The floor, ceiling and walls were all insulated with 2 layers of 2 inch thick cork, each coated with asphalt. Examples of the insulation can be seen in a cross sectional “cork donut” located inside Kelly’s French Bakery and exposed inside Sawyer.
Kelly’s French Bakery owners Kelly and Mark Sanchez own and have revitalized the old buildings of the Swift Street Courtyard. In April 2002, they began a major renovation effort that lasted 15 months and created the Swift Street Courtyard as you see it today.
- A display in Kelly's French Bakery put together by F. John LaBarba, building contractor, in July 2003.
- Personal Communication with Mark Sanchez, owner Kellys French Bakery and The Swift Street Courtyard, August 2013.