1905 – 2005: Family of Dr. Walter Mangum Davis
2005 – current: UC Davis Medical School
If you drive on Fair Oaks Boulevard, north of Fair Oaks Elementary, you might miss a 75 yard long dirt road lined with palm trees. This is the entrance to what was once known as the Davis Ranch, with a citrus and olive orchard. Walter Mangum Davis and his wife Oma Bennett Davis moved to Fair Oaks from Texas in the early 1900s with their son, Walter Jefferson and daughter, Elizabeth Catherine. A third child, Oma Bennett was born in Fair Oaks. The girls never married and Walter Jefferson did not have children.
Dr. Davis. a surgeon, practiced medicine from 1890 – 1910. He also owned and managed Hotel Madrone on Pine Street in the Nob Hill area of San Francisco. He died in 1925 and the daughters managed the hotel until the 1940s when they sold it and returned to the family ranch. Son, Walter, had been managing the ranch until his death in 1940. Mrs. Davis had lived for a time with her daughters in San Francisco, but returned to live in Fair Oaks until her death in 1950. Throughout these years, 62 of the original 70 acres were sold for development.
Elizabeth and Oma, the “Davis Girls,” lived the rest of their lives on the remaining 8 acres in the original family home. Elizabeth died in 1996, Oma in 2005. The family is not related to Jerome Davis, a farmer who is the namesake for the city of Davis. However, in part due to their father’s profession, the sisters donated over $5.5 million to the UC Davis School of Medicine. They established scholarships that provide financial support for medical students. They also transferred cash, securities and real estate to UC Davis in return for income for life. Their final gift after their death was to leave their home and property to the school, ensuring scholarships for many future doctors.
Following Oma’s death the furnishings were auctioned and the home has remained empty. UCD School of Medicine has put the ranch on the market for development. The next step is an Environmental Impact Report and then a general hearing on land use issues sometime this summer.
In the October issue we will describe the house itself and hopefully have more information to report on the plans for the property.
Kay Shrudder, Old Homes Editor