David Washington Madden

D.W. Madden

David Washington Madden left his native Pennsylvania at the age of 19, wandered throughout the west for three decades, and finally arrived in Tulare in 1875 at the age of 50. The thriving little city was just 3 years old. For 18 months he managed a lumberyard for the princely sum of $65 per month. In 1877 he rented the Lake House, a hotel of some renown on Tulare Avenue, but this venture proved to be unsuccessful. Then came the move which assured his positive legacy in the history of Tulare. He purchased the Pacific Hotel, located on the northeast corner of Tulare Avenue and Front Street, the present site of Carls Junior restaurant, and gave his personal note at 1 ½ % interest per month. In two years he paid off all indebtedness and increased the size of the Pacific, whose fame was spreading throughout California. To provide water for his hotel, he bored a well and built a water tower on his property. When neighboring businesses asked him to supply them with water, he ran pipe from his tower to bring running water to the rapidly growing little railroad town.

When the great fire of 1886 destroyed his property on Front Street, Madden was out of the hotel business for good. He bought the city lots on O Street between Tulare and Kern Avenues and built a 5-bedroom house and an impressive new waterworks. From here he was prepared to provide the entire town with water from four 400-foot wells and two massive wooden water towers with a capacity of 40,000 gallons each. Madden was also very active in community affairs. In 1890 he was instrumental in organizing the Tulare County Bank, and served as its first president. The next year Madden donated a park to the growing town. It extended from Tulare Avenue to Kern, between J Street and the railroad tracks. At the north end he built an impressive fountain, dominated by a tall bronze statue of “Rebecca at the Well”. The statue fell victim to high winds and was never replaced. The park itself eventually passed out of existence. For 15 years Madden served on the school board, a driving force during the construction of the new school on West Tulare Avenue in 1884. He died on February 17, 1896, and on the day of his funeral, classes were suspended and almost every student followed the horse-drawn hearse to the cemetery. Almost a century later, in 1973, Tulare Union High School built a new classroom building on the site of his house and the old waterworks, and named it the “Madden Building”.