Martinez History x Our Building

Since we will be the new kids on the block, I definitely did not want to come into this new experience ignorant of my new town or surroundings. Or more importantly, all of the amazing people that make Martinez what it is! I have always loved the Bay Area, I grew up on the Peninsula, went to college in Sonoma, and now I am so grateful to have the opportunity to open my own store in a new part of the Bay for me. 

I did a little digging on our building specifically and this is what I found!

In 1854, Simon Blum -who was originally born into a Jewish family residing in France- established himself in Martinez, California, where he was naturalized in 1856.

Soon after, Simon’s brothers, Gabriel and Elias Blum, arrived in Contra Costa County to join the family general store business their brother had created.

In 1882, the general merchandise mercantile firm of S. Blum & Bros. sold over one million dollars worth of goods in retail alone.

S. Blum & Bros. also had a grain firm called Fish & Blum of Martinez, plus two stores in Lassen County, in northern California.

Simon was very involved in the city of Martinez. His efforts included donating land for the building of the Contra Costa County Hospital, participating in city council from the time of his election in 1896, and sitting as 1 of 5 directors when the Bank of Martinez was organized in 1872.

Simon Blum married Leontine Alexander, who was also French born, in June 1861. I am still trying to find photos of her!
Together, they had 3 sons and 2 daughters.

Mrs. Simon Blum, Leontine Alexander, was consistently active in Martinez’s local women’s suffrage movement, but she also took on a strong leadership role by hosting and organizing suffrage events. She participated in the Ladies Educational Society, the Martinez Free Library and even though she practiced Judaism as a child, she volunteered in Christian Churches around Martinez. Leontine, a veritable suffrage leader, was 69 during the 1911 campaign.

In 1875, Simon built a large mansion in the center of Martinez. It was the largest and finest residence in town. Known today as the Martinez Library. He died there in 1913, at the age of 79.

The S. Blum & Bros. Mercantile on Main Street was then sold by Mrs. Blum and turned into Hilson’s Department Store in 1912. (Fun Fact: We still have the sign sitting in our building!)

I know there are probably errors in my research so if you have anything to change or add PLEASE let me know! :) 


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  • Catherine Annette Kassel on

    Hi! Simon Blum was my great-great grandfather. I came upon your store and info by accident when I saw a reply on Facebook from my friend Ellie Rosenberg. Imagine my surprise as I scrolled through Facebook and saw photos and documents belonging to my great-great grandfather. Fun fact: When my father was starting out as a salesman after graduating from Cal, he used to call on Hilson’s. We still have the original copy of the obituary (it is several columns long and wide), as well as many artifacts from that side of the family. Good luck with your business!

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