A former rooming house, one of the first buildings in what is now downtown Riverbank, has risen from the ashes of a fire nearly a decade ago that almost left the structure damaged beyond repair.
Those traveling through the area of Topeka and Third streets during the holiday period over the past couple of weeks may have noticed the work nearing completion on the Ditman Apartments. The wood frame building was constructed in 1913 by George Wesley and Elvira Ditman. Wesley had heard of the Santa Fe Railroad’s investment in the area and decided to build the rooming house. At first the building mainly catered to the top people on the railroad payroll when they visited the town.
The building was one of the first in Riverbank to have electricity and was decorated with mahogany furniture, according to research from the Riverbank Historical Society. The bed linens were reportedly changed every morning by Mrs. Ditman herself.
Eventually, apartments were let to railroad workers. Wesley’s own three sons all worked for Santa Fe as well.
More recently, the multiple rooms were converted for residential apartments, and on Jan. 29, 2006, a fire broke out in a room in the upper story. The resultant damage nearly saw the building condemned and in need of serious repair.
Over the intervening nine years, reconstruction work has started and stopped, but now appears nearly complete. With new window casings, space for heating/cooling units and a new coat of stucco siding, the landmark building may be ready for new families to move in soon.