Challenge Dairy Products Inc.
INDUSTRIAL BANK OF FRESNO
The Industrial Bank of Fresno, a two-story brick structure with Mission Revival style ornamentations was established by Dr. Buntaro Okonogi in 1908 and became the first financial lending institution in Fresno to serve the Japanese population. This was incredibly important because the bank made it possible for the Japanese community to acquire property during a time when racial discrimination was rampant among lending institutions.
Fresno has a long and complicated history with “redlining” and racial discrimination. The term redlining refers to the systemic denial of various services or goods by government agencies, local governments, or the private sector. One way this was done in Fresno was by denying loans to people of color to prevent them from moving into white neighborhoods.
There were several businesses that operated out of this building (Industrial Bank of Fresno) such as; the Japanese American Newspaper, the Japanese Association of Fresno, T.K. Tomita General Business Agency and George’s Photography Study. The building was later bought by the West Fresno branch of the Bank of Italy (now Bank of America).
For several years the building remained vacant, today, the second floor has been converted into SROs (single room occupancy), a form of housing that is typically aimed at residents with low or minimal incomes.
FRESNO'S REDLINING HISTORY
947-951 F St,
Fresno, CA 93706
DR. BUNTARO OKONOGI
Okonogi was one of the most beloved members of the Japanese community.
Born in Fukushima, Japan in 1871, the ninth son of a doctor, Fukushima served as president of the Japanese Association of Fresno pre WWll. He also established the first financial lending institution for Fresno’s Japanese population (Industrial Bank of Fresno). The Industrial Bank of Fresno was an incredibly important lending institution because it gave Japanese Americans an opportunity to acquire property during a time when lending institutions were discriminating towards people of color (redlining).
Okonogi was an entrepreneur with a strong educational background. He received his medical degree, in Tokyo, New York and Stanford University Medical School. After getting his degree he moved to Fresno in 1901 and started his first hospital in a building at 736 E St, Fresno, CA 93706. Twenty-five years later, he built a 38 room brick hospital at the corner of Mono and E Street.
Once WWll began, Okonogi was sent to Pinedale Assembly Center, a detention center for the Japanese population, with his daughter Ena and son Dr. Hugo Okonogi where he served as a doctor. Okonogi was then sent to an internment camp with his daughter in Poston, Arizona where he was the camp physician. Once the war ended, he returned to Fresno and began practicing medicine again.
Okonogi was known for his great humanitarian spirit. He died in 1950, but in his will, he left clear instructions to forgive all debts incurred by his patients.