Many historical landmarks dot the landscape of Madera, and one of these is an establishment on the corner of Gateway Drive and 1st Street that for decades was called Skeeko’s. In its heyday, Skeeko’s was one of the best known watering holes in Madera. Earlier, however, it had been an Italian restaurant, and even earlier it had its genesis as a gas station. It was all the brainchild of one Alfredo Guiseppe Farnesi, an Italian immigrant who came to Madera early in the 20th century.
Farnesi was born on Jan. 20, 1888, in the village of San Lorenzo in Lucca, Italy to Petro and Paolina Farnesi. Alfredo stayed at home and helped his parents until he was 19 and then left with his 17- year-old brother, Jacapo, to come to America.
After landing at Ellis Island, Alfredo and Jacapo traveled to Sanger, where they had another brother, Carado, who owned a vineyard and operated a winery there. Alfredo worked for his brother in the summer and in the winter he carried food and water to the lumberjacks in the mountain lumber camps. He worked hard, saved his money, and in 1916, following the advice of his friend Dominic Del Cerro, who farmed in the La Vina District, Alfredo moved to Madera with his dream. He wanted to open a gas station — Madera’s first.
Alfredo Farnesi’s first home in Madera was in the Barsotti Hotel on Gateway Drive, and it didn’t take the newcomer long to find the spot where he wanted to build his service station. The empty lot on the northwest corner of the highway (Gateway Drive) and 3rd street was perfect...