Saving Napa’s ‘threatened treasures’

Landmarks advocates for endangered properties
2012-07-07T22:00:00Z Saving Napa’s ‘threatened treasures’JENNIFER HUFFMAN Napa Valley Register
July 07, 2012 10:00 pm  • 

Some historical structures like Soscol Avenue’s “Old Adobe” are easy to appreciate as “treasures” that should be preserved.

Others aren’t quite as apparent.

Take the Health and Human Services complex on Old Sonoma Road, for example. At first glance, the three main structures might seem like just another county work space.

Built in the 1920s, these buildings sit at the site of the original county health campus of the 1860s. According to Napa County Landmarks, the structures are “endangered” by development of a new Health and Human Services Agency campus, and could be demolished.

Napa County Landmarks wants to make the case for preservation for these county buildings and others. That’s why the nonprofit recently announced its annual “Ten Threatened Treasures.” The list was created to spotlight “endangered elements of Napa County’s architectural and cultural heritage,” including properties like the “Old Adobe” and the Health and Human Services Buildings.

According to the nonprofit, a number of buildings, bridges and sites are at risk of destruction or irreparable damage due to demolition-by-neglect, deterioration or development. The list is designed to call attention to threatened treasures, educate the public about what can be done, and encourage locals to help save them, a news release said.

This year’s list is headed by:

• the Cayetano Juarez Adobe on Soscol Avenue in Napa;

• the county buildings on Old Sonoma Road;

• historic county stone bridges including the Garnett Creek Bridge in Calistoga;

• the Standard Portland Cement Company ruins in American Canyon.

New to this year’s list is an expanded selection of lesser-known historic houses, barns and service stations located throughout the county. Napa Soda Springs, the Pope Valley Store complex and the Rutherford Train Depot remain from previous lists.

The list of 10 has been expanded to 18 structures in 10 main categories, said Denina Fredrickson, program manager for Napa County Landmarks.

Fredrickson said many locals don’t realize the significance of buildings they drive by every day.

Common reactions include, “I didn’t know that was historic. I didn’t know that was important,” she said.

Can a simple gas station be considered historic? Yes, said Fredrickson. A gas station, a barn, a water tower — “They can all be considered important and historic.”

“We are built on what came before us and what immigrants brought,” she said. “These structures depict ‘who you are and who you came from and how you’ve grown,’” she noted. “Without that history, you lose your identity in multiple ways.”

Some of the “threatened” properties are city- or county-owned properties. Others are privately owned or bank-owned.

A “threatened” property doesn’t mean the owners is necessarily to blame, she said. For example, with the Juarez adobe, “We’re working really hard with the owners. They couldn’t be more interested in preserving that property,” she said. “We want to be able to help. We want to be a resource.”

Building owner Alma Fuentes said she’s been in touch with Landmarks about preservation efforts.

“I’m looking forward to working with them,” Fuentes said. “It’s Napa’s oldest building,” she said of the adobe. “It deserves to be cherished.”

Kent Imrie of MIV Insurance Services represents the AH Smith partnership that owns the two older homes at 1461 Polk St. and 1526 Clay St. Both residences are adjacent to MIV Insurance Services and both are on the list this year.

“We know that both houses have historical value,” Imrie said. Years ago, the business planned to expand its location at the corner of Clay and Polk streets. To make room, the partnership would have liked to move both homes to another area of downtown Napa where a new owner could preserve them, he explained.

However, “There isn’t a huge demand for someone to take us up on our offer,” Imrie said. The homes remain vacant.

“I support very much what Landmarks does,” Imrie said. But “you have multiple perspectives when it’s your own property.”

Preservation work can be discouraging, Fredrickson noted. The nonprofit receives no funding from the city or county. “But, through education and through awareness you see a glimmer of hope that either the community is becoming more aware about preservation and historical identity or you see a great restoration project.”

Fredrickson said ultimate success comes when a property is removed from the “threatened” list, for example, the Opera House. “Some of them are quick fixes are others are phased projects that take multiple years,” she said.

Starting next Friday, the Goodman Library on First Street will feature a photo exhibit of properties on this year’s threatened list.

Copyright 2015 Napa Valley Register. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(3) Comments

  1. Madison Jay Hamilton
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    Madison Jay Hamilton - July 07, 2012 10:13 pm
    This story has me thinking about a line spoken by a character named Noah Cross in the movie "Chinatown."

    I think the character said, "I'm old. Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough."

    So it goes.
  2. Crosscountrykid
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    Crosscountrykid - July 08, 2012 5:25 pm
    Ms. Frederickson, may I suggest that if not done already, an inventory of the specific ways each structure is a part of the area identity would strengthen any case for preservation, since this assertion is central to your efforts. Simply making a blanket statement about identity as reported in the article is too vague, or can be perceived as only one person's opinion. If identity is critical, a specific inventory would both prioritize and educate. Age of a structure, by itself, may not matter much, given the varied interests of varied stakeholders.
  3. garretth37
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    garretth37 - July 10, 2012 11:36 am
    Not all buildings can be saved. Uses, the market, how big the space is for the needs, cost. Cost is a big factor, who will fix up a gas station or something that will cost so much and get the ROI (return on investment), how long will it take and is it worth it. Have you ever remodel a building that is listed, talk about a nightmare. Bridges go due to the increase of traffic and become unsafe. Some buildings cannot be made into useful uses because of zoning even tho they would be saved. Why would someone want to own something and not getting any use out of it.
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