Some 168 of my bi-weekly Napa as It Was articles have been published in the Napa Valley Register. If you are reading this, make that No. 169.
Several of the articles dwelt on prominent downtown Napa buildings that were razed to make room for urban renewal while others have been about buildings that are still there but with different uses than that of long ago.
Last month, the Register ran a story by Kevin Courtney about repair and restoration of the façade of the building at 1026 First St. in Napa. The building was completed in 1916 as home to the First National Bank and has seen a lot of uses over the past century (minus two years). Napa County Landmarks has owned the building since 1994.
The building has personal meaning to me for several reasons. First, it has that “bank” look about it. Regardless of what’s inside, when you look at it, you know that it once housed a bank.
Of similar appearance and age is the building on the corner of Second and Main streets, now home to a branch of Wells Fargo Bank that, according to Courtney, was built in 1923. During my earlier life, both buildings were branches of the Bank of America.
Second, in the early 1950s my high school buddies Don Townsend and the late Jim Duncan began their working careers as tellers for the Bank of America in the First Street building. Townsend went on to another career while Duncan spent decades in the banking business.
Then, in the early 1970s, my oldest daughter, Pam (Jabin), worked in the building, first for Silverado Savings and then Gibraltar Savings after Gibraltar acquired Silverado. In the 1970s, Gibraltar moved to its new building on Second Street, corner of Jefferson, now a branch of US Bank.
Finally, I love the food, service and atmosphere of Ristorante Allegria, the current tenant of the building since 2002.
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Here are a few more old buildings with different uses.
The old Hatt Building, at the south end of Main Street, housed Napa Milling, a purveyor of feed and grain. It’s interesting to note that, back to the 1880s, there was a skating rink upstairs in the Hatt Building. The building is now the Napa Mill complex of retail, hotel and restaurant businesses.
My friend Larry Wolfe reminded me that the building located beside the railroad tracks at Lincoln Avenue that once housed Orsoe Feed and Fuel, another former purveyor of hay and grain, was converted by his parents, Bill and Dorothy Wolfe, into Silverado Furniture. The building is now unoccupied.
The old Plaza Hotel at Brown and Second streets across from the old court house, is now Alexandria Square, an office building. The Plaza was once Napa’s best hotel. Its banquet room was the meeting place for local organizations and clubs, and the Plaza bar was a watering hole for the local legal and law enforcement people.
Back during World War II and later, one of the more popular grocery stores was Napa Grocery at Main and Caymus streets, directly across Main Street from today’s Shackford’s. The grocery building is now home to the Learning Faire.
The building at the northwest corner of Main and Pearl streets, which is now the Napa Firefighters Museum, once housed one of two Purity Markets in town. The other was on Coombs, corner of Second Street. A motel is now on that site.
Remember ButterCream Bakery, that pink and white striped building on Jefferson, corner of I Street, the one that had the luscious bakery goods and good food? Surprise! After 64 years at that location, it’s still there and still serving luscious bakery goods and good food.
Email Jim Ford at email@example.com.