Owners of downtown’s Palmtag Building have announced that they want to tear down the old building, located at the prominent corner of B Street and Mission Boulevard. And at least one local resident, Julie Machado, is not happy about it. She sent us and city officials a letter and history lesson that we’ve posted below. But before that, The HayWord brings you a little history in photos:
Here’s what the Palmtag, built in 1892, looked like immediately after the 1906 earthquake (click on the photos if you want a bigger version):
Here’s what it looked like in late 2005:
Here’s how the owner, Oakland-based Browman Development Company, wanted to restore it (plans unveiled in April 2006):
And after deciding that the above project would be too expensive and otherwise problematic, here’s what Browman now wants to build in its place (plans unveiled on Monday):
And here is Julie Machado’s letter:
City Council Members,
Please do not rush toward approval of tearing down the old Palmtag building at Mission and B Street. This building is part of the historic downtown area, and should be rehabilitated rather than destroyed. It is a piece of Hayward history and should be respected. Do not let the deteriorated facade motivate you, as this facade is not the real building, which from old pictures once had Victorian bay windows and curved arches.
The Palmtag Building is the last remaining building built by Leopold Palmtag, who had it built in 1892. Leo Palmtag ran the large brewery in town for 50 years. He was on the Hayward Board of Trustees (i.e. the City Council) for 8 years. He was a big player in Hayward’s history. This Palmtag Building housed the first telephone exchange in Hayward. It was also the Hayward Post Office for a while, according to the Eden writers of “Hayward…the First 100 Years.” To say that this last building is not historic enough to save is, forgive me, hooey.
Hayward is behind every other local community in not having a real Historic Inventory done, which does a preliminary assessment on which buildings and cultural resources are potentially eligible for local, state, or federal registers of historic places. Hayward has no real local list either — 13 buildings is laughable, when there are hundreds of buildings in Hayward that should be considered. My eight years or so on the Alameda County Parks, Recreation and Historic Commission has taught me a lot about how far behind Hayward really is — behind Oakland, San Leandro, Union City, Fremont, Livermore, Alameda, and even behind the county unincorporated areas.
Saturday’s newspaper said that one of the reasons Palmtag should be demolished is because a “retrofit makes most of the second floor unusable”. What does this mean? Does it mean it would cost extra money? So the owner wants to destroy it and build a one story building in its place — what? If all they need is one story, then Palmtag would be fine to use!
In addition, replacing the Palmtag Building with a one-story building on that side of the block will not fit in with the fabric of the landscape there, near the Ace Hardware building. Tending to the landscape “fabric” of a streetscape is important in keeping other historic resources in context.
In the newspaper article, Jim DeMersman, director of the Hayward Area Historical Society, does not appear supportive of saving the building. Please be aware that, much as I personally like Jim, I have never seen him come out in favor of saving a historic building in or near Hayward (including Ashland, Cherryland, or Castro Valley). Whenever Jim is consulted for reports by Architectural Historians, he seems to be negative about the resource. Jim’s main interest is in museums, not in historic buildings. I respectfully suggest that assessing historic and cultural resources is not Jim’s main area of interest or expertise.
I also fear that if you allow the Palmtag building to be torn down, you will demand virtually nothing in mitigation other than documenting the building with pictures. This is what Hayward has done in the past with destroyed historic properties. And again, this is woefully outdated in the field. Offering a short window for relocation is also of virtually no use, as land is generally not available. Mitigations that should be considered include contributions to a Downtown Historic Preservation Fund, Commemoration, and Salvage. However, the option to make contributions to a fund should not be seen as a generally good idea, as it could end up being used as a way for developers to pay their way to demolish historic properties. But having a Fund would perhaps come in handy to ultimately stop the demolitions.
What should happen to the Palmtag Building, in my humble opinion, is rehabilitation and re-use. Best case scenario would be to remodel the outside to look, once again, like the handsome Victorian building it was in numerous photos that my husband, Frank Goulart, has found during his volunteer librarian activities for the Hayward Historical Society. If part of the second floor is not usuable, then so be it. Rehabilitation is generally good for the local economy because it hires local workers, it conserves resources (think “recycling buildings”), and despite what developers usually say, there are studies from the Office of Historic Preservation that show it is actually usually cheaper than tearing down and bulding from scratch.
I wish that I had stood up a decade ago to object to the demolition of the Pann Hotel at D and Mission. That’s a building that was historic and should have stayed. And here we are years later, still doing the same thing. The next building to be demolished will be La Victoria’s restaurant at D and Mission, slated to be an offering for the one-way loop (or as my husband calls it, “the noose”). It’s time for it to stop.
It is your duty to act in the best interest of Hayward, not in the best interest of a developer. Please draw the line here, and insist that this developer take appropriate care of the Palmtag Building, and do his development without demolishing it!