The rise and fall of the Palmtag Building: 1892-2007?

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!

Julie Machado

  • monica

    I attended the downtown committee mtg. in which the developer presented reasons in favor for the demolishment of the Palmtag bldg. I also heard Frank Goularte’s present his opposition to the plan. I would literally have to walk through the bldg. to make an educated decision. That most likely won’t occur so at this point I’m leaning towards the developer but I can be persuaded. Ideally if the developer could duplicate the original bldg; that would be the best case scenario. Thanks Julie and Frank for all your hard work.

  • J. W. Kyle

    Will Historpans agree to purchase the Palmtag Building? It is bad enough
    that we are stuck with an empty Historic City Hall that found use for just 31 or or years and at which structure, nothing historical occurred. However, the body public, here in Hayward is easily able to find, at some future point in time, the money with which it will be able to create viable, useful function.

    As for myself I believe that if the Palmtag building is of such historicl value that it should be pereerved, then let the public foot the billand bail the present owner out of his predicAMENT.

  • Jackie McCort

    Thank you, Julie & Matt, for bringing this matter to the public’s attention.

    For years, there used to be a sign on that building that said, “Jacqueline’s,” for a beauty shop (that’s what they called them in those days) owned and operated by my late Aunt Jacqueline Dames. Aunt Jackie and Uncle “Slip” Dames were prominent business people in the Hayward area for decades.

    Jackie and Slip always traveled in their Cadillacs and dressed to the nine’s every time they stepped out the door. As Jackie was thin as a rail and hated to cook, they ate dinner out every day of the week, mostly in Hayward. They were stalwarts of this community and I am sad to think that a little bit more of our history may be destroyed in the guise of “urban development.”

    The Palmtag is a beautiful piece of Hayward’s past. I hope that our community can find a way to preserve this important part of our history.

    –Jackie (Jacqueline! Yes, I was named for my aunt!) McCort

  • Fernando Hernandez

    Hey Mr. Kyle et all:

    Let’s keep the old City Hall and the Palmtag building as separate issues, which they are.

    It seems to me that if the developer purchased the property knowing it’s historic status and planning to retrofit it (which they were), then they should stick to their original plan.

    If they purchased the property without making sure a retrofit was economically feasible for their plans and profit expectations, they didn’t do their homework.

    Maybe these developers have to be willing to not make as much money on this property as they thought they would. If they find themselves in this predicament it is because of their own actions (or inactions), I’m not sure why “the public” needs to bail them out!

    I agree with Julie Machado, it seems very strange that they would demolish the old building with the reason being that the retrofit would render most of the second story unusable, only to build a one story building!

    Why not retrofit ?, I’m sure would be cheaper than tearing down the old building and starting from scratch. Why make the loss of the second story such an issue if they don’t plan to rebuild it anyway? It just doesn’t make sance!

    If the developers can explain this to my satisfaction I might be willing to change my mind, but from where I stand, the building should be saved and the developers should be more carefull next time about what they are purchasing and what their limitations will be.

    I grew up Mexico City, which has a down town area filled with stone buildings built in the 1500’s-1800’s. A few years ago the Mexican government created an agency tasked with rehabilitating many of these buildings to make them both earthquake safe and economically sound. The agency is a non profit and the revenues of the first buildings retrofitted have sustained the retrofiting of the subsequent renovations.The project has worked great, and now downtown Mexico city is experiencing a great economic revival, with many formerly abandoned buildings becoming populated and a part of the city’s economic base, without having lost it’s historic character.

    I, for one, would be willing to chip in some money towards historic preservation if it means Hayward will retain some of it’s original old buildings.

  • J. W. Kyle

    The basic problem with the Palmtag building is that the electric distribution vault. located under-ground, off site but near the fault line presenc adds costs which the entreprenuer is unable to upgrade.Perhaps perservation enthusuasts van exaplain their need to Pacific gas & Electric.

    That aspect of the background examination of Building which would enable increased electric supply is not usually part of a contracted engineers’s research and would be easily overlooked given the new construction near that site. Owner unsuspectingly acted on single aspect of faulty engineering advice, which as faulty
    as that was did not otherwise in-validate the research…Again the nearby redevelopment activity might have been seen as an assurance of electrical supply.

    I once worked in an office building at 21st and Broadway in Oakland which
    after completion and several years existence had problems such as the refelective glass which seriously affected visibility by reflecting morning sun upon west
    bound traffic along Grand Ave. Nothing could be done but planning department in Oakland learned a lesson on use of materials as did Hayward when it was fed news of the problem when considering a similar building.

    In that same building a tenant transformed the nature of his business and plugged in multiple extension cords for a non typical use of xerox, computers adding,machines etc. The building owner new nothing about it until a janitor started asking questions about why it was that the door to the power distribution box over heated……. some monkey business with fuses had occurred, prossibly by an over zealous biz equipment salesman.

    The involved Historical society was/is responsible for creation of old City Hall #1 (opposite the library) as a preservation property. Not involved with any reinforced, quake engineered up date, it stands with crippled interior, ready to come down with expense for removal of rubble charged to City Residents.

    Despite what my critic states, both buildings are part of the same problem.
    Let us consider that there is a limit to preservation. and at some point in time
    ptesrvatiopnists nust accept tear down if replaced by designs reminding of
    what once existed.

    If current owner walks away, who would buy and what would be the use that historial interest types would find as aid in terms of marketing and/or preservation expense?

    Look at the old Bank Building at NE Corner of B and Main! In my memory it has not been used for over 15 years.

    Will that be the next preservation target since owner has not had the luck or smarts enough to find a use, if not for the white elephant that sits upon the
    land, then for what pernissible re-use of the land?

    Since City’s downtown committee ignores my earlier earlier written argument,
    ( My Word, Review, 2006) about more intensive marketing to the needs of recent arrivals, of which there are a great many, if we judge by the number of children being taught English as a second language and whose ethnicity is not limited to spanish speaking areas of the world.

    India, as an example, is highly influential in providing leadership in Silicon Valley
    and their businesses are producing profits. Why are we not planning to attract
    a representative number of that population into creation of retail shops caterring
    to those ethnic needs which contribute to enjoyment of those reminders or experiences which ‘remind of home’ to folks in possession of incredible
    intestinal fortitude, courage. entreprenurial spirit and all the things leading to success of their families and as a consequence, a modern multi-cultural community which in eventuality will not give a tinkers damn about what the historical society thinks about outmoded, obsolete, fault line slip damaged and unrentable structure such as old city hal,l which in my mind lacks historical interest except for the reminder of war as seen in the presence of the air raid warning horn on roof ridge.

    As a second generation native of Oakland I marvel at the changes in downtown
    as well as the waterfront where Alaska Cod Fish Packers and saling ships once had a presence. I often reflect upon the ambience existing in that area where i grew up. But when I had grown up, I became grateful for the entreprenurial presence which brought about the changes. It provided me with employment!

    As a child I had a teddy bear which I tossed out at about four years of age in exchange for a baseball bat and two wheel bike. Today, I couldn’t tell you if teddy was brown, black or white; such was the fickleness of my dependent love for teddy without which I could not sleep.

    In other words, I grew up to become the wonderfully wise, even if highly
    opinionated, old geezer that I am now.

  • Bubba Zanetti

    I would love to see all the old buildings in that area restored. Imagine how nice that
    could be. Even if the old City Hall sits empty I still think it belongs. It’s close enough
    to the new building to provide a nice juxtaposition IMO. Of course I’m not basing my
    opinions on monetary concerns. It’s only money, you can’t buy back your soul, you
    have to preserve it. I think “new arrivals” can appreciate a city’s sense of history the
    same as anyone. Many come from places that hold tradition and history very high.

  • Fernando Hernandez

    I agree,

    There is more to old buildings than the monetary value of the land they sit on.

    I would take Bubba’s statement one step further and postulate that you would probably find MORE support for the old buildings down town amongst the immigrant communities of Hayward BECAUSE they come from places that were built more than a mere 150 years ago like down town Hayward (not even, unless you take into account what little is left of what the spanish built (in Fremont), or the few post holes and grinding stones left by the native populations)

    In Mexico City, they have built metro (BART) stations AROUND relatively insignificant pyramids, in order to preserve them. Not only that, they have integrated the archeological sites into the design of the infrastructure and turned them into a learning experience!

    How would you like to take BART, and be able to see on your way into the station a 1000 year old archeological site, with museum type signage and all…

    In Hayward, we are not lucky enough to have the massive archeological sites like we have all over Mexico. All we have are 100 year old buildings, many of them like the Palmtag buiding, derelict and heavily remodeled and not true to their original design, but they are we have left of the old days.

    The Palmtag is so different from it’s original design that maybe it might not be worth restoring (I have not yet made up my mind, after briefly talking about it with Mr. Demersman from the Hayward Area Historical Society) But the Old City Hall, certainly!

  • Good grief !If money does not count, then we have no problem passing bond issues for a new library ! Right? The last vote on that idea failed about 5 years ago and I notice no one has
    ventured, (even at risk of just very few City Counci votes in next year’s election,) to bring up the subject at council meetings.

    Then too,if money dosn’t count, be sure to spend some time getting out the vote for HUSD School bond elections at which anbout $175 million was to be asked in round one…. with another round or two to follow.

    I guess I wasn’t an attentive bank employee during that 40 year experience.

    One thing I did notice in those 40 years, it is usually the guy with empty pockets who wants
    Cities to spend money on that which is basically unimportant.

    Well, as globalization of our economy continues, some will blame the government for not
    ‘spending us out of the hole’ in the fashion of F.D.R. Shucks, Bill Clinton tells us that globalization is here and will continuew to grow.. Don’t like it ? Find another Herbert Hoover !

  • Fernando Hernandez

    Dear Mr. Kyle:

    I get the sense that you are implying my pockets are empty and my willingingess to invest in this community through what ever bonds I say I would supports are an empty commitment, but I can assure this is not the case.

    I have a different perspective on globalization beacuse , coming from a developing country, I have seen the way in which globalization exploits the second and third worlds for the benefit of the first world, of which you are a part of.

    You did say your wife enjoys “bargain” shopping at Wal-Mart?

    If you do your reserach, the “bargains” your wife so likes come at the expense of the poor in China, India, Mexico, the Philipines, and so many other countries where american companies have fled to avoid paying minimum wages in this country.

    I wander if you buy fair trade coffee? I suspect not. To expensive right?

    Would you buy a $4.00 head of lettuce to make sure we don’t have to employ illegal aliens to pick then off the fields? I suspect you wouldn’t.

    What about those cheap clothes from Wal-Mart, cheap right?


    I have no idea of how much you have traveled through the world, but I think a trip to some rural area of the third world would maybe change your mind about some of these issues.

    You see globalization from the perspective of the explioter (or at least, the one who benefits from the exploitation), not the point of view of the explioted.

    Unfortunatelly, in this country, MONEY is ALL the counts. Is this not why we are in Iraq persuing “democracy”, while at the same time we support Saudi Arabia and any other regime that is monetarily favorable to our way of life?

  • Yes, I have done some traveling and you do not have to go far to find the very worst example of poverty and economic disaster than the carribbean nation of Haiti.

    I did not criticize you for your possession of wealth, what ever that might be. Nor do I accept
    your criticism of my wife’s shopping at Wal-Mart. Those purchses aid job creation in 3rd world countries such as China. Third world countries such as India seem to be exporting badly needed individuals with intelligence and verve. See those emigres from India as a needed presence in the absence of sufficently well educated students being produced by inner city schools in this country where poverty has no where near reached the heights found in India.

    What is not occurring here is recognition that we are no longer truly able to carry the costs of war machinery such as super aircraft carriers….. made more expensive by our self abusive exhaustion of iron ore.

    Going back to ‘historic city hall’….. that building sits directly atop the Hayward fault. Interior damage exists which is caused by slippage along the line. Treeview school, above Mission south of Garin sits atop the fault line. In an inspection tour as participant in a committee to analyze the Peixoto school, the group toured Tree View. ( About 10 or twelve years ago.) On the occasion
    of that visit we found repiars occurring that were required by slip damage to the sewer line. Wee
    also observed damage to relatively new walkways between building and play ward situated on flat land well below the school. Removing our selves to front, you could observe ‘half moons’ in street paving which reveals slippage of the entire site. ( now covered by slurry seal.)

    Now sir, where would you spend available money ? Seems to me we are prepared to spend money removing rubble of the inevitable collapse at old city hall, where by the way nothing historical happened in it’s 31 years of use, as opposed to spending money reconstructing Tree View
    School at present day site of Bidwell school. Bidwell was closed for over 20 years prior to
    s need to permit TreeView students more class room space due to class size reduction.

    I grew up studying ‘odd ball stuff’ such as Papal encyclicals known as ‘Rerum Novarum’ which
    led to success in the union movment. Successive encyclcals on ‘Changes in social order’, ‘Education and conditions in schools’, Atheistic Communism have made possible my peace of mind to the extent that I understand the need to share the world’s resources, that labor imported from Mexico is simple, compassionate justice when living wages are paid while unemployed labor in this country refuses the field work as being ‘beneath themselves’. That the recent imposition upon management to ‘police’ accuracy of employee social security numbers is a crazy act by government.

    Frank Garcia of this City uses English as a second language and worked himself up from use of a short hoe in Salinas / Watsonville area to his well educated condition that places him in a responsible position at UC Berkelry assisting minority students to obtain higher levels of achievment. You have no concept of my admiration for that man. If we sat down and interviewed those being returned to Mexicao, would we be schocked at our loss?

    Thus do I oppose any public expendiure of public money used to preserve useless buildings on public land. As a memeber of the long dis-assembled Growth Mgt task force, I spoke in favor of knocking down much of B Street commercial buildings…. just as thopugh it were a collection
    of salvageable stuff, as we do with old autos. The land deserves respect too especially since we destroy it faster than the time God used to create it.

    So, Fernando, my request of you is to come up with a thoughtful reply rather than just quick
    attack upon opinions of others. Do you participate in any committees which aid the decision making process at City Hall or HUSD ?

    Keep alert to the opportunity….. i belive something will soon happen at HUSD which opens the door for advisory committees or ‘commissions’ as an aid to decision making as well as improved public relations at HUSD.

    Have you seen “My word” in Review edition of Friday August 10th, local section, Opinion pages ?

    Take care….. ’30’