Even right before the Antonio’s Nut Household building on California Avenue grew to become synonymous with pints, peanut shells, margaritas, techies and regulars soaking up the dive-bar experience, it distinguished alone as a heart of innovation.
Developed in 1938, the structure served for 12 decades as a Safeway grocery retail store and stood out in its early times as a prototype of a push-thru “supermarket,” distinguished by currently being more substantial than existing food stores. Safeway Grocers described its new California Avenue retailer in the late 1930s as “a single of the most fashionable and easy marketplaces on the Peninsula,” in accordance to a historic evaluate performed in 2000 by the point out Department of Parks and Recreation (The novelty evidently wore off by 1950, when Safeway referred to it as a frequent “market place” in commercials to new entrepreneurs).
Nowadays, the setting up at 321 California Ave. stays vacant. The owners of the Nut Property shut down the well-known bar and restaurant in August 2020, next longtime proprietor Tony Montooth’s dying in 2017. Now, the property’s new operator is making ready to rehabilitate the setting up, and Palo Alto leaders are trying to assure that its historic significance continues to be intact.
The city’s Historic Methods Board enthusiastically endorsed previous week the approach by Storm Land LLC, to demolish the concrete addition at the rear of the making and build a new dining pavilion and courtyard in front of the restaurant’s Birch Street entrance, an place that has traditionally been utilised for parking. The board also agreed for the duration of its Might 26 evaluation that the operator really should recognize the building’s historic importance as an early grocery store by putting up a plaque or some other form of marker.
The rehabilitated setting up is not likely to keep the divey, dimly lit and defiantly unpretentious ambiance that endeared the Nut House to its patrons. The rear part of the setting up that was when a card place and, extra lately, a poolroom would be demolished. Additions would contain a personal dining place and an outside courtyard joined to a bar place.
Architect Ken Hayes informed the board that the layout crew sought to perform in a “complementary present day type which is deferential and unique from the historic setting up.” The new cafe would retain some of the defining options of the present construction: its rectangular ground prepare, 1-story massing, stucco cladding, ceramic tiles together the storefront wall and post-and-beam development.
Parking would be moved to the rear of the creating so that the out of doors eating region could occupy the front.
“The strategy below is to restore the unique rectangular system for the building by demolishing the rear addition and turning that into parking in the rear,” Hayes explained to the board. “We will repurpose the place the parking is now on the corner for the new pavilion addition and the courtyard, build porous edges in between the current developing and that courtyard to permit persons to see in and out and flow into.”
In examining the challenge, board customers praised the proposed improvements to the constructing and the web site format. They also urged the applicant to make confident they depart behind some variety of a marker connoting the building’s first perform. A overview by the city’s consulting business, Web site & Turnbull, concluded that the making is eligible for inclusion on the National Registry of Historic Spots, even nevertheless it had not been formally additional to the registry. That’s simply because the building represents a “remarkable change” in grocery retailing to accommodate an “significantly auto-based mostly culture,” according to the Web page & Turnbull overview.
In addition to its function, the making is sizeable from an architectural viewpoint simply because it signifies an early example of a grocery store, in accordance to the evaluate.
“This setting up is a rare case in point of a when widespread kind, a supermarket, to keep its initial character,” a report from organizing workers states.
Presented its standing, board member Michael Makinen urged the applicant to involve a plaque or a different marker that commemorates this historic perform.
“It’s inconceivable anybody is going to acknowledge this making for what it is following the perform is finished on improving upon it for contemporary use,” Makinen stated.
His colleagues strongly agreed. Board member Margaret Wimmer lauded Hayes for mixing the building’s historic capabilities with modern day design and style aspects and for going parking to the rear of the house, making it possible for for backyard garden space on a corner that has usually been made use of for autos.
“It really is great looking. It is really nevertheless a great nod to the existing era of the setting up. … It’s going to be a great advancement to that corner,” Wimmer explained.
Board Chair Carolyn Willis called Hayes’ proposed style and design a “pretty alternative for California Avenue.”
“I imagine it truly is benefiting both equally from the historic and the new,” Willis mentioned. “It is a terrific tale.”
She analogized the proposed improvement to the MacArthur Park cafe in close proximity to the downtown Palo Alto Caltrain station, a historic creating that was utilised for recreation in the course of Earth War I by troops coaching at Camp Fremont in Menlo Park. Website visitors, she famous, can go into the cafe and seem at shots that depict the building’s crucial historic role.
“I imagine our young children are seeing background fly by so speedy that it’s fantastic to remember that not that lengthy back you didn’t go to Safeway and purchase your groceries,” Willis claimed. “It’s rather new in the heritage of the entire world that supermarkets exist. It really is great to see the progression of how this occurred.”