Even earlier than the Antonio’s Nut Home constructing on California Avenue grew to become synonymous with pints, peanut shells, margaritas, techies and regulars absorbing the dive-bar expertise, it distinguished itself as a middle of innovation.
Inbuilt 1938, the construction served for 12 years as a Safeway grocery retailer and stood out in its early days as a prototype of a drive-thru “grocery store,” distinguished by being bigger than present meals shops. Safeway Grocers described its new California Avenue retailer within the late Nineteen Thirties as “one of the vital fashionable and handy markets on the Peninsula,” based on a historic assessment carried out in 2000 by the state Division of Parks and Recreation (The novelty apparently wore off by 1950, when Safeway referred to it as a daily “market” in commercials to new house owners).
Immediately, the constructing at 321 California Ave. stays vacant. The house owners of the Nut Home shut down the favored bar and restaurant in August 2020, following longtime proprietor Tony Montooth’s demise in 2017. Now, the property’s new proprietor is getting ready to rehabilitate the constructing, and Palo Alto leaders try to make sure that its historic significance stays intact.
The town’s Historic Assets Board enthusiastically endorsed final week the plan by Storm Land LLC, to demolish the concrete addition on the rear of the constructing and assemble a brand new eating pavilion and courtyard in entrance of the restaurant’s Birch Road entrance, an space that has historically been used for parking. The board additionally agreed throughout its Might 26 assessment that the proprietor ought to acknowledge the constructing’s historic significance as an early grocery store by placing up a plaque or another form of marker.
The rehabilitated constructing is unlikely to retain the divey, dimly lit and defiantly unpretentious ambiance that endeared the Nut Home to its patrons. The rear portion of the constructing that was as soon as a card room and, extra just lately, a poolroom could be demolished. Additions would come with a personal eating room and an outside courtyard linked to a bar space.
Architect Ken Hayes advised the board that the design group sought to work in a “complementary fashionable type that is deferential and distinct from the historic constructing.” The brand new restaurant would retain among the defining options of the present construction: its rectangular ground plan, one-story massing, stucco cladding, ceramic tiles alongside the storefront wall and post-and-beam development.
Parking could be moved to the rear of the constructing in order that the outside eating space might occupy the entrance.
“The thought right here is to revive the unique rectangular plan for the constructing by demolishing the rear addition and turning that into parking within the rear,” Hayes advised the board. “We are going to repurpose the place the parking is now on the nook for the brand new pavilion addition and the courtyard, create porous edges between the present constructing and that courtyard to permit individuals to see out and in and flow into.”
In reviewing the undertaking, board members praised the proposed adjustments to the constructing and the location format. In addition they urged the applicant to verify they go away behind some type of a marker connoting the constructing’s authentic perform. A assessment by the town’s consulting agency, Web page & Turnbull, concluded that the constructing is eligible for inclusion on the Nationwide Registry of Historic Locations, though it had not been formally added to the registry. That is as a result of the constructing represents a “dramatic shift” in grocery retailing to accommodate an “more and more automobile-based society,” based on the Web page & Turnbull assessment.
Along with its perform, the constructing is important from an architectural perspective as a result of it represents an early instance of a grocery store, based on the assessment.
“This constructing is a uncommon instance of a as soon as widespread sort, a grocery store, to retain its authentic character,” a report from planning employees states.
Given its standing, board member Michael Makinen urged the applicant to incorporate a plaque or one other marker that commemorates this historic perform.
“It is inconceivable anybody goes to acknowledge this constructing for what it’s after the work is completed on bettering it for contemporary use,” Makinen stated.
His colleagues strongly agreed. Board member Margaret Wimmer lauded Hayes for mixing the constructing’s historic options with fashionable design parts and for shifting parking to the rear of the property, permitting for backyard house on a nook that has historically been used for vehicles.
“It is nice wanting. It is nonetheless an ideal nod to the present period of the constructing. … It is going to be an ideal enchancment to that nook,” Wimmer stated.
Board Chair Carolyn Willis referred to as Hayes’ proposed design a “beautiful answer for California Avenue.”
“I believe it is benefiting each from the historic and the brand new,” Willis stated. “It is an ideal story.”
She analogized the proposed growth to the MacArthur Park restaurant close to the downtown Palo Alto Caltrain station, a historic constructing that was used for recreation throughout World Conflict I by troops coaching at Camp Fremont in Menlo Park. Guests, she famous, can go into the restaurant and have a look at pictures that depict the constructing’s essential historic position.
“I believe our youngsters are seeing historical past fly by so quick that it is good to keep in mind that not that way back you did not go to Safeway and purchase your groceries,” Willis stated. “It is comparatively new within the historical past of the world that supermarkets exist. It is good to see the development of how this occurred.”