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Publication Date: Friday, August 16, 2002

Feds will likely say Adobe building a historic place

Could be city's second building on national historic list Could be city's second building on national historic list (August 16, 2002)

By Bill D'Agostino

One Friday night in 1943, life-long Mountain View resident Betty Stoddard met her future husband, John, at the Adobe Building. The structure was serving one of its many community functions that evening, acting as a serviceman's club for local military men.

"This guy walked in, we had a nice time and it carried on from there," Stoddard said. The young couple (he was 21, she was 20) continued to communicate by letter after he was stationed in the South Pacific with the Navy. They were married in 1946.

Since its construction during the depression, the Adobe Building -- located at the corner of Moffett Boulevard and Central Expressway -- has been a community focal point.

Its value has long been known to residents like Stoddard, but this month, state historians agreed the building has historic import and nominated it for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The Aug. 2 vote of the state's nine-member Historic Resources Commission was unanimous.

Within 45 days of receiving the application, the National Parks Service will vote on the building's listing. State Historian Cynthia Howser said it's rare for a state's recommendation to be turned down. "The National Parks Service really relies heavily on the state review boards," she said, adding that the Adobe Building's application is non-controversial.

The register is the federal government's list of historic buildings and cultural resources worthy of preservation.

"It's great that it's gotten to this point in the process," City Manager Kevin Duggan said.

There are currently 87 locations on the register in Santa Clara County, but only one in Mountain View: the Rengstorff House. By contrast, Palo Alto has 16 and Los Altos only one.

At Moffett Field, both the wind tunnel and a historic district at the Naval Air Station in Sunnyvale are also on the list.

The building was nominated due to its use as a community meeting hall and its unique construction method. It was created from adobe bricks by local laborers.

In the staff evaluation, State Historian Maryln Bourne Lorite wrote that "the building's construction methods are rare. Research by the applicant in relevant technical bulletins and publications such as Architectural Record uncovered no other references to this method."

Margaret Peterson lived nearby as the building was being constructed. "I remember as a little kid watching them make the adobe blocks," she said.

Over the years, the building has been occupied by the Junior Chamber of Commerce, the American Legion, the National Guard and the city's recreation department. It was a popular site for weddings in the 1940s.

In the late 1940s, it also served as the "Eagle Shack" for high school students, remembered another lifelong Mountain View resident and Naval retiree, Charles Hirschbeck, who attended social events there but remembered being too shy at the time to dance. "It was a meeting place for the high school students but everybody of a young age could go," Hirschbeck said. "It was nice."

The Adobe Building was built during the Great Depression in 1934, one of many Works Project Administration (WPA) projects designed to boost the country's morale. It initially served as the city's first community center.

In the 1970s and 1980s the building deteriorated, suffering from neglect. The city closed it in 1987 due to new building regulations.

A "Save the Adobe" campaign began in 1995 by the city's historical association. The building was successfully re-dedicated on Sept. 29, 2001, having been restored to its original mission style. The renovation cost $1.2 million.
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