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Publication Date: Friday, February 07, 2003

Adobe Building makes historic list Adobe Building makes historic list (February 07, 2003)

Depression-era WPA crews built Spanish Revival project

By Candice Shih

It's official: the building once known as the Eagle Shack is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Adobe Building, which formerly served as a soldiers' lounge, teen center, wedding venue, senior center, and office building, joined the list of over 75,000 properties last October. The building had been nominated by the state's Historic Resources Commission in August.

It was primarily recognized for its historical value as a Depression-era project, one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's many Works Project Administration (WPA) projects. The Adobe Building was also noted for its aesthetic value in Spanish Revival architecture.

"It's a good example, not a fantastic example," said Paul Lusignan, historian at the National Register. "It's a fairly modest building."

The primary result of the honor of being named to the list is the honor itself. Ideally, properties on the list would be better cared for because of the special designation, said Lusignan.

Also, there are some minor economic incentives for the buildings on the list, including tax provisions and federal funding for upgrades. (There's been no significant money set aside by Congress recently for these projects, however, said Lusignan.)

These buildings also have limited federal protection from future redevelopment. But ultimately, local governments have the police and zoning capabilities to save or let go of a historic property.

The Adobe Building and the Rengstorff House, Mountain View's two properties on the National Register, are currently protected by the city under its interim ordinance on historic preservation. Because of that designation, the city council would have to approve any major changes planned for them.

In 1929, the land that the Adobe Building now sits on was sold to the city by Wallace and Alice Angelo for $10. A pump station and reservoir were set up there and served as the city's main water source.

Not five years later, its use changed. The city needed a meeting place and people needed jobs. Furthermore, the new building at the corner of Moffett Boulevard and Central Expressway could provide a more coherent connection between downtown Mountain View and Moffett Field, which was then an active Navy base.

According to a report submitted to the National Register, "the Mountain View Adobe project employed forty-five or more men for a number of weeks." Members of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, one of the building's first tenants, also contributed their time and money to the project.

With the onset of World War II, the Adobe Building expanded its use as a soldiers' lounge and hospitality house for veterans.

Following the war, the Adobe Building took on the name of Eagle Shack teen center and hosted high school dances. And it was the site of many weddings in the late 1940s.

The military roots of the building were rekindled in 1949, the first National Guard in Mountain View leased it for four years as its armory.

In the latter half of the century, the Adobe Building was utilized for city programs, as the offices for the Recreation Department and the preparation site for a senior lunch program. It became referred to as the "Adobe Shack" since, according to the application for the National Register, it had "lost much of the grace and elegance of the original design."

By 1987, it fell short of new building regulations and was forced to close.

But many people had fond memories of the building and initiated a "Save the Adobe" campaign in 1995. Three years later, the city added it to its Historical Resources List and began its restoration.

Restoration was completed and the new and improved Adobe Building was dedicated in 2001.

After the building's acceptance to the state's list of historic resources last August, the application for national recognition was immediately sent. According to Lusignan, the National Register of Historic Places generally accepts states' recommendations for additions to the list. California has about 2,185 listings.

E-mail Candice Shih at


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