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In Memoriam: Lost Buildings of 2021

San José bid a solemn farewell to far too many historic resources this past year, fallen victims of development pressure, disinvestment, and a lack of creative vision. As we work to help prevent further losses in 2022 and beyond, let's also pay our last respects to the historic buildings that were lost in 2021.

Bank of California

170 Park Center Place
1973, César Pelli for Gruen Associates

San José's Bank of California was designed by internationally significant architect César Pelli (1926-2019) as chief designer for Gruen Associates, one of the most influential architectural and planning firms of the 20th century. Completed in 1973 as part of Park Center Plaza, the city's first urban redevelopment project, the building was one of San José's best examples of Brutalist architecture and its only known Pelli design. Many have likened its sculptural, monumental form to an abstract Sphinx.

In 2019, San Francisco developer Jay Paul Company purchased the 8.1-acre Park Center Plaza site (now known as Cityview Plaza) and announced plans to demolish the entire 10-building site, Bank of California included, in order to construct 3 new office towers. Despite the "Sphinx" being a known Candidate City Landmark and eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, Jay Paul made no attempt to integrate it into its redevelopment plans.

PAC*SJ strongly opposed the project and identified numerous significant errors and omissions in the project's Environmental Impact Report. San José City Council nevertheless approved the building's demolition in June 2021. Our appeal of this decision was unfortunately denied by Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Sunil Kulkarni in November 2021, and the Sphinx was promptly demolished over the following days and weeks, even though new construction on the parcel is not slated to begin until 2026.

Despite the loss of the building, PAC*SJ is nevertheless appealing Judge Kulkarni's decision to the California Court of Appeals. We believe the decision contained critical errors and misinterpretations of applicable law that, if allowed to stand, would set a terrible precedent for historic preservation in the future.


Pallesen Building

618 S. First Street

Until its demolition in November, this former Historic Resources Inventory-listed Structure of Merit featured handsome Streamline Moderne brickwork and a fascinating history. Commissioned by Lillian Pallesen in 1938, the building's first occupants were George Miho and F.A. Boomer, auto mechanics who specialized in early electrical batteries produced by the Willard Storage Battery Company. It was later occupied by the Lowe Paint Company, Brothers Motorcycle Shop, and most recently by Garden City Construction. The site is now being prepped for construction of the 23-story Scape apartment tower. While the adjacent Pallesen Apartments were saved from demolition and relocated by PAC*SJ and Habitat for Humanity to a new site four blocks away, efforts to preserve the Pallesen Building faltered after the City allowed the tower's developer to abandon its initial promise of incorporating the historic facade into new building's base. Plans now only call for a small commemorative lobby display using some of the building's salvaged bricks.

Photo courtesy of Heather David
Notre Dame Market/Andy's Pet Shop
51 Notre Dame Avenue

Best known for its restored ghost sign and as the former home of Andy's Pet Shop, the Notre Dame Market Building was razed in October to make way for the Carlysle, a 21-story mixed-use apartment tower designed by Steinberg Hart Architects. Built in 1937, the former grocery was also occupied by IBM from 1966-68 as an annex to their historic research labs at 99 Notre Dame Avenue, where the world's first magnetic computer disk drive was developed in 1956.

Lawrence Hotel/Cinebar
71-89 E. San Fernando Street
1893, Frank Lobdell

Not completely lost but severely damaged in a January fire, the former Lawrence Hotel now stands as an empty shell with an unknown future. Originally built in 1893 as the Toccoa Block, it was designed by noted architect Frank Lobdell, whose credits also include the landmark Beckwith Building in Los Gatos. Over the course of its 127-year history, the Toccoa Block/Lawrence Hotel was home to scores of beloved local businesses, including the now-shuttered Cinebar, one of the oldest bars in the city. The building is a contributing structure in the National Register-listed Downtown Commercial Historic District. Swenson Builders has proposed retaining just the facade as part of a new 25-story residential highrise on the site-- a project that would require the demolition of the building's surviving ground-floor commercial spaces along with two other adjacent historic buildings.

Zoppi and Moranto Houses (River Street Historic District)
324-328 W. St. John Street

A series of suspicious fires in the summer and fall caused severe damage to a row of historic workers's cottages on West St. John Street, including some of the oldest surviving structures in the River Street Historic District. Most damaged were the Greek Revival-styled Zoppi House (c. 1885) at 324 W. St. John and the saltbox Moranto House (pre-1884) at 328 W. St. John, both of which have been condemned and are slated for demolition. An adjacent cottage at 338 W. St. John, the c.1880 Hill House, is also currently slated for removal, though it does not appear to have suffered significant damage in the fires.


H.G. Wade Warehouse
1657 El Dorado Street

Yet another catastrophic fire in June laid waste to one of Alviso's oldest structures, the c.1860 landmark W.G. Wade Warehouse, destroying all but three heavily-damaged exterior walls of the former freight depot and one-time Wells Fargo stagecoach facility. PAC*SJ is urging the current property owner and the City to stabilize the remaining shell and incorporate it into a new structure on the site. The adjacent Maggie Wade Residence, also a designated City Landmark, was not significantly damaged in the fire but remains abandoned and badly deteriorated.

Do you know of a San José building we didn't include in our list of 2021 losses? Comment below!
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Ryan Smith
Ryan Smith
Jan 11, 2022

It went by many names, but the Golden State Roller Palace in South San Jose on Blossom Hill Rd. was demolished in 2021. New construction is already well under way at the site. Very sad, as that was one of the last roller rinks of a bygone era.

Replying to

When was it named Golden State? I knew it as Aloha Roller Rink in the '80s when I was a teenager. :-(

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