By November 4, 2015 Read More →

ArchitectureView – Fabulous Facades


Fabulous Façades
By Barrett Lipomi

As an architect in the central valley I have designed many buildings using stucco as the exterior finish. This wonderfully versatile, economical and fire resistant product has been used in various forms and building types for thousands of years. However over the past several decades stucco has too often been used on the wrong buildings and in the wrong ways. Notable examples can be found in downtown Modesto where building owners have used it to recklessly cover up historic brick and stone building facades. This isn’t something that has just occurred in the past, it is still happening today. However one building on the 900 block of Tenth Street has given me hope for the future.

The owner of Greens is renovating the suite next door to their existing business at 953 10th street. This suite is part of the historic Ward Building. During this renovation they have torn down the stucco that covered the original building and have been restoring the historic façade. Although the project is still in progress, the transformation is remarkable.

Built in 1911 the J.L. Ward Building located on 10th street between I and J, was designed by San Francisco Architect Bernard Joseph. The building has housed many businesses over the years including the J.L. Ward Furniture Company, the Modesto Bakery as well as JC Penny. Large glass windows topped with transoms on the first floor welcomed visitors to walk up and look inside. Above, the decorative brick patterns, quoins, and keystones elegantly framed large rectangular windows. This is how the building looked over a century ago. That is not the case today.

The original building facade remained intact for many decades. However somewhere along the way and renovation after renovation, the original building became almost unrecognizable. The building owners had placed flat, beige stucco over nearly the entire façade. Thankfully for one portion of the building, this is no longer the case. The stark contrast between the newly restored historic façade and the adjacent suites that are still covered with stucco has never been more apparent.

It is also encouraging that the City of Modesto has a Physical Improvements Incentives Program that allows for a grant of up to $10,000 for façade restorations within the downtown core. Projects like this one at Greens can qualify for this grant, and are a step in the right direction for downtown Modesto. I hope that others follow their lead and restore our history while revitalizing downtown for the future.

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