Vets Hall historic, say architects | March 6, 2009 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Newsfront - March 6, 2009

Vets Hall historic, say architects

Next step will be laying out options for Veterans Memorial Building

by Geoff Gillette

After weeks of poring over information regarding the history of the Veterans Hall in downtown Danville, architects responsible for the design of the facility say the structure has historical significance.

At their Feb. 25 meeting, members of the Veterans Memorial Building Steering Committee heard findings from Architectural Resources Group regarding the history of the building and how that will affect ongoing plans to either raze or rehabilitate the Vets Hall.

ARG principal Naomi Miroglio said that under the California Register and the Town of Danville's ordinances, the Vets Hall would be an eligible historic resource.

Miroglio said that much of what gives the structure its significance is the relationship that the town and the community have had with the Veterans Memorial Building and the uses to which it has been put over the years.

"It's significant as a memorial for the veterans," she said, adding, "It's really about how the town sees the property."

Much discussion centered around the exterior of the building and its façade, including how much of it to keep and how much could conceivably be changed or removed in its restructuring.

Committee member Patty Dobbin cautioned the committee to be very careful in how they decide what can and can't be removed.

"I just want to remind people of the furor when the Eddy House was taken down. The town (residents) did not accept the fact that the building went down. We certainly hope that more than the façade would be maintained," she said.

The Eddy House was a historic building on Hartz Avenue that was slated to become the new site of Amber Restaurant. An architect and contractor decided that certain sections of the existing structure needed to come down and began removal procedures.

By the time that the town became aware of what was happening, a significant portion of the building had been removed, necessitating the removal of much of what remained.

Mayor Newell Arnerich said that the experience of dealing with the loss of the Eddy House and its repercussions led the town to adopt newer and more stringent rules regarding historic preservation.

During the public hearing, Danville resident Chuck Fereira addressed the committee, asking to have the site preserved as much as possible. He recounted the story of Joe Foster, whose adopted parents lived near the Vets Hall years ago.

Fereira said that Foster was a wounded Vietnam era veteran, now living on the East Coast, who had fond memories of the hall.

"He stated that it would be both a historical and cultural tragedy not to maintain the exterior of the Vets Hall," Fereira said.

Miroglio said she understood the concerns about maintaining the appearance of the structure but said she felt that it was too early in the planning stages to be concerned about this level of detail.

"I'd wait until you see the concept developed before we discuss what we want to stay and go," she said.

Committee member and Town Councilwoman Candace Andersen said that even though the site is not officially a designated historical area she would like to see any work going forward be mindful of that historical context and operate as though it were a designated area.

Miroglio told the committee that ARG will now go to the drawing board and come back at the March 9 meeting - which begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Town meeting Hall at 201 Front St. - with options for what will go into the building. She was quick to add that these will be options for what could go into the building, not an overall plan.

"It's not about setting design at this point. It's how they (the various veterans/senior/community use programs) all fit together, horizontally and vertically," Miroglio explained.