SAVE THE OLD CANNERY IN PALO ALTO - Save space for local culture, bring back Art and Soul!

SAVE THE OLD CANNERY IN PALO ALTO - Save space for local culture, bring back Art and Soul!

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Karen Ewart started this petition to Palo Alto historic resources board and

WE WERE ONCE A THRIVING DIVERSE COMMUNITY OF ARTS AND MUSIC.

PLEASE CONSIDER OUR REQUEST.

PRESERVE THIS HISTORICAL BUILDING AND BRING BACK A VIBRANT CULTURE THAT WOULD SERVE BOTH RESIDENTS AND VISITORS TO OUR LOVELY CITY!

The City of Palo Alto just received a Historical Resource Evaluation (HRE) which was prepared for them by an independent group. It determined that the old Bayside Cannery building (currently occupied by Fry’s Electronics and others) meets the criteria to be on the California Register of Historical Resources and that the building overall is "intact" with nearly all of its original features and structure present.

You can download the full evaluation which describes the building and contains a well written history of the site (PDF): https://bit.ly/30Dh42G

NOTE: This is not a "done deal" -- the building has not yet been designated as a historical site, but it could be. It is very much in danger of being demolished to make way for condos. We hope that the City of Palo Alto can be swayed to save it.

Additionally, we have a unique vision and proposal for what this building can be used for (which is detailed lower on this page).

A LITTLE BIT OF THE HISTORY:

In 1906, Thomas Foon Chew (pictured in the center of the photo above) opened his Bayside Canning Company in Alviso, CA. This was a major feat in and of itself considering the strong anti-Chinese sentiment of the day and prohibitions against Chinese people owning businesses. Then in 1918, Foon expanded his business and built a larger plant next to the small Chinatown that existed in the town of Mayfield (annexed by Palo Alto in 1925).

His company grew to be the third largest fruit cannery in the world, behind Libby and Del Monte, employing hundreds of Chinese and Portuguese workers, most of them women. It was the single largest employer on the mid-Peninsula for many years.

Foon became the first Chinese-American millionaire in the U.S. and several of the canning processes developed at Bayside Cannery are still used to this day.

Before it became "Silicon Valley" the area was known as "The Valley of Heart's Delight." And before companies like Hewlett-Packard and Fairchild Semiconductor launched in Palo Alto and began hiring locals to work on their assembly lines, these folk worked the lines of the local canneries. At one time, Santa Clara County had 39 fruit canneries. Today there are precious few remnants of this history. The fact that this building is a part of that history is actually what makes it eligible for status as a Historical Resource in the state of California.

Here is a link regarding the history of Chinese-Americans in early Mayfield and Palo Alto: https://ourtownofpaloalto.wordpress.com/2016/12/30/history-of-mayfields-chinatown

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From one of Palo Alto's most well informed local historians whose family spans 5 generations and 119 years of local history:

SAVE THE OLD CANNERY IN PALO ALTO: Save space for local culture by bringing back art and soul!

To the Palo Alto Historic Resources Board (HRB) , re: the former cannery property located at 340 Portage Avenue (currently occupied by Fry’s Electronics and other tenants).

My family stretches back five generations in Palo Alto, the first to arrive came in 1900. I reluctantly left town in 1997 for Los Angeles as work in my field of film and TV production dried up in the S.F. Bay. It was at this time that others I know in the arts; musicians, artists, and craftsmen were also slowly being driven out of town by rising rents and the loss of work/opportunity and affordable retail space.

Despite moving away so long ago, I am still very connected to my hometown. I do graphic design and layout for the Tall Tree publication of the Palo Alto Historical Society, as well as running and contributing daily to the largest Palo Alto group on Facebook, which now has over 10,500 members.

As a history buff, I believe the old cannery is extremely significant to Chinese-American history in California, as well as Bay Area and Palo Alto history, of which I’m certain you’re aware. The structure is the oldest surviving industrial building in Palo Alto and is tied to the small, embattled (and long forgotten) Chinatown that once existed in the old town of Mayfield. The cannery represents a perfect metaphor for the transformation of the area from agriculture center to the technological center of the world. Workers on the assembly lines of the cannery business migrated to assembly lines in TV and radio manufacturing, then to the assembly lines of early Silicon Valley, and now to the coding factories of companies like Facebook and Google.

When I was growing up in Palo Alto in the 1960s and 1970s, the town was bursting at the seams with art and live music. Not so much today. Back then, the Artifactory artist cooperative on Hamilton was a wonderful space for artists and craftsmen to sell their wares. I remember artisans and craftsmen set up in old warehouses on Urban Lane, as well as a punk rock recording studio. Allied Arts Guild was the last to go, thankfully they found a home in Menlo Park, but everything else is gone without a trace, I think, to the city’s detriment.

I see the old cannery as an opportunity for an adept development company or entrepreneurial group, supported by the City, to not only protect a historical building but also to help recapture the “soul” of Palo Alto by creating an art center/artist colony (to encourage and support local artists to pursue their dreams and in turn to enrich us all). Many cities have transformed and repurposed similar building sites into vibrant and prosperous hubs of culture and art, I don't see any reason why Palo Alto couldn't do this. At the same time, the wonderful history and contributions of Chinese-Americans in the early days of Palo Alto and Mayfield can be enshrined, commemorated, and celebrated throughout the complex. Perhaps even a small museum can be curated to be used as an educational platform.

ARTIST COLONY: The project could be called “Mayfield Cannery” or simply “The Cannery.” It could include lofts; live-work spaces for artists and craftsmen, art galleries, art museum (satellite for Canter or larger museum), restaurants, cafes, brewery, convention rooms, classrooms, or a variation on this theme. I have ideas of how to open it up and bring lots of natural light in. I think it could be a beautiful and exciting place for the community to enjoy. The proximity to the railroad station could draw tourists down from San Francisco and up from San Jose. As well as giving those who come to visit Stanford University another nearby destination.

Please take a look at these sites in other cities and perhaps you’ll get a better idea of what I’m proposing.

TANNERY ARTS CENTER in Santa Cruz
www.tanneryartscenter.org

THE BREWERY ART COLONY in Los Angeles
www.kcet.org/history-society/the-brewery-art-colony-from-craft-beers-to-arts-and-crafts

BERGAMOT STATION in Santa Monica
https://bergamotstation.com/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bergamot_(arts_center)

STANLEY MARKETPLACE in Colorado
http://stanleymarketplace.com

STORY: TOP 40 MOST VIBRANT ARTS COMMUNITIES IN AMERICA
http://mcs.smu.edu/artsresearch2014/arts-vibrancy-2018

Thank you for your time.

Jon Kinyon

Email: jon@kinyon.org

 

☆☆☆ If anybody would like to start a group to brainstorm or come up with ideas to make this a reality as a thriving hub of music, food and the arts for our community and visitors to congregate, you can email Jon at the email above. Jon is a veritable expert on all things Palo Alto. A valuable resource and asset to our community.
~Karen

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