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Saving the Allied Arts Guild

Original post made by menlomomx2 on Jun 14, 2007

Menlo Park has a hidden treasure located at the intersection of Cambridge and Arbor. It might not have a Jesse Cool Restaurant, but it has an incredible collection of completely unique and wonderful stores at which a multitude of one-of-a-kind works of art can be purchased for yourself, your home, or as gifts. The list of shops include the volunteer operated Artisan Shop at Allied Arts, the Barn Woodshop, the Davide Bigazzi Studio, the Edith Schneider Jewelry & Accessories, Flair, La Bottega, Orapa Gallery of Wearable Arts, the Portola Art Gallery, Renaissance Spirit, Special Handling Pottery, and Susan's Soap.

Jesse Cool, who has been such as strong supporter of the Guild and of the Woodside Atherton Auxiliary which runs it, was deeply disappointed not to be able to open her restaurant there because she could not cater from there due to the permit. Other options are being considered and something good will happen soon.

In the mean time, the stores are open from 10am - 5pm. The garden is beautiful, a true oasis of calm and worth a visit. While all the buzz is going on about what to do about Allied Arts, the Woodside Atherton Auxiliary (WAA) is focusing on preserving a beautiful historical neighborhood landmark, and raising money for the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital. WAA's Tally Ho raised more than $120,000 for the hospital last year, and this year's Tally Ho is shaping up to be a great event.

So, if you want to save the Allied Arts Guild - a cherished historical landmark created in 1929 to showcase the work of artisans, and since 1951 has supported the Children's Hospital (the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital receives all profits from Allied Arts Guild) - then visit the gardens, shop at the stores, and have fun attending the events - or even sign up to volunteer.

Interested? Find out more: Web Link

Comments (5)

Posted by Another Nervous Neighbor, a resident of another community
on Jun 16, 2007 at 10:09 am

MenloMomx2 seems to be whistling in the dark. She also must represent the Allied Arts Auxiliary since she sees nothing but "something good" happening soon. This doesn't sound like a plan to me. It sounds like they have no idea what's happening next, and are just crossing their fingers until the money runs out.

The tenants she lists are those shown on the Allied Arts web site. All would probably do well in Carmel, or the Napa Valley, or in an outlet mall where there was heavy foot traffic and many, many stores to attract a large number of people. But Allied Arts has no foot traffic. Just go there during the week and see for yourself. Of the 13 tenants listed, two are architects, one is a woodshop, one sells soap, two are jewelers, one makes floral decorations, two are art galleries, one is a potter, and two are specialty shops. The other shop is run by the auxiliary. How long can these retailers last with no continuous foot traffic. Most of them have small inventories, and are not likely to have a rotating stock to bring back repeat clients unless sales are very good.

There's a reason that Filoli and Gamble Gardens don't have retail stores. People don't come to formal gardens to shop! But they do come to enjoy good food and to admire the flowers and plantings. Without a good restaurant to draw regular visitors, there is no compelling "shopping" reason for people to come to Allied Arts. The Palo Alto-run restaurant brought as many as 200 people a day for lunch. The diners then became potential shoppers. I'd guess that without the restaurant, the complex is lucky to see 200 visitors a week.

Neighbors (and tenants) have a right to be nervous with MenloMomx2's Pollyanna approach to the future of the Allied Arts Guild. There has to be a more specific plan, one that includes a restaurant to bring in regular foot traffic for lunch. (Breakfast and coffee don't make any sense at all.)

So, MenloMomx2, what's really the plan for the complex? We'd all like a few more specifics.


Posted by yet another neighbor, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 16, 2007 at 1:27 pm

I think a restaurant or cafe that is available not only for lunch but also for "coffee" or "tea" get-togethers would be popular. The site needs more than just diners at a single seating at lunchtime. Because the setting is lovely and interesting, this would be a wonderful alternative to the hub bub of Starbucks and Peets. It also then could be a nice stop on a local tour.


Posted by LPCH supporter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 20, 2007 at 10:43 pm

menlomomx2 is confused about the history of Allied Arts. In 1932 the Palo Alto Auxiliary started lunch service at Allied Arts which was the beginning of support to the Children's Hospital from that site. Woodside-Atherton Auxiliary did not become associated with Allied Arts until 1951 when the property was deeded to them.

At the present time my heart goes out to the Davide Bigazzi Studio, the Edith Schneider Jewelry & Accessories, Flair, La Bottega, Orapa Gallery of Wearable Arts, the Portola Art Gallery, Renaissance Spirit, Special Handling Pottery, and Susan's Soap. Many of these tenants expressed great concern about their future when PAA lost their lease because the restaurant was critical to attracting visitors to the complex.


Posted by menlomomx2, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 21, 2007 at 1:39 pm

I consider my outlook positive and with so many things in the world to be truly worried and negative about, I find it hard to be dismal about a beautiful place so close to my home that supports artists while trying to raise money for the Children's hospital. Things might not be going well right now, but that doesn't mean that they won't go better in the future.

For so many years the Allied Arts Guild has been a benefit to the neighborhood and there is no doubt there are things that could be done better - we all live and learn. But the fear and hate aimed at the Guild and those who run it is rather astounding. It is incredibly unfortunate that the guild has not done a better job at publicizing their side of the story. And that is one thing that hopefully will change soon.

As for the history of the Allied Arts guild I've posted some here. There is also an interesting historical display at the entrance to the Menlo Park library.

Allied Arts Guild stands on part of what was once a vast 35,250-acre land grant dating back to the late 1700s. A king of Spain, probably Charles IV, ceded the property to Don Jose Arguello, commander of the Presidio of San Francisco. It was called Rancho de las Pulgas, literally "Ranch of the Fleas"!

In 1929, wealthy art lovers Delight and Garfield Merner bought 3.5 acres of the land located at the edge of Menlo Park. Working closely with architect Gardner Dailey and artist Pedro de Lemos, they began to realize their dream of creating an arts guild in California. The Merners' goals were to provide a serene, beautiful workplace for artists; to encourage the crafting of handsome objects for everyday use; and to support all peasant or folk art, especially that of early California.

The Guild's iron and wood shops were the first in operation because they were needed in the construction of the rest of the complex. The original barn and sheds on the grounds were preserved, and the main building was constructed on the framework of the old farmhouse. New buildings of Spanish Colonial design were added. Ansel Adams was the Guild's photographer of record and took the first interior and exterior photographs shortly after the buildings were completed.

Delight Merner was a talented, self-taught decorator with a great sense of color. She believed that blue was a difficult color to use for interiors but was a perfect color for outdoors, where it set off green foliage and reflected the sky. Her garden furniture was always painted blue.

The gardens were inspired by the gardens the couple had visited in Spain and were named in the Spanish manner: The Court of Abundance, at the entrance to the main building; The Garden of Delight, or Blue Garden; and Cervantes Court, the inner courtyard featuring a mural of Cervantes dedicating "Don Quixote" to his patron, Count de Lemos.

Paths were paved with stones from nearby San Francisquito Creek; and the tiles and objects of art used to decorate the walls were brought from Spain, Tunis and Morocco. Mosaics and frescoes were executed by Maxine Albro and the de Lemos family. The Guild's logo was designed by Mr. de Lemos, who arranged the letters AAG in a monogram depicting a boat sailing upon a tranquil sea.

The artists who occupied the studios were chosen on the basis of the quality of their work, since, in Mrs. Merner's words, "Every object which goes from the Guild must measure up to a certain standard of fine design and craftsmanship."

The Merners retired from active operation of Allied Arts Guild in 1935 and leased the complex to the Home's Senior Auxiliary. Later, Allied Arts Guild Associates, Inc. bought the property and continued to operate it for the Home's benefit. In 1951, the Allied Arts Auxiliary assumed its trusteeship and management. This auxiliary has been landlord, shopkeeper, supporter of the arts and protector of this historic site since that time.

Members of the Allied Arts Auxiliary also staff the Artisan Shop, noted for its exquisite hand made art pieces and lovely vintage items.

The Artisan Shop is operated by volunteers solely for the benefit of children who need medical care. The Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, once the Convalescent Home, receives all profits from Allied Arts Guild for aid to critically ill children.


Posted by An Unhappy Investor, a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2007 at 12:06 pm

Menlomomx2, your June 20th posting should have a cautionary footnote similar to that normally placed on a stock prospectus."Past results are no guarantee of future performance!"

The history lesson is essentially accurate, and the Woodside-Atherton Auxiliary did assume stewardship of the property in 1951. They were "reasonable" landlords until the late 1990s when they undertook to restore the Allied Arts buildings and property. On questionable advice from outside consultants who knew little about volunteer activities, they decided to convert the property to a conference/meeting facility and sought a variance from Menlo Park to implement their plan. The hearings on the variance opened the door to neighborhood activists that opposed many Allied Arts activities. They brought in lawyers and obtained very restrictive usage limits on the renovated property that severely limited Allied Arts activities. It is those limitations, coupled with a series of bad decisions on the part of the now Allied Arts Auxiliary, which has placed the whole complex in jeopardy.

A positive outlook is fine, but it needs to be coupled with good planning and execution if the Allied Arts complex is to survive. At this time, those of us who are concerned with the future of the complex see no change in strategies or plans for the future. Meetings and conferences don't work, won't work, and didn't work after the property reopened. The current retail mix is not "browser-friendly" and the merchants will tell any casual visitor that business is lousy. The only steady draw to the complex (other than the plantings) was the restaurant, and the Woodside-Atheron Auxiliary "dumped" the only restaurant that had a hope of surviving under the property's usage permit.

As menlomomx2 congratulates the Allied Arts Auxiliary for their generous contributions to the Children's Hospital, she ignores their termination of the Palo Alto Auxiliary's $100,000-plus donations to the hospital by refusing to renew Palo Alto's restaurant lease because of "necessary pruning."

Better plans for the site are needed and they're needed soon. Stop trying to defend the indefensible and concentrate on specific steps to restore the facility to profitability while you still have money to continue operations. Platitudes are a waste of everyone's time.


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