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September 29, 2004

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Publication Date: Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Cover story: A new beginning: After a two-year restoration, Allied Arts Guild is ready to reopen on October 4 Cover story: A new beginning: After a two-year restoration, Allied Arts Guild is ready to reopen on October 4 (September 29, 2004)

By Jane Knoerle
Almanac Lifestyles Editor

Menlo Park's Allied Arts Guild has been called a treasure, but the treasure has been, at times, buried in controversy. Now after two years of restoration, the guild is set to reopen Monday, October 4, marking a new beginning for the landmark, which has been a favorite destination for locals and visitors for generations.

The past few years have been trying for the Allied Arts Guild's owners, Woodside-Atherton Auxiliary to Lucile Salter Packard Children's Hospital. The complex of shops, gardens, artists' studios and a restaurant, nestled in a garden setting, closed January 31, 2002, for renovation. And for a while, due to neighbors' concerns about turning it into a busy events center, its future was uncertain.

In April 2003, Allied Arts Neighbors, a group of residents living near the complex at 75 Arbor Road, sued the guild's owners and volunteers, and the city of Menlo Park. The group demanded a full environmental impact report for the auxiliary's plans for the guild. Those plans included expanding operations to hold 43 evening events annually.

In May 2004, San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Quentin Kopp ruled against the lawsuit. In his opinion, Judge Kopp wrote, "The city, Allied Arts and the Woodside-Atherton Auxiliary have acted with palpable care, consideration and scrupulous conformance with state and city statutes and ordinances."

On September 3, Allied Arts Neighbors filed an appeal in the First District Court of Appeal, continuing to seek an environmental impact report.

"This action does not in any way affect our opening or our doing business," says Woodside-Atherton Auxiliary spokeswoman Robin Liston. "We have completed the renovation and are ready to do business the afternoon of October 4."

No matter the outcome of the appeal, after an $8 million renovation, Allied Arts Guild has been restored to the original vision of its founders, Garfield and Delight Merner. The footprint of Allied Arts Guild has not been changed. The handsome Spanish Colonial buildings remain, but now they have been renovated inside and out to last another 75 years.

A European-style crafts guild

In 1929, inspired by the "tranquility which one sometimes finds in little out-of-the-way places in Europe," the Merners created Allied Arts Guild on 3-1/2 acres, once part of the vast Rancho de las Pulgas land grant from the king of Spain, as a site for a crafts guild similar to those found in Europe.

The Merners collaborated with architect Gardiner Dailey and artist Pedro de Lemos to create the guild in a Spanish Colonial design. The original farmhouse on the property was remodeled, and the barn and sheep sheds were preserved.

The Merners set about creating gardens reminiscent of Granada, Spain. Paths were paved with stones from San Francisquito Creek; tiles and art objects brought from Spain and Morocco decorated the walls. Murals and frescoes were created by the de Lemos family and Maxine Albro.

The early tenants of Allied Arts were artists and craftsmen, including Native Americans who wove many of the rugs used in the shops.

While the beauty of the guild endured through the years, time was catching up. The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake was the first warning. The stairway of the Archway Building was deemed unsafe and had to be closed.

Restoration plans

In an assessment of the buildings that began in 1996, it was determined many of the tile roofs could collapse in an earthquake, according to Montgomery Anderson of Cody Anderson Wasney Architects, chief architect for the renovation.

Mr. Anderson was highly recommended for the renovation work since he had just completed restoration of Waverley Oaks, Pedro de Lemos' home in Palo Alto.

The guild buildings had extensive water and termite damage. "On the surface, the buildings looked OK, but the real story of these buildings was what was happening within the walls. I could crush pieces of the walls in my hands," said Mr. Anderson.

"We had to actually dissect the buildings and put them together again. Pedro was a wonderful artist, but not technically trained," he said.

Blach Construction of Santa Clara was hired to come in and do "selective demolition." "When we saw the extent of decay, we had a gnawing fear. We didn't want to destroy this place," said Mr. Anderson. "I didn't want to be run out of the town. They (Woodside-Atherton Auxiliary members) really put their trust in me."

Today the guild looks the same, only fresher, brighter. "We didn't want to lose the fabric of the original project," said Mr. Anderson. The black ironwork that adorns the buildings stands out against freshly painted walls. The doors and window trim, formerly blue, have been painted the original deep green.

Three major buildings

There is a new life to the 75-year-old complex, which includes three major buildings: the Shops Building, the Archway Building, and the Pedro de Lemos Building.

In the de Lemos building, the Sunset Room now occupies the former Traditional Shop space. It is a handsome multipurpose room with French doors opening out to a new brick terrace.

The guild will rent the Sunset Room for social events, weddings and small corporate events. The room retains its charm from the days when visitors flocked there each year to view the Christmas tree, shop for gifts, and admire the flower arrangements created by auxiliary members.

The Traditional Shop is now located at the back of the de Lemos Building in former office and storage space. The space is about half the size of the original Traditional Shop.

The new shop has a working fireplace and the original hutches, tables, and chest made many years ago by Martin Nelson in the guild's Barn Woodshop. Today's woodshop tenant, Tom Kieninger, has restored and refinished the walnut, oak and pine pieces.

"We discovered wonderful old-growth redwood floors that had been sitting on dirt for 70 years," said Barbara Carson of Atherton, Woodside-Atherton Auxiliary's current president.

Barbra Wood, a past auxiliary president, was director of the restoration. She and Ms. Carson, together with Susan Lampkin of Menlo Park, director of the Friends of Allied Arts, were the "three musketeers" who marshaled the restoration project through, working with the architect.

"We've met every week for two years, and we're still talking to each other," says Ms. Carson, with a laugh.

A garden shop will be located on the patio outside the Traditional Shop. As always, the shop will be staffed by members of the Woodside-Atherton Auxiliary.

Restaurant to open

The Allied Arts restaurant -- or "tearoom," as it was known in the old days -- has been operated by the Palo Alto Auxiliary to Lucile Salter Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford since the 1930s, when members used to bring casseroles from home. It now has a new stainless steel kitchen and a new chef, Marc Thomas Frias.

A new grill will allow the restaurant to expand its menu, says Palo Alto Auxiliary president Joan Heye of Menlo Park. While hamburgers and grilled chicken will now appear on the menu, old-time favorites, such as chicken Monterey or quiche ole, will still be offered. A three-course lunch will be offered for $15. No alcohol will be served.

The restaurant opens Friday, October 1, for luncheon; hours are noon to 2 p.m. During the holidays, from November 13 to December 23, there will be two seatings, 11:30 a.m. and l:30 p.m. For reservations call 324-2588.

The terrace room, which overlooks the Blue Garden, has been rebuilt. French doors open to the outside and bistro tables and umbrellas will surround the outdoor fountain. Members of Palo Alto Auxiliary will continue to serve as volunteer cooks and servers.

The Archway Building will have shops and a bride's room downstairs, and the offices of Schwanke Architecture upstairs.

New tenants

The Carlisle Enterprise, featuring an art gallery, interior and landscape design services, will be one of the first tenants of the Shops Building. Kimberly Carlisle is the owner. She plans to have a series of special events featuring artists, designers and musicians.

Additional guild tenants include: the Barn Wood Shop, Flora floral design, Special Handling Pottery, the Traditional Shop, Allied Arts Restaurant, architect Steve Schwanke, artists Jardetsky & Viksne, and composer Stephanie Newsom.

An $8 million renovation, spearheaded by a group of women who could just as easily be spending their time giving dinner parties or playing tennis, is an immense undertaking -- and one that Woodside-Atherton Auxiliary members are eager to see completed.

They have worked long unpaid hours to see the project through. But they say it's worth it to achieve their ultimate goal: supporting Lucile Salter Packard Children's Hospital.

Montgomery Anderson is looking forward to joining with auxiliary members and dignitaries at the guild's October 4 ribbon-cutting ceremony. "After eight years (of hard work), I don't want to miss the part where you stand around with a champagne glass," he said.


Allied Arts Guild ,
75 Arbor Road at Cambridge Avenue, Menlo Park

Open Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Lunch reservations: 324-2588

Information: 322-2405

Ceramic art show

Continuing its tradition of showcasing arts and crafts, Allied Arts Guild will host 20 artists from the Orchard Valley Ceramic Arts Guild of Santa Clara on opening day, Monday, October 4.

The show will be open to the public from noon to 5 p.m. Monday, and will continue Tuesday through Thursday, October 5 to 7, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Ceramic Arts Guild, open to professional and amateur potters, has 180 members. Meetings are currently held in Sunnyvale. For more information, call Tita Kolozsi at 322-6014.

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