Landmarks Preservation Commission Subcommittee Report
CORPORATION YARD MAIN BUILDING 1326 AlistonWay
LPC Subcommittee Members: Jill Korte, Doug Morse June 15, 2002
The subcommittee met with Rene Cardinaux, director of Public Works,
and Patrick Keilch, assistant director of Public Works, and applicant
L A Wood on Friday, June 7, 2002.
The purpose of the meeting was to tour the Walter Ratcliff Corporation
Yard Main Building, and, as directed by the LPC, to focus on two items:
1) the extent of the original 1916 building still remaining, and 2)
the open space related to the viewing and understanding of the building.
Extent of Original Building Still Remaining: Walter Ratclitf s Corporation Yard Building is an L-shaped building
with an east-west wing roughly paralleling Aliston Way and a north-south
wing roughly paralleling the eastern property boundary.. For ease of
understanding, we considered each wing separately.
East-West Wing: The east-west wing is a long, one-story, side-gabled
roof structure with short intersecting front-gable portions placed on
each end. The two side, front-gabled portions of the east-west wing
are essentially intact. However,
there have been some relatively minor alterations. On the east side
of the eastern front-gable portion, a segment of the bay window and
the masonry below it have been removed and an unmatched door and window
have been installed below the transom (Photo 12b of the application).
On the west side of the western front-gable portion, the wood sash multi-paned
windows in the bays have been replaced with large pane metal sash windows.
A door on the south side of the southern most bay has been removed and
filled in (behind the phone booth in Photo 15 of the application; Photo
2b). A small wood covered-entry structure was added to the southern
end of this portion of the east-west wing (Photo 15 of the application).
However, the southern face of the western front-gable portion is still
intact and the arches shown in Photo 2b of the application still exist.
A small window was added just to the left of the arches (Photo 15 of
The northern facade of the east-west wing between the two front-gable
portions is intact, although some minor alterations have occurred. This
portion of the northern facade is divided into eight sections
by nine brick pilasters. Each of these eight sections originally had
four tall arched multi-paned casement windows with wood framing. The
windows of the fifth section from the east have either been removed
or covered with the cement now filling this section. The first window
in the sixth section from the east has also been removed. Other windows,
particularly those in the western most section, have some panes obstructed.
The most significant alteration to the east-west wing occurred on the
south side between the two front -gable portions. The only portion of
the original building remaining here appears to be the structural supports.
All original windows, walls, doors, and decorative brickwork (Photo
2a in the application) appear to have been removed when the lean-to
addition was added onto this section. The brick used on the lean-to
addition probably came from the original southern facade.
Originally a one-story structure, a mezzanine was added to give a second
floor to the east-west wing. The second floor is a series of small rooms.
A drop-down ceiling covers the trusswork of the roofing system in most
of the east-west wing. However, the trusswork can be easily viewed in
the carpenters' shop where there is no mezzanine level. From the shop,
one can best experience the interior of the building as originally designed.
A short segment of the original exterior masonry wall (Photo 1 in application),
which ran westward from the northwestern corner of the building, still
exists. At the end of this segment is a round brick pillar which once
marked the location of a gate.
North-South Wing: The north-south wing is a long, one
story, gable-roofed structure running southward from the eastern front-gable
portion of the east-west wing. Its roofline is slightly lower than that
of the east-west wing. The original, long eastern masonry wall of the
north-south wing remains intact, but rather than being an exterior wall,
it has become largely an interior wall shared with the wooden addition
on the east side. On the western facade of the north-south wing,
there was originally a series of bays separated by brickwork pilasters
with tall floor-to-cave swing-in wood doors.
Although brick pilasters still define seven bays, the brick pilasters
and wood doors no longer remain on the southern most bays. Tall wooden
doors remain in only three of the seven bays defined by brickwork pilasters
and are not original to the structure. These doors, although all handsome
recessed paneled doors, are sliding doors which do not match the swing-in
doors found in the historical photographs. The remaining four bays defined
by brickwork pilasters have been filled in with wood walls, metal frame
windows, and doors, for use as office space.
The southern wall of the north-south wing is wood. One would expect
this wall to be masonry if it were original to the structure. It is
believed that the original masonry wall was removed when an addition
was added and was replaced with wood when the addition was later removed.
The original roofing system is still in place and the trusswork can
be easily viewed in the southern most portion of this wing, where the
western side is open.
Open Space Related to the Viewing and Understanding of the Building
The north facade of the east-west wing of the Ratcliff building
was once accompanied by a long westward running matching masonry wall
(Photo 1 in the application). Although entries into the corpyard could
be made through a wide gate in this wall next to the west side of the
building, it appears that all activity in the corpyard originally occurred
behind the wall and into and out of the interior sides of the L-shaped
building. The north and east facades appeared to function as a serene
front to keep the hustle and bustle of the workings away from the eyes
and ears of the neighborhood, but also to bring in light for the important
work going on inside the building.
The subcommittee feels that the open space still existing in front of
the north side of the building is important to the continued viewing
and appreciation of Walter Ratcliffs work. Adequate open space on the
east side is also necessary to bring in light through the multi-paned
bay window, as likely intended by Rateliff. Enough open space to west
of the east-west wing is needed to define the original gateway and bring
light through the dominant bay windows. From these bay windows, employees
could monitor who entered the corpyard and greet them from the door
on the south.
Ratcliff carried out the detailing on all facades of his building, including
the "business" side (inner west and south facades) of the
building. The subcommittee wondered just how much the public would have
originally seen of the business side of the corpyard, and whether or
not a masonry wall similar to that originally found on the north side
of the site also existed at the southern boundary.
Even though it is unclear whether public view of the business side of
the building was intended, enough open space should be retained to show
how the building originally functioned (i.e. enough space to show how
horses and then vehicles were rounded up and sheltered or repaired in
the bays.) We suggest that the full LPC discuss whether open space should
be retained to allow full viewing of the building from Bancroft Way
in the event that the property acquires a new use and the sound wall
is removed in the future. It is also important to keep in mind that
the "business" side of the building and some of the yard can
still be viewed by neighbors from the upper floor of their residences,
even though a tall sound wall has recently been built.
The fact that Ratcliff carried out the detailing on all facades seems
to indicate that the public works department was seen as a very important
part of the city's workings and that to be an employee of the public
works department was also very special. Regardless of whether the public
could originally see the business side of the building, it would be
in the spirit of Ratcliffs original design to retain, restore, or create
new detailing for the business side of the building in any future restoration
or rehabilitation project.
It was evident during our visit the extreme fire and seismic safety
hazards that this structure poses for the city employees that must work
within it. For these reasons, it is important that the LPC take adequate
time prior to its meeting to study the application materials and get
answers to any questions they might have. Public Works is eager for
the LPC to make an informed decision regarding the initiation proposal
so that the City may begin their planning process within the context
of the LPC decision.