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Hanford's Historic Vendome Building

Mar 27, 2015 10:47AM ● Published by Brandi Barnett

If You Build It

April 2015
By Jordan Venema
Photos: Christy Canafax

In 1891, Fred Moore built a warehouse to store and sell farm equipment, and by 1895 he expanded his Hanford business with a two-story brick building. And just like most of this valley’s history, one of Hanford’s oldest and most storied buildings has its roots in agriculture.
   
In 1899, the Vendome Hotel moved into the building that has since borne its name. Kate Jacobs, the Vendome proprietor, further expanded the building to the corner of 8th Street and Irwin, dividing the lower level into business spaces and creating 60 bedrooms for the upper story. The Vendome operated as a hotel for another 50 years until the Sharp family purchased the building in the early 1950s.
   
Despite expansions and renovations, different owners and tenants and uses, the Vendome building remained. Two centuries turned, dirt roads were paved over, horses gave way to automobiles, while people came and went. And yet the Vendome was always there – until, one day, it wasn’t.
   
In July 2012, a fire destroyed the Vendome, reducing an iconic piece of Hanford’s history to ashes. Bob Sharp, whose grandfather bought the hotel, remembers the morning he woke to the news. Sharp’s father, Sid, left a message on his phone: “We’re downtown, watching the building burn down.” Sharp recalls feeling overwhelmed, “not so much for our own loss, but for the tenants that were there.”

The fire that burned down the Vendome destroyed more than private property. The Vendome’s historical, social, economic and aesthetic role in Hanford meant the whole community, not just the Sharps, felt its loss. The Sharps knew this as well as anybody, and were quick to rebuild.
   
“My dad had always been a big proponent of downtown business and keeping downtown vibrant,” explains Sharp. “He felt the Vendome served a purpose for downtown commerce, so he wanted to rebuild it.”
   
Construction of the new Vendome began around the end of 2013. Sid Sharp, his son explains, was the kind of man who always had a project going, from working on cars to assembling model planes. “Building the Vendome, and the experience and technique and skills that he brought to this development really were a culmination of a lifetime of work,” Sharp says. “He brought it all to the table on this one.”
   
When the Sharps bought the Vendome in the ‘50s, the building was leased for commercial purposes. At the time, explains Sharp, “everything was about modernization, so they shut the doors and boarded up all the windows upstairs and stuccoed the building.” In hindsight, Sharp says this was a bad move, by preservation standards. But covering the original and ornate façade inadvertently helped preserve its windows, façade and interior. “It was a time machine,” says Sharp.
   
So even though the fire damaged the building beyond repair, pressed-tin detail trims from above the windows that had been preserved were recoverable. “Out of the wreckage, I was able to salvage some of those pieces and use a mold to make reproductions,” says Sharp. “We wanted to take as many styling cues as possible from the original building” to capture the Vendome’s spirit while building something for the time.
   
In a way, then, the fire was a blessing in disguise. The new building restores original architectural elements that the Vendome had lost through remodels and renovations. “Ironically enough, the new building looks more like the original Vendome than the building did” at the time of the fire, Sharp says.
   
Also, prior to the fire, the upper story was unusable. “My long-term plan” prior to the fire, Sharp says, “was to do something with the upper story to turn it into loft space.” To retrofit the building, however, was always too expensive for Sharp. “The fire came along and with that we had the opportunity to start from ground zero.”
   
The fire may have destroyed one building, but it has given back a historically inspired structure with mixed-used purposes. The new Vendome has eight commercial spaces on the first floor and eight modern apartments on the upper story.
   
“The apartments themselves are modern, but the common areas, like out in the hallway, the staircase, all look very turn of the 19th century,” Sharp says.
   
The hallmark of successful and vibrant downtowns (consider San Luis Obispo or Santa Barbara) is mixed-use buildings. They represent vitality and encourage multiple uses of space. “Projects like this can really help us turn the page as far as getting renewed growth and interest,” says Sharp, which was always his father’s goal.
   
Sid Sharp passed away last June, before the completion of the new Vendome. But Sharp believes his father’s project is more the culmination of a life’s work. “The building,” says Sharp, “is a commitment to Hanford, a commitment to downtown.” And though his father didn’t live to see it, the new Vendome stands complete, ready to serve the community in his stead.

Vendome Building • (559) 281-2422 • Find them on Facebook
Southeast Corner of Irwin & Eighth Streets, Hanford


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