[Session 1, August 21, 2007] [Begin Tape 1, Side A] PRINCE:

[Session 1, August 21, 2007]
[Begin Tape 1, Side A]
My name is Lisa Prince and today is Tuesday, August 21, 2007.
I’m here at the Sacramento Archives and Museum Collection
Center in Sacramento, California with Mr. Ted Leonard who is the
former Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency Architect
and Project Director for the Old Sacramento Historic District.
Hello Ted.
LEONARD: Hello, good morning.
How are you today?
LEONARD: Fine, thank you.
I’d like to start off with a little bit of information about your
background. If you want to tell me when you were born and where
and where you grew up and such.
LEONARD: Okay, I was born in Seattle, Washington … do you need the dates?
No, you don’t have to tell me the dates if you don’t want to.
LEONARD: Okay, I was born in Seattle, Washington. Went to … I actually
graduated from high school in California, but my friends at the
high school that I’d attended in Seattle – that was West _____
High School saw to it, and I don’t exactly know how, but I also
graduated from there both at the same time in the same year.
Really? Well how did that work out?
LEONARD: Well, the two Alumni Associations sure know where I am. I don’t
know how I did academically in Washington but I fared pretty well
in California. And then I never anticipated going to college. I was
influenced in my senior year by a couple of my teachers to apply
and I decided I wanted to apply to the University of Washington
and I was accepted and I graduated from the University of
Washington in 1963. I think it was 1963; it was a long time ago.
What did you study there?
LEONARD: Architecture. Architecture and Urban Planning. I have a dual
And what got you interested in architecture?
LEONARD: As a child, probably, I built an awful lot of models and used to
create things. It was – I’m a product of the time of the Second
World War. My father was gone in the service; he was gone the
entire duration of the Second World War. Mom worked full time
and I had a lot of time on my hands.
Ah, did you have any siblings?
So you were making models.
Was it models of airplanes or buildings?
LEONARD: Boats. Lots of ships.
Lots of ships. Was your father in the Navy?
LEONARD: Navy. Merchant Marine and Navy.
I see, and what did your mother do?
LEONARD: She worked for the Railway Express Company, which Sacramento
also had a Railway Express building that has been re-habbed, I
think a Starbucks is in it, or something because there’s a coffee
place in it, so forth.
Oh yes, I do believe it’s Starbucks.
LEONARD: They’re everywhere. And it was one of the more difficult
buildings because again it was something that had had a particular
use, loading dock, the elevations to deal with - different floor
elevations, timber frame inside, not maintained by Southern
Pacific, Amtrack had no particular use for it - it just simply was
deteriorating. The Agency didn’t own it. We worked with them
on … we worked with the railroads at different times, trying to get
them to do something. Now, the city’s been successful, finally, but
that building, particularly the diamond sign that use to hang on the
building is not there now that had the Railway Express emblem –
was something that I lived with as a child for a long time.
Oh … so that was something familiar to you when you came here?
LEONARD: Oh yes, yeah.
So what was Seattle like, growing up?
LEONARD: Fun. I think safe. I use to ride the streetcar. My father, before he
was activated into (unintelligible) Second World War, worked for
the Northern Pacific Railway – Railroad, so I use to hop train
engines and ride from West Seattle by steam engine to the
waterfront and downtown Seattle. And then later, since I used to
go downtown to meet my mother after work, I was on a first-name
basis of almost every proprietor of every pawnshop on skid row.
Oh, that sounds fabulous.
LEONARD: It was fun, it was fun. I don’t think you would do that today; in
fact their First Avenue has changed considerably. But First
Avenue, that section of First Avenue bumps right into what today
is Pioneer Square – the major historic landmarks.
It sounds very familiar to the Sacramento story. Do you see any
LEONARD: Yes. A lot. In fact this goes beyond just Sacramento, it goes to –
my personal opinion – to almost every historic district in the
United States. Government followed – some enterprising
entrepreneur either saw an opportunity to turn a profit, buy real
estate cheap, put a business in, but the private sector, really, in my
opinion, led the way and in almost all cases it was a restaurant.
And the interesting thing that at least happened in Seattle was that
one of the prime restaurants – the place to go – big old bistro type
place, I can’t remember the name now, but just like here with the
Firehouse, to get there it was in kind of a sleazy neighborhood. It
was kind of an “in thing” to do but the cliental had to get through
all of what was going on, on the streets, which was the transients,
homeless, whatever, which meant that they would – because they
were a business, and they were trying to do something and being
successful they were able to lobby local government to get
additional – whatever, be it street lighting, be it police protection,
whatever. I know that probably the same was true in Seattle,
although I’m not that familiar with it. But that the tax base – the
cost of public services – public health, police and fire outweighed
what the economics of the area supported. And government started
trying to assist, and started backing into these projects by
providing additional police, upgrading the lighting, making the
area more attractive so more businesses would move in,
consequently improving the tax base for real estate and, of course
the sales tax, everything else that came with successful businesses.
Now are you talking about after urban renewal projects had begun?
Or do you think this instigated …
LEONARD: Not necessarily after. This happened in Seattle this was going on
like … in the fifties.
So just at the very beginnings of …
LEONARD: … and underground Atlanta, it was the same type of thing.
Savannah, of course was … it was a little different. New Orleans
of course had its own history – it was pretty much a historic district
before we had historic districts, but it’s my opinion that
government followed. Maybe like in all the business ventures they
saw the prospect of revenue. So Pioneer Square, like I said kind of
tailed in or bumped into that part of First Avenue, that as a child
and into my early teens, I was very familiar with, so I use to
hobnob – you know down in Pioneer Square [laughter]. And then
the other interesting thing from my own education – there’s a
public market called the Pike Street Market in Seattle and it is a
mainstay. It was a mainstay during the Second World War. That
was when the grocery stores were in virtually every neighborhood
as they were here in Sacramento, the stores were relatively small,
the A & P – Atlantic Pacific – which is long gone. Safeway was
around. But the neighborhood grocery stores became places that
you could go – you could walk there, you could ride public transit
there. Remember during the Second World War – oh you couldn’t
remember – [laughter] automobiles were in relatively short supply,
they sat on blocks with the tires gone – because it went to the war
effort. So, you rode the streetcar, you rode the trolley, you got
there on foot. Well the Pike Street Market became the public
markets that you would have found in any city anyplace in the
United States. Now we substitute that today with the Farmers
Markets in downtown, in Chavez Park, or under the freeway, or
Citrus Heights, at Macy’s parking lot – it’s the same type of thing
except it was a [unintelligible] operation. It was an established
market, and fresh fish was brought in there, all fresh produce, the
trucks came in every morning. It became, culturally it became very
significant, it also became significant at that point in time because
that’s where you could get all the fresh things, and you could get
them when you might not be able to get them someplace else.
Market was going into a decline, it just, because the advent of the
supermarkets and suburbia taking off in Seattle, and probably here
too … Arden, not a supermarket area but [unintelligible] Florin on
The malls …
LEONARD: The malls. But, I had a professor – Richard Steinberg – he taught
history, he was one of my very first professors – University of
Washington – and Dick became the self-appointed champion to
preserve the Market and he has written and drawn two books, very,
very fine sketch books – and they were great sellers, in the sixties,
I think, and he really instilled in me at that time an interest,
although I didn’t realize it. It was kind of latent it didn’t really
come to the surface until sometime later. Now how did I get into
historic preservation? When I got into it, it wasn’t historic
preservation – we simply called it remodeling.
Really, and are you talking about in Seattle?
LEONARD: In Seattle, yeah, and what it was, we had a client that was
representing an insurance company and historic areas have a
tendency to have fires, and so we would go in and we would assess
the repairability and you might say the after fire [unintelligible] of
the building, whether or not after you knocked all the charred
wood off of something whether or not it was a stable building. So
some of these buildings ended up being what you would call today,
historic preservation projects – by just the end result. That
definitely was not a goal at that time.
Was it, were you trying to stay within the original architectural
plan, or materials of the projects?
LEONARD: There really wasn’t at that time in Seattle as I recall – it’s just that
the buildings there were different from here – they were not as old
as these, they were masonry for the most part, except for the
interiors, which were timber. But we really had good envelopes to
work. And so it might be simply replacing the window sashes, and
trying to replicate what the building was. Remember, insurance
companies only want to replace they don’t want to necessarily do
anything … so at least in that case, one client particularly said, this
is what we want to do. And then of course after that, there’s the
question of who’s going to use the building, and so what do you do
to design for the use of the building. So the interiors became fair
game. We were not being straddled at that time by any guidelines
from the Trust or the federal government, I mean if we wanted to
gut the whole inside and put a Ferris Wheel in – if it would fit, we
could do so.
Now when you say Trust, do you mean the National Trust (for
Historic Preservation)?
LEONARD: The National Trust. I mean the preservation guidelines that were
ultimately adopted.
Now I know that the National Trust for …
LEONARD: Historic Preservation – they’re essentially a lobbying group.
Right, and they were given governmental recognition in 1949, but
they didn’t have any authority until the Act was passed in 1966, is
that correct?
LEONARD: They were an advisory body. They were both good and they were
bad. They promoted preservation, and then they frequently would
thwart the efforts by wanting people to do things that made
absolutely no sense at all.
Can you give me an example?
LEONARD: It got to a point – and this gets into how you qualified for
recognition in getting the designation …
To be on the register …
LEONARD: Right, the National Register. They wanted you to maintain the
interior footprint of a building, which as I said prior to that we
wouldn’t have done that. That was one of the difficult things that
we encountered with the old Ebner Hotel on K Street …
In Old Sacramento?
LEONARD: …on K Street in Old Sacramento. That it was an old hotel, but not
like today’s hotel standards, I mean these were just little cubby
holes, bathing facilities, restrooms – they were all down the hall.
Rooms where interior rooms just had a transient over the doorway.
But they wanted you to maintain the footprint and to save different
features. We tenaciously hung on to that building particularly the
interior of what was left. The real significance was the stairway
inside the building. I say we tenaciously hung on to it and that is
that we did minimal repairs to keep it standing, but we couldn’t
find a developer willing to take the cost. So we created ways that it
made some sense economically to do it. We never had a taker …
cost … there was no way that you could put the dollars on it and
have it pencil out economically, and finally, it deteriorated to the
point that they got permission to tear it down. But under the
strictest interpretations what you needed to do – we were pretty
well straddled with somehow trying to make the interior of the
building work. And it just …
So consequently the whole thing was lost … unfortunately …
LEONARD: Yeah, yeah, that’s what I mean.
Well let’s go back a little bit.
So I found out how you became interested in architecture and that
sort of seems in your case went hand in hand with the urban
planning. So now you – after you graduated from the university –
did you have private practice as an architect?
LEONARD: Yes I did. I had an office in Bellevue, Washington, which is a
suburb of Seattle right across Lake Washington, and was in private
practice until 1974 when I was wooed away to come down here.
Now that’s what I was going to ask you, what were the
circumstances that brought you to Sacramento?
LEONARD: Oh gosh … the economy in Seattle at that time, we had just gone
through and were still recoiling from the economic impact of the
Boeing Company’s problems.
Oh …
LEONARD: That’s where – I don’t recall the exact employment number but I
think it was something like 113,000 people and the company went
down to like 13,000 people within about a year and a half. And
properties were not foreclosed upon because nobody could do
anything with them. The banks were lenient but it affected
everybody down to whoever does your hair, your nails, your
haircut, whatever – your services industries were impacted, your
restaurants were impacted, retailing was impacted, housing market
– I mean there were houses everywhere you could buy, you know,
but not a great deal was going on at that time from a standpoint of
architectural work. I had some contemporaries, classmates or
classmates from earlier years who graduated just ahead of me and
we all had offices, small offices not too far away from one another
so we used to get together at noon to have a cup of coffee, and we
used to call it the “doom and gloom at noon” [laughter], which
kind of sums up kind of where we were at that time. And we were
all suffering from essentially the same thing. We had enough work
to keep us going but not enough to get the work done. In other
words to hire people, pay them to get more work out, because there
wasn’t necessarily more work coming in, which meant that you
were working seven days a week – hours and hours and hours.
And it just – I had no inclination, I knew nothing about Old
Sacramento, I just didn’t know a thing. A former classmate who
was then the recently hired executive director, Bill Seline
Of the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency?
LEONARD: Right. I’m sitting in my office and simultaneously I’m getting a
letter that I’m reading and I’m trying to figure out what this is all
about and it’s from Bill and he’s in Sacramento, and I had known
he was in Sacramento, and I’m getting a phone call. My secretary
at the time is telling me – “There’s somebody from” I think she
said, “the city of Sacramento on the phone.” And they asked me if
I’d be interested in coming down to Sacramento. Now, ‘coming
down to Sacramento’ I interpreted as, gee, there might be a private
sector contract there. And I could go down and I could take a look
at Sacramento. So, Bill Seline, to his credit – and he bounced
around, he never practiced architecture, but he was a graduate
architect, and he also got his degree in planning as a distinct
degree, as opposed to a joint degree.
Like what you had.
And you were both at the …
LEONARD: University of Washington. He started some programs that were
very unique for the time. And it had to do with drug programs. He
went into government, he went into, I think it was state
government – the state of Washington. He – and then, it became a
private corporation or company, I don’t remember what the actual
relationship was there, but he was the director of that. The crux of
it was it dealt with urban issues, one of the very earliest federal
type grant programs for drugs, and also for, you might say urban
renewal to what extent I really don’t know but I do know that he
was an absolute superb grants man. And I believe that his
administrative capabilities, you might say, well, was it they catch
up with you – I can’t recall how they were described, but anyway,
he was offered the job here. He had also been offered the job as I
recall, under the administration and it had to do something with the
Secretary of the Interior, and I think it was Udall, from Alaska who
got appointed instead of him. So he was very well thought of, very
capable guy. He had a good design sense, even though he never
practiced architecture. And he invited me to come down here, so
the courtship was from – oh gosh it seemed like it was a long time
– but it was early ’74.
When he invited you come down. How long had he been with the
LEONARD: Probably about a year and a half, and he was still a fair-haired boy.
Yeah, he hadn’t gotten his feet into the swamp of local politics. In
other words he hadn’t either found or encountered the alligators.
They were yet to come.
I see. Oh, okay, and they seem to be quite numerous in Sacramento
politics from what I’ve gathered in my research.
LEONARD: Yeah. This is … you have to remember that we’re talking about a
Redevelopment Agency and Housing Authority, so the picture is
much larger than just Old Sacramento. We’re dealing with
downtown and we’re dealing with neighborhoods, we’re dealing
with rejuvenating neighborhoods. And you read the papers today
and I somewhat chuckle because the same issues are on the table
today that they were thirty years ago with the same issues, the
same complaints, the same – the travesty is how much money has
been spent to accomplish what hasn’t been accomplished [laughs].
It’s amazing, I know, I often wonder …
LEONARD: It’s almost self-perpetuating, yeah. It’s unfortunate.
It’s interesting because sometimes when I’m looking at some of
these records, I’ll see exactly what you’re talking about, and I see
that people had seemingly good ideas to have to tackle some of
these problems, and then here’s thirty years later, forty years later,
you know it makes me wonder, did people not try these things, did
they try them and it didn’t work out, or – but you’re right, millions,
by now … have been spent and the same problems exist.
[End of Tape 1, Side A]
[Begin Tape 1, Side B]
[Some of the conversation was missed as I was flipping the tape to the other side.
Leonard began to discuss his experience of coming to Sacramento and exploring
the area on public transportation.]
LEONARD: … it gave me a sense of the community, I mean the physical
community. But it also gave me an opportunity to talk to people
who lived here. Some of them were not too happy, some of the
neighborhoods, quite frankly, were not real great, but that’s the
population that public transit services. And you get to see a city
with all its proverbial warts and so forth that way. And you also
go through some relatively nice areas that I’m sure would prefer
not to have a bus line going through them. But it was interesting
because I did have a chance to just talk to people. Everybody
seemed friendly. Nobody seemed totally upset with living here. It
was a pretty positive experience. Nobody harped on crime, I’m
sure that’s not a recent situation as we see so much crime today,
but … it seems like it’s always in the newspapers or on the news
but you didn’t hear, or at least I didn’t hear, from the people that I
spoke to, that they were really unhappy being here. Everybody
seemed to be here because, maybe they were born here, maybe
they’d never been out of the Valley, I don’t know, but …
So you asked them basically, how they liked living in Sacramento?
LEONARD: Yeah, how they liked Sacramento, and what there was to do here,
things like that. The older people were much more content, the
younger people said there’s nothing to do, obviously.
LEONARD: You ask them today, there’s nothing to do. So, that’s the way I
first got a feel, and then when I actually crossed the threshold of
the Redevelopment Agency, one of the individuals who was in – in
fact he was the head of the Agency’s real estate department, who
also had his own broker’s license I’m sure – was driving me
around to these different places, first just looking at apartments
because the decision had not been made to uproot from Seattle and
come down here. And …
Had not been made?
LEONARD: No, this is still a looking around type thing, what’s available. And
I’m still not sure if this is anything I’m really interested in doing,
so, but I guess one of the big surprises I had always heard about
the Sacramento River being a big river. It’s not a very big river
[laughs], it really isn’t. The source of it is broad and wide and
carries a lot of water at different periods of time but from the
standpoint of like the rivers in the east and the Midwest, it’s not a
very big river, but it’s our river.
LEONARD: So I started looking around the river, and you know frankly, for the
most part, it’s not a very pretty river, with all the levees and all the
controls and everything else, as far as the Corps [of Engineers] is
concerned, you shouldn’t have a tree [laughs], I guess. But I got a
feel for the area, I went to some of the big parks, mainly because
the buses ran by them and it seemed like a very livable city. From
a very different standpoint it seemed to have kind of a comfort
factor that at one time Spokane, Washington had. Like it’d be a
great place to have a family. It didn’t seem to have the big city
pressures in it. It didn’t seem to be growing too fast and the pace
was a little slower. Although at one point I had a secretary who
came from Hollister who couldn’t stand the pace of Sacramento
[laughs]. I guess it’s what you’ve grown up with.
Yes, it does have a small town feel to it – unless you come from a
small town.
LEONARD: Yes, it still does. So, anyway, it seemed to be doable, whatever the
doable was going to be.
So, you decided to take the job then?
Obviously, was that right away?
LEONARD: No, it took a while, I don’t remember exactly how long … I do
remember when I opened my architectural practice in Seattle, I
was able to go into business in one day, and it seemed like it took
years to get out of business in Seattle.
So you had to close shop so to speak …
LEONARD: I had to find other architects that I knew to either joint venture, or
take over projects, or … then I spent for pretty much the better part
of a year doing the commute back and forth.
Oh you did?
LEONARD: Just to get projects done. And while the majority of my work was
all in the Seattle area, I had done work in what is now called the
Skidmore Plaza in Portland, which is their historic area.
Skidmore Plaza?
LEONARD: Skidmore, I think that’s what they call it, Skidmore Plaza, and
that’s their historic district and I had done some work there.
Likewise I had done some work up in Port Townsend, which is a,
the whole town essentially, wouldn’t say the whole town is on the
Register, but I think a lot of the buildings downtown are.
And which place was this?
LEONARD: Port Townsend.
Port Townsend. So you had some experience with historic
preservation projects …
LEONARD: I had some experience, yeah, whether I knew it or not.
Because you had said, it was more like remodeling …
LEONARD: Yeah, for the most part. Dealing with old buildings. And a great
deal of that probably came from before I opened my own office, I
worked for a structural engineering office, so I realized that a lot of
the problems of these buildings were really structural problems. A
lot of the other parts of it were really the cosmetic aspects of it.
The cosmetics are much easier to deal with than the structural
I would imagine …
LEONARD: And when you started dealing with the economics of historic
preservation, you’ve got to have a sound structure, and that fact
alone can either make or break a project, as far as what it’s going
to return, or if it’s going to return or not going to return, or if the
building, in fact is going to return.
And I would think in a project like Old Sacramento and probably
other historic districts like this that were relying on federal funds,
for maybe fill-in or landscaping, because it’s my understanding
that federal funds were not supposed to be used for the actual
restoration costs of historic buildings …
LEONARD: Well, that depends on which Acts because there was the Highway
Beautification Act and since I-5 ran right next to Old Sacramento
and Old Sacramento looked like a slum, it needed beautifying, and
so highway beautification funds were utilized for, particularly
façade grants.
Right, I see. Was that part of the 1966 Preservation Act? Or I
think it come out of that …
LEONARD: I think it came out of that …
…Lady Bird Johnson’s …
LEONARD: We employed that on many, many projects …
So you were able to use federal funding …
LEONARD: Oh yeah, yeah. And then we had low interest loans. We had lots
of different funding sources and we used to piggyback and
separate, depending on how the economics were, in order to get
funds. Because if you could … if you had a single building, I think
at that time the maximum was like fifty-thousand dollars, but if
you piggybacked two buildings together, and yet maintain their
identity as two separate buildings, you could employ a hundredthousand dollars on a project. And, so we would do that.
Okay. Now when you came to the Redevelopment Agency, I
guess in 1974 when you started working there, it’s my
understanding that in 1973, the Redevelopment Agency had
merged with the Housing Authority.
LEONARD: Yes, that’s when Bill Seline was brought in.
I see. Did you know why that happened? Do you have any
information about that merger?
LEONARD: The little bit that I know, and I don’t know if it was the root cause,
but there had been a Director of Housing that ultimately ended up
going to jail … I think it was Zollinger, his name was. So the cost
of running maybe two separate entities and trying to keep track of
them, but it was one of the first efforts to merge both a county and
a city governmental entity, I guess, into a single entity, with its
own advisory commission that made recommendations to the
Board of Supervisors for county projects and to the City Council
for city projects. And that made this Agency, we collectively
called the whole thing, depending on, we called it the Authority,
the Housing Authority, or the Agency. It made it very unique
amongst redevelopment agencies and housing authorities in the
United States. There were very few of them, I don’t remember the
count, but I think you could probably count them on one hand.
Because they had the county and the city …
LEONARD: Because they merged them. And that way, you could do different
things. You could use redevelopment funds in the efforts to do
housing, and you could possibly use housing funds to do
redevelopment, from the standpoint of if you had a structure that
might be suitable to convert to housing or something, possibly
housing funds could be applied to this redevelopment project. I
don’t know the details of that, but that was one of the aspects, now
if that’s why they put it together, I don’t know.
Um hum, okay. So, then, what did you think of Old Sacramento
when you came on board?
LEONARD: When I first saw it? Well, when I first saw it the board sidewalks
were in, the gas lamps, real _________ gas lamps were in place.
They still had cyclone fences or chain-link fences around
buildings, buildings were boarded up, there were very few projects
that were in some state of renovation or construction … very few.
The freeway was in, right, at that point?
LEONARD: The freeway was in. Freeway was in but it virtually had no traffic
[laugh] I’m not sure where it stopped and started but I know it
didn’t … I don’t even think it went out as far as Land Park in that
time. It may have gone little further, I don’t know.
So it was in through downtown, but not …
LEONARD: Yeah, the aerial photographs that I have in files showed a freeway
being utilized, not just with construction vehicles but it showed
traffic, and looking at the shadows and interpreting the
photographs and so forth, these are like peak traffic times, and
there’s nobody on the freeway to speak of [laughs]. What a
change – what a change from today, yeah …
Oh, absolutely.
LEONARD: So if you ever see the photographs or that’s part of what you’re
doing, you’ll see that on the freeways. There are pictures, in fact
some I just brought, that show what old Sacramento looked like in
’74 when I came in here.
Oh, good … I’ll have to see those …
LEONARD: And there are just huge holes that are replicas, reconstruction …
many of the buildings are still standing, if you use a jeweler’s loop
you can really determine that they’re boarded up, nothing’s
happened to them. Buildings that were under construction at the
time … we use to refer to it as D.O. Mills, that is the Lady Adams
and Howard House, a complex on K Street … the reconstruction
of, gosh, what’s the name of the building? Anyway, it’s where
China Camp went in, that was a hole in the ground. The buildings
on the corner, of Front and J that was a concrete block building –
that needed to get knocked down. There was nothing on the entire
block on Second Street and K Street going to the south, on the
other side of the street, the Firehouse Restaurant was up and
running. It basically was standing alone. The building on the
corner … I can’t think of the name of it …
Where the apartments are?
LEONARD: No, that was new construction, replicating, that’s the Claredon
House. No, the opposite, the other corner, on the north end … that
was developer, Robert Cook … that building was under
construction, it had sustained a structural collapse somewhere
along the way and it was involved in litigation, and I was not here,
so, of course, I had no role, so I was not involved in the litigation,
but as far as things that were being done … The Hayward building,
which is across what is the Pony Express Plaza, which of course
was not there … that building was up. The building across the
street was standing, which is State Parks building, with the
Superior Court, that was just hanging together by a …
It doesn’t look very good now, it looks like it’s got some problems,
LEONARD: …by a wish and a prayer … [laughter] So there were a few
buildings done, but not much. The building that had the most
activity and the most life in it actually sat on the block, or a partial
block north of Capitol. And it would be where Neasham Circle
runs along the side of it. And the developer there I think was Don
Brown, and it was like a little mall – a whole series of little shops
inside. But it was the real bulk of the retail in Sacramento, there
was not much of anything else being sold anywhere.
Now is this where the parking garage is now, or further in?
LEONARD: Across the street from it …
Okay, by the railroad tracks?
LEONARD: It’s where the Comedy Club is now. And the building on the
corner, was just a shell, just two walls standing.
Okay, and I don’t imagine the schoolhouse was there yet?
LEONARD: Ooooh, the school house was a whole other story …. we got the
schoolhouse, but we didn’t get the church … [laughter], yeah, the
schoolhouse was never in Old Sacramento.
No, I know, I’ve heard this …
LEONARD: No, no, yeah this is … I think it’s still, I’m not sure, I haven’t
looked, but it originally was being constructed on movers’ timbers
so it could actually be picked up and moved, if the state ever
decided that they were going to put their rail line in, which, it’s far
past that point. If you want an operation that’s to be admired, I
think the schoolhouse is now, gosh, how many years? Thirty years,
twenty-seven years old, shoestring budget, all donations, volunteer
staff, city property, city now maintains it, thank heavens. It’s a
prototype of details of, I think probably the most prevalent details
of seven foothill and valley one-room school houses. We collected
all the details, photographed all the buildings, merged it, made it
fit. It wasn’t supposed to be on that site. Economics prevailed,
and so did, to some degree, the proverbial tree hugger. There was
a grove of trees on … oh gosh, at least Second and L … and
historically, whether they were there or not within the control
period of Old Sacramento. The control period of Old Sacramento
was really very limited, it’s like about twenty-one years, and that’s
what we were supposed to bring Old Sacramento back to, was that
initial twenty-one years.
1849 to 1870
LEONARD: Yeah, yeah. Of course, the state’s obligation was to take care of
the canvas structures [laughs] …
Which aren’t there …
LEONARD: Yeah, so whether the trees grew there in that period of time I don’t
know, but there were a bunch of trees on that site and we thought,
gee, we could put the school house there and we’ve got the tree
cover and so forth. Nothing fits on that block, because that block
was designated to have this particular group of buildings
reconstructed. Well, the property that was left didn’t
accommodate the buildings and so, Jim was involved in this, and
so we had to make a decision: which of these historic buildings are
we just going to leave out, or kick out, as the case may be? Was
one of those buildings more important than the other three
buildings, or less important? And did the details, architectural
details, were they typically the same for the period as some other
buildings so, we’ve done that, or we’re going to do that so we
don’t need to do it here. And so the decision was made to
consolidate and take one building out. I’m sure he must have
gotten somebody’s approval, and I think Jim asked me and I said
fine, or I asked him and he said fine, but I’m sure we must have
gone to the Council, I mean after all, we went to the City Council
for everything.
Really? Now, it was my understanding, that it was basically Jim,
yourself, and Ed that made the decisions about the architectural
details, you know, the buildings … that you guys were the review
board …
LEONARD: That was later. That has supposedly still occurred. Now what
happens after Ed leaves and Jim leaves, I don’t know, but I’ve not
been involved since I left. I was for a while, I was for a while …
I asked him that last week … I think that’s definitely going to be
an issue.
LEONARD: Yeah, I’ll tell you, Old Sacramento as we know it – the
redevelopment of Old Sacramento has gone through certain
phases. There was the initial phase of developers, and they were
local. Now a decision was made, many, many years ago to keep
the project local, as opposed to bringing in a master developer such
as they did in underground Atlanta, for instance. So … and that is
part of the problem with Old Sacramento because you have so
many different people who ultimately have different opinions,
different goals, objectives, whatever, but that first tier of
entrepreneurs, developers, for whatever reason whether they were
there to preserve history, saw the opportunity to make money, or
both, but they were the ones that while they were maybe resistive
to some of the things that they needed to do, they ultimately did
them. We had enough authority, enough hammers, enough
financial ends to their pockets in order – the enticements for them
to do things – that we had far better control over the project.
There’s not a building down there, or there wasn’t at least when I
left, paint color on any building that Jim and I didn’t select. I
mean that’s how tight we kept it. Materials – very, very tight …
Jim and I went to war on the use of new materials, particularly on
the block that we’re talking about – the trees – when we
reconstructed that. There were new materials out, where we could
replicate as opposed to trying to get them done in cast iron, we
were able to use other materials other than cast iron, because the
foundries were gone. The foundries had found that ornamental
ironwork wasn’t in vogue, or it was too expensive – it’s a one-shot
job – and they could make bukoo dollars doing manhole covers
and street drains, so why set up to do cast iron? So cast iron
became very prohibitive. And when you hang cast iron it changes
the structure from the standpoint of carrying weight, and
everything else, it just goes on and on, and on, so we started using
materials that obviously were not available at the time when the
original buildings were built, and Jim and I had to do a lot of soul
searching. Maybe I had to do more than Jim because Jim just
simply flat out said no [laughs]. But we did it.
So you did use the newer materials?
LEONARD: Oh yeah. And, but we did do faithful reconstruction even though
the materials were different.
So this is in the mid-‘70, later on …
LEONARD: This is as recent as even in the ‘80s.
How did that square with – now maybe these particular building
aren’t considered on the Register …
LEONARD: No, no. The buildings – those buildings, the reconstructed
buildings are not on the Register. A reconstruction cannot be on
the Register.
Right. Okay.
LEONARD: See, so they were exempt from those types of things.
Now, for example though, the Big Four building, which was
obviously totally torn down and moved and rebuilt, is that on the
LEONARD: That’s the state … I have no idea if it has its own status or not.
That’s a state project.
So it’s part of a historic district, but perhaps not … because if that
were to be nominated today it would not make it because it’s been
reconstructed, it’s been moved.
LEONARD: No, no. One of the more interesting battles that took place with the
redevelopment in Old Sacramento was the construction of what is
now called One Capitol Mall, on Capitol. There was a report – we
commissioned a report or a study, it’s called the Halcyon Report.
Halcyon was a company, economic and planning. And had we
followed that plan, that block that has the trees on it, those
buildings would have been constructed as the Foyers, lobbies,
public areas to the hotel. And the hotel would be sitting where the
One Capitol Mall building is. And it would have been a, really a
very contemporary hotel, because the historic boundary really cuts
off at our Neasham Circle Street that we created. So there was that
one block between Capitol Mall and this Neasham Circle that was
fair game, and I think it was somewhat left that way in order for
the parking garage to be built there. I mean the parking garage is
sympathetic in appearance – there’s the architectural detailing as
brick and so forth and all of that. But when the Halcyon Report
came out it was like a bible of what was wrong and what could be
corrected, and merchants and property owners embraced the
Halcyon Report. It actually proposed a hotel of about eleven
stories there. Now, _______ get into the environmental impact,
shadows and everything else that crossed Old Sacramento, which
would be in the shade perpetually and so forth, but because it was a
desired use, because the front door literally was to be in Old
Sacramento – well, of course that never occurred, but when the
developer came along and acquired the property and wanted to
build a high rise office building, which was every bit as
contemporary – no way. Wrong use, wrong place, wrong
architecture, and Save Old Sacramento was established, which was
a non-profit organization to battle that project.
Could he have possibly gotten his plan across, was it designated
that this parcel would be used in a specific way that he could have
gotten around it and put a high rise there?
LEONARD: It wasn’t designated as any particular use, it was zoned correctly
for what he wanted to do, and so what happened, and it was very
unusual, and it took a lot for the local architects to do this – and
that was Shelton Williams and his partner – they agreed the
developers paying the dollars – it’s essentially the premise that I
used to expound to the staff – he who controls the property,
controls the project. It doesn’t make any difference what anybody
wants …
[End of Tape 1, Side B]