landmark has served many functions over its nearly 80 years and
still has not outlived its usefulness
- By Megan Long
- TIMES STAFF WRITTER
LIVERMORE --- It's a nondescript valley landmark,
its modest mustardcolored metal exterior easy to miss by drivers
heading down Pacific Avenue eager to get to a City Council meeting
or the new skate park.
But if The BARN'S walls could
talk they would speak of a rich history that spans nearly 80
years, beginning in 1922 when it was built as a warehouse for
a company of the National Guard's 143rd field artillery unit.
In the 1940s it became part
of the surrounding Livermore Rodeo grounds and gave shelter to
horses. Today it holds many memories of dances, art shows and
festivals and still houses such activities --- a purpose it has
served since it became a public rental facility around 1970.
Longtime Livermore residents
protectively dismiss periodic suggestions to raze The Barn, pointing
to its usefulness as a venue for wedding parties, book sales
"People come in and want
everything sparkling new, but then (Livermore) begins to look
like every other town, so keeping these old things and having
something that can be used for all these events is very handy,"
said Livermore native and historian Tilli Calhoun.
"We've gone storming
en masse to the City Council meetings to say (don't tear it down)
... every so often someone wants a plastic building stuck in
These days, the Livermore
Area Recreation and Park District owns The Barn, using it as
one of its four rental buildings. LARPD facilities coordinator
Jan Gollaher said The Barn is rented out an average of four nights
a week and frequently hosts weekend functions.
"Not very many communities
have a building where they can do, for instance, indoor dog training,"
Gollaher said. "That's a very versatile building from that
The long rectangular structure
--- with a main floor 48 feet by 98 feet --- shows the signs
of its uses, from the white boards that hang against the wall
as a backdrop for regular art shows to the faded markings of
a life-size Chutes & Ladders
game used for one of the park district's youth programs.
The bare wooden rafters give
The Barn a homey, old-time feeling, as does the massive library
counter-turned-bar in the comer just outside the kitchen door.
The two-tone curved wooden desk complete with card catalog drawers
was the original library counter in Carnegie Library, which opened
in 1911, said former librarian Barbara Burshah.
"We always hated that
desk because it was hard on our stockings; we would get splinters
in them," said Bunshah, who is also the curator of the Livermore
Heritage Guild Museum in the old Carnegie building.
The artillery company moved
in 1936, and the Livermore Stockmen's Rodeo Association acquired
The Barn in the 1940s and added it to the
land it bought for rodeo grounds
in 1919. Around 1968, the city bought Robertson Park for LARPD
with the condition of a lifetime lease to the rodeo association.
In return, the city got ownership of the rodeo grounds, where
it built the civic center complex, said former Mayor Milo Nordyke.In
November 1974, city staff members recommended tearing The Barn
down to make room for the beautification of the civic center,
which was built in 1970. But the City Council voted to allow
the structure, which was being used for cultural activities,
to remain, and in 1976 its fate was sealed when city leaders
decided to improve The Barns facade in such a way that it would
blend with the planned multiservice center next door.
"It's a pretty crude
building. In some sense it's sad that's the best budding we have
... it functions barely --- it's pretty cold in the winter, and
hot in the summer," Nordyke said.
Some may be embarrassed by
The Barn, but others sing its utilitarian praises.
"It's really good for
setting up; you can drive your vehicles right in there,"
said Ralph Laughlin, a rodeo association committee member for
20 years. "I'd hate to see it disappear."
"At this point it's an
invaluable building ... you cant really hurt it a whole lot,"
said Bobbie Baird, a Livermore native whose father was a member
of the old National Guard unit.
Megan Long covers Livermore.
Reach her at 925-847-2121 or email@example.com.