SAN JOSE (KPIX) — Sunday morning, the Pallesen apartment building in San Jose, built in 1910, was moved to save it from the wrecking ball and its short journey shows how far the city has come in recognizing the importance of preserving the past.
San Jose has a bit of everything, from 19th century Victorians to the gleaming high-rise apartments of today. Gratia Rankin, with the SJ Preservation Action Council, says that if there is one look that best defines the town, it is the Mission Revival style of the Pallesen building.
“If you look around San Jose at older stuff,” she said, “you go, ‘that kind of looks like that building.’ Yeah, it’s Frank Wolfe.”
Frank Wolfe’s designs have endured and, on Sunday, so did the Pallesen, which was sitting on land destined to be the site of a 29-story, 100-percent-affordable residential high-rise. So, it had to move.
“Well, it was either this or see it get torn down,” said Ben Leech, president of the preservation group, which spearheaded the effort to save the building.
“Architecture, old buildings really tell the story of a city,” Leech said. “Even if it’s not yours and you don’t live in it, you identify with it.”
A lot of people must have identified with the Pallesen because the public contributed $300,000 to pay for the move, including a $100,000 donation from Carl Salas and his wife Maryanne.
“And we thought, that’ll help wake people up and it woke a lot of people up,” Salas said. “They said, let’s save this thing. It’s a beautiful — look at it. Isn’t it cool? It’s really cool!”
The building only had to travel about two blocks down Reed Street to its new location next to the entrance to I-280 at S. 4th Street. The city sold the lot to Habitat for Humanity East Bay-Silicon Valley, for one dollar, which made the whole thing possible. Eventually, the building’s four units will be sold as affordable condos, at less than half their current market value.
“We don’t drag 4-unit buildings down the road in downtown San Jose every day so it’s definitely a different ballgame,” said Habitat’s Patti Wang Cross. “But we will be doing a really thorough renovation. We’re going to preserve the historical character of this gorgeous building.”
Soon, they’ll be seeking volunteers to help with that as well and, one day, the Pallesen will provide four homes in an old building just beginning a new life.