The Bell Rooms: Possibilities and Potential

Adaptive re-use, as defined by Wikipedia, is “the process of reusing an old site or building for a purpose other than which it was built or designed for” and is a cornerstone of historic preservation. Pictured below is what a potential adaptive re-use of the Bell Rooms could look like.

One possible adaptive re-use concept for the Bell Rooms.

One possible adaptive re-use concept for the Bell Rooms.

In this concept, the Bell Rooms houses a deli. The natural brick is exposed or perhaps painted red. The peaked roof and porches have been put back in place, the bricked-up windows have been restored,  and there’s plenty of shaded outdoor seating and bike parking. (The downtown connection to the River Trail will pass right by this location.) The auto bays south of the two-story brick building could be demolished and the rest of the block could be developed according to the Downtown Specific Plan. Keep in mind this is just one possibility. It could be any number of things: coffee shop, taproom, offices.

This rendering is courtesy of local architect Ryan Russell, who has his offices in the heart of Redding’s former tenderloin.… Read the rest

“We regret much of what we’ve built; we regret much of what we’ve torn down. But we’ve never regretted preserving anything.” –Daniel Sack, board member of Campaign for Greater Buffalo… Read the rest

The History of the Bell Rooms Part II

The "Q.T.," from an aerial photo by Chester Mullen taken between 1908 and 1915. Courtesy of Shasta Historical Society.

The “Q.T.,” from an aerial photo by Chester Mullen taken between 1908 and 1915. Tehama Street runs along the bottom and California Street runs diagonally from the top to bottom. Courtesy of Shasta Historical Society.

After Redding’s red-light district was rebuilt following the fire of September 1908, things continued much as they had in previous years. There were attempts to regulate the saloons and occasional attempts to close down the cribs and bordellos, but not much came of it. In 1914, the people of California passed the Red Light Abatement Act by ballot measure, but Redding’s red-light district continued merrily along, occasionally closing briefly under state or local pressure, but rarely for long.

Accounts of thefts, fires, and violence in the red-light district were a staple in newspapers throughout the years. Interestingly, unlike many of its neighboring saloons and hotels, Chadwick & Freitas’s little two-story brick bordello kept a low profile, and rarely appeared in the papers. Perhaps that’s how it got its first known recorded name: The Q.T. 1

Block 13 as it appears on the 1912 Sanborn map. "F.B" or "female boarding" was the company's euphemism for bordellos.

Block 13 as it appears on the 1912 Sanborn map. “F.B” or “female boarding” was the company’s euphemism for bordellos.

In 1919, the 18th Amendment was ratified, and prohibition went into effect in January of the following year. It was about as effective locally as Red Light Abatement Act. In July 1927, the little two-story building made the front page of both of the local daily papers for a Volstead Act violation 2 3. According the articles, the building was occupied by a man named George Peck and his wife or housekeeper (accounts vary) and, according to the Searchlight, the building was operating as a blind pig 4. Two local law enforcement officers had obtained a search warrant and knocked on the door. When Peck saw the officers, he called “just a minute” and secured the heavy chain on the door.… Read the rest

The History of the Bell Rooms, Part I

A southerly view of Redding's red-light district after the fire of 1908, taken near the corner of Division & California Streets.

A southerly view of Redding’s red-light district after the fire of 1908, taken near the corner of Division & California Streets.

The history of the latest building threatened with demolition in Redding goes back to September 23, 1908, when a massive fire swept Redding’s red-light district, causing $70,000 in damages 1 . Several blocks of buildings were leveled, among them warehouses, breweries, saloons, hotels, and a group of “ramshackle crib buildings” that were the property of Freitas and Chadwick 2.

Block 13, the area outlined in red, was removed from Redding's fire limits in 1900 following a petition presented by Frank Chadwick.

Block 13, the area outlined in red, was removed from Redding’s fire limits in 1900 following a petition presented by Frank Chadwick.

These ramshackle cribs dated back to 1900, when the area outlined in red in the adjacent picture, known as Block 13 on Redding’s original plat, was removed from Redding’s fire district following a petition to the city board of trustees by Frank Chadwick. 3 Soon afterwards, it was announced that the existing red-light district and its inhabitants would be relocated from  their location on the alley of the block bordered by California, Market, Shasta, and North Streets to tenements hastily constructed on Center Street 4. Less than three week later, a mysterious fire leveled The Alley 5 and the few “dressmakers” that weren’t burnt out were forced to move by the city attorney 6. Although accusations of arson and slander flew fast and furious, and property owners adjacent to the new cribs on Center Street initially objected, this arrangement continued until the fire of September 1908.

Within a day or two of the 1908 fire, the city board of trustees was talking about requiring the property owners to rebuild in brick 7 Insurance adjusters arrived in Redding on September 26, but the property owners could not clear their lots and start rebuilding until the adjusters’ work was done.… Read the rest

Downtown Living Essentials: Entrance Buzzers

As market-rate housing returns to Downtown Redding, we need to (re)discover amenities that further enhance urban living. In this ongoing feature, we’ll take a look at elements that we consider to be essential to quality urban life—from simple things that developers can implement in their buildings to public policies and public amenities that make downtown better for everyone.

Entrance Buzzers

A simple entrance buzzer like this allows tenants to let guests into the building without going downstairs.

A simple entrance buzzer like this allows tenants to let guests into the building without going downstairs.

We’ve all seen them in movies or TV shows set in New York: a visitor pushes a button at the building’s entrance and the tenant is notified in their apartment, where they can buzz their guest inside if they like. After all, who wants to traipse up and down a couple of flights of stairs to let in a visitor? No one! It is little things like this that can make huge differences in the quality of an urban dweller’s life.… Read the rest

“There is a widespread belief that Americans hate cities. I think it is probable that Americans hate city failure, but, from the evidence, we certainly do not hate successful and vital city areas.” –Jane Jacobs… Read the rest

Guerilla Artists Strike in Downtown Redding

Guerilla public art by unknown artists at the old Dicker's building.

Guerilla public art by unknown artists at the old Dicker’s building.

Today, the old Dicker’s building (or Need for Speed building for you young ‘uns) is sitting empty and boarded up, waiting for the final draft of the Downtown Redding Transportation Plan to find out whether the City of Redding is going to open up Market Street to automobiles again. If so, it will require the demolition of the one-story structure, which sticks out into the old right-of-way of Butte, Market, and Yuba Streets. From what we hear, that will be just fine with owners K2 Development Company, who would like to build a multi-story mixed-use building on the site.

In the meantime, there’s a few pieces of plywood up covering broken windows on the Market Street side. Some unknown community-minded artists took it upon themselves to spruce up the plywood with a little artwork. Although the scuttlebutt is that these artists didn’t secure permission before applying paint to pressboard, we hope the folks at K2 don’t mind too much—these temporary art installations damaged no real estate and helped eliminate a little visual blight downtown until the fate of the Dicker’s building is decided.… Read the rest

“Cities need old buildings so badly it is probably impossible for vigorous streets and districts to grow without them.” –Jane JacobsRead the rest