WANTED: Rich “prince” to awaken sleeping beauty and bring her back to life.
Just down the street from where I live is this adorable little building. You could drive by it a hundred times and never notice it, because its classical facade hides shyly behind a high wall of greenery.
Sadly, it’s been sitting there, unused, for many years.
I’ve walked by this corner almost daily since I moved to San Rafael, and my insatiable curiosity finally led me to Google the address. Who knew my lonely little building was once a miniature palace?
This small gem began as a pavilion in San Francisco’s 1915 Pan-Pacific International Exposition. It was part of the Liberal Arts Palace, housing the Victor Talking Machine Co. exhibit on the future of the Victrola.
In 1916, a bevy of prominent San Rafael women, members of the San Rafael Improvement Club, purchased the Greek Revival pavilion and had it moved across the bay. They knew it would make a perfect clubhouse.
These civic-minded ladies were a formidable force. Already, they had combated huge swarms of mosquitoes that bred in the town’s swampy bay. By 1917, club members had planted 6,000 trees, some of which still shade the streets of Downtown San Rafael.
Over the years, the pavilion served not only as headquarters for the Improvement Club, but also as a community gathering place for dances and special events.
Eventually, the club had to sell the building, no longer able to keep it up. Unused since 1997, it’s now in private hands. The grounds are well maintained, but there are no visible signs of life behind that screen of shrubs.
According to Google, the pavilion is 60 feet square, has hardwood floors, and can hold up to 200 people. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places. (Only one other building remains from the 1915 Exposition: the San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts.)
I want someone with money and a dream to come along and “kiss” my Sleeping Beauty. I want it to be awakened, re-purposed and enjoyed, to once again be a charming part of the local community.
Here’s an idea: Wouldn’t a “Ladies’ Ice Cream Emporium & Historical Museum” be just the thing?