To help preserve, protect, and nurture the economic and cultural vitality of downtown Caldwell through the creation of public and private partnerships.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Case of the Missing Clock

On the corner of Bloomfield and Smull Avenues sits one of the architectural gems of downtown Caldwell. The present day Wachovia Bank building was constructed as "The Citizen's National Bank" in 1915, and was later expanded in 1926. This historic building is part of the identity of downtown Caldwell and is featured prominently in the mural (first and second images) that decorates the Caldwell Borough Council Chambers.

This building is remarkable for a number of reasons. Although the interior has been altered over the years, it remains the most spectacular and well preserved interior space in all of downtown Caldwell. Harking back to a time period when banks built stately edifices to convince a skeptical public of the stability of the banking industry and the security of their deposits, this incredible interior features two rows of imposing marble columns and an amazing stain glass ceiling.

Unfortunately, one of the most remarkable exterior features of this historic building is conspicuously absent. The ornate limestone clock that once graced the original front entrance has been apparently covered up for years, in it's place sits an awkward and unsightly concrete box (third and fourth images) that gives no clue to the architectural heritage that it crudely masks. It is reasonable to assume that the clock was covered up because it was in disrepair and was a expensive proposition to repair at the time.

About two months ago I walked past the missing clock and into the Wachovia Bank with the idea of convincing the bank to uncover and restore the missing clock. I explained to Michael Ricca, branch manager,  that I was sure there was a magnificent clock hidden beneath the the concrete box, and that uncovering it would be great thing for the bank to do for the community to help kick start the historic preservation efforts already underway. Not only was he receptive to the idea of uncovering the clock, he felt so strongly about the importance of Project Main Street's mission, that he voluntarily sponsored our application for a community grant through Wachovia Bank.

 Hopefully, one day soon, as you are sitting at the traffic light on the corner of Smull and Bloomfield Avenues, by chance you might glance out the car window and get a glimpse of a very special clock and realize what a rich architectural history we have here in Caldwell. If and when that day comes, we should all stop in and thank Michael Ricca and Wachovia Bank for caring about our community and helping to preserve our architectural heritage.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Livermore, CA-Great American Main Street Award Winner

This video has some wonder ideas that we could apply to Caldwell's downtown.

Just 43 miles east of San Francisco, Livermore, California--in the heart of wine country--has become a destination in its own right. The slogan for Downtown Livermore: Live, Shop, Play, and Dine rings true as it boasts having 119 shops, 51 restaurants, and 20 arts and entertainment venues. Exciting annual festivals and regular events make visiting and living in Livermore a truly enjoyable experience. Tuesday Tunes starts the summer with free concerts in the plaza. The weekly farmers market brings family-friendly entertainment downtown, and the turnout is always strong for Thirsty Thursday—a monthly wine tasting that features local vineyards. More than 150,000 flock to downtown for the two-day Livermore Wine Country Festival, a celebration of all things local, from crafts to wine to olive oil.

Enter Main Street:

Tuesday's Tunes bring the community together in the fresh air to enjoy live music downtown in a family-friendly setting.

Credit: Livermore Downtown, Inc.

The pulse of downtown Livermore has not also been so strong, however. When Livermore Downtown, Inc., the local Main Street revitalization program, was formed in 1986, the historic business district was sagging. The stifling effects of suburban sprawl and a busy, four-lane highway that channeled speeding cars through downtown had taken a toll. The city recognized that this roadway was a detriment to foot traffic and an obstacle to revitalization. A $12.5 million roadway and public spaces improvements project transformed the highway into a moderate two-lane road that is lushly landscaped. A public plaza and space for outdoor dining further invites the community to park the car, enjoy the sights and stay for awhile.

Evidence of Livermore Downtown, Inc.'s revitalization success is plentiful. Special events, merchant promotions and volunteer participation have helped create a buzz downtown that thrives on the city's beauty, its agricultural heritage and rich wine-making tradition. Its eclectic selection of restaurants and retail shops keep residents and visitors alike interested on a year-round basis.