By Chrisline Lampert, Architect, AIA, NCARB
The San Clemente Art Supply store at 1531 North El Camino Real just closed its doors. It’s been a staple in town since the Herdells purchased the building in 2001 and restored it to its original magnificence before opening their art store.
The building was built in 1928 and was designed by one of the most prolific architects of that time, Virgil Westbrook. Mr. Westbrook also designed the San Clemente Hotel and the Ole Hanson Beach Club, as well as many other buildings in town.
We don’t know what the original building’s use was, but we do know that it was Mrs. Lashbrook’s Mexican Restaurant in 1935. We also know that it was the Big Bear Cafe for a while and a ceramics shop during the war years. When the Herdells bought the building it was a mortuary. Originally the Sheffied Mortuary and later the Ray Family Mortuary, it most likely became a mortuary in the 1960s and the original building was modified by removing the front two arched windows and replacing them with a single entry and no windows.
When Patty and Richard bought the building, it was in need of many repairs. The foundation had failed and was no longer attached to the walls. The building had to be jacked up to rebuild the concrete floor. The exterior walls were built up with a new concrete curb to reattach the stud walls to the concrete foundation. The building is now attached to the foundation which will prevent it from jumping off of the foundation in an earthquake. The new concrete floors were polished and used for the interior floor finish of the art store.
The front of the 1928 building originally had an entry door inside of each of the two large arched windows, which were not there when the Herdells bought the building. They were able to replace the front windows with similar ones, but chose not to replace the doors. Instead they placed the main entry at the side of the building.
The original building had two apartments upstairs. Today, the two apartments have been connected and the balcony enclosed. The space is now used as an architecture office. There is also a single story building behind the original building that the art store used for painting classes. This building was probably built in the 1940s and it had originally been studio apartments. This little apartment building would have had lovely sunset views from the front while the parking lot is today.
Richard and Patty have closed their art supply store after almost 20 years in business and the space is currently for lease. Richard’s dream would be to have a garden-style restaurant take over the space, with views of the sunset from the outdoor dining area. He pictures a restaurant with an ”Artist’s Garden” theme and feels that a fabulous restaurant in this location would bring new energy to the North Beach neighborhood.