The old downtown Fresno warehouse that once served the printing division of the Fresno Morning Republican newspaper and later became home to the exclusive Downtown Club is for sale.
Businesses have come and gone from the historic 12,000-square-foot Fresno Republican Printery near the corner of Kern and L streets. The last tenant was The Republican restaurant which tried to make a go of the large dining room, kitchen and bar space that takes up most of the building. It closed after only eight months.
The building was designed by architects Edward Glass and Charles Butner and built in 1919 to accommodate the newspaper’s growing commercial printing business which outgrew the newspaper’s headquarters on Van Ness Avenue and Tulare Street, according to the Local Register of Historic Resources.
Large front windows, oak doors and a short canopy of red Spanish roof tile on the building, which has remained largely unchanged over the years, greets downtown walkers and motorists. But it’s what’s inside that marvels.
“There is a lot of work needed, but there’s a lot of possibilities,” said broker Rob Boese of Boese Commercial who is marketing the property for owner MG Star of Selma. The price is $1.25 million.
Skylights illuminate the main space of the building which was once the print shop floor now a dining room. Exposed wood trusses and hanging pulley lights create an industrial web maze overhead. The newspaper’s nineteenth-century press machine, which is bolted to concrete in the floor, sits in a corner as a symbol of the great social, cultural, and publishing history of Fresno. The newspaper published from 1876 to 1932.
Sadly, the newspaper was sold shortly after the print division moved into the new building. William Glass, father of architect Edward Glass and a former Republican business manager, took control of the warehouse. He later gave it to his son-in-law Leon Camy who continued to operate The Fresno Republican Printery Company through the 1970s.
In 1982, the building underwent renovation and became the home of the Downtown Club, a social gathering and lunch spot for Fresno’s business, legal and political elite. It was a men-only club for 13 years before women were admitted as members.
“When I bring people to see this space, they always have a political story to tell,” Boese said.
A couple private rooms allowed meetings or parties to be held at the club. Social hour happened in the lounge, a separate room toward the front of the building that has a large back bar built in the late 1880s in San Francisco for the Sing Chong Lung Kan Kee Company, the local register said. The bar has a carving of Bacchus, the Roman God of agriculture and wine.
The club closed in early 2013 amid declining membership and growing debt. It reopened later that year under the same name but as a public restaurant and event venue under new ownership, but didn’t last long.
Besides the main restaurant area, the building has a large basement with sprinklers, restaurant offices in the back and a storage area. The building also has two other retail spaces partitioned off from the once open warehouse. The corner closest to L Street was last home to Mabel’s Kitchen, the little panini, bierock and baked goods shop.
Doors in the middle of the building lead to a dusty unused space with wooden staircase to a mezzanine overlooking Kern Street that is perfect for people watching or catching lunchtime action as more people flock to new restaurants that have opened along the corridor.
The building is on the Local Register of Historic Resources and the National Register of Historic Places.
“I think everyone knows (the building) and has strong feelings about it,” Boese said.
“It will be a valuable component” to the revitalization of downtown Fresno.
Fresno Republican Printery
Address: 2130 Kern St., Fresno
Price: $1.25 million
Size: 12,000 square feet, three retail spaces
Details: 8,000-square-foot restaurant, bar and kitchen with meeting rooms, basement, back offices; brick walls, skylights, stained glass windows in the dining room; two small retail spaces toward front of building.