LOCATION: El Cerrito, Contra Costa County, California
CLIENT: Eden Housing and the El Cerrito Redevelopment Agency
DATE COMPLETED: 2011
This Historic Resource Evaluation evaluated two properties in El Cerrito: 10848 and 10860 San Pablo Avenue. The property at 10848 San Pablo Avenue contains the former Contra Costa Florist/Mabuchi House complex. The Storybook Style commercial portion of building was constructed ca. 1928 as the sales office of the Valley of the Moon Quarry and expanded ca. 1930. In 1935 the property was purchased by Hikojiro and Tomi Mabuchi, Japanese American immigrants and nursery owners. The Mabuchis brought a Craftsman-era dwelling to the site and placed it atop a one-story podium attached to the rear of the commercial structure. From 1935 until 1965 (except for the period of 1942-45 when the family was interned at Topaz Relocation Center), the Mabuchis ran a successful retail nursery and florist shop at this location. The business was part of a once-thriving area of Japanese American nurseries and affiliated cut flower businesses clustered along the Richmond and El Cerrito line. Very little of this industry still exists in western Contra Costa County, formerly an important center of the cut flower industry in the Bay Area.
The adjoining former Tradeway complex at 10860 San Pablo Avenue consists of four linked structures, the oldest of which was built as the Ferris Fuel & Feed store ca. 1930. Purchased by Fred Conwill in 1936, the property's new owner established a combination furniture and building supply store that sold odd lots, building supplies, showroom samples, and damaged goods that he salvaged from fires, floods, and even train wrecks.
In association with Cultural Historian Donna Graves, Chris VerPlanck prepared historic resource evaluations for each of these properties to evaluate their eligibility for both the California and National Registers, as well as evaluating the impacts of a proposed project that would have demolished the buildings to make way for a mixed-use affordable housing project for seniors. The evaluation included a detailed historic context of the once-flourishing Japanese American cut flower industry in El Cerrito and nearby Richmond, and of Japanese American immigration and settlement in western Contra Costa County. The report concluded that while the Tradeway complex was not eligible for listing in either register, that the Contra Costa Florist/Mabuchi complex was eligible. As a result of this finding the project sponsor is exploring the possibility of rehabilitating the complex and incorporating it into the proposed project.