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Sunday, 05 May 2013 19:40

Anchor Bay Store, California (1975)

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Anchor Bay, West side

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It isn't every day that a designer gets to leave his or her mark on a whole town - to transform it completely and to establish it as an iconic place to visit. In 1974, Anchor Bay  was a tiny hamlet on SH1, owned entirely by one man, Dick McCoy, who wanted to do a "do-up". The town was a typical strip development straddling the highway with a store, a bar and restaurant on one (East) side and a laundry, a gas station, a beauty parlour and a realtor's office on the other, all set either side of the road and backing on to the most magnificent stretch of the Mendocino coast.



Sunset, Anchor Bay



Anchor Bay Store - Existing and Proposed

In 1974 it was home to a rich and varied assortment of people - old hippies, artists, poets, loggers, fishermen and a few retirees and retailers. The place hadn't yet "taken off" - being just too far our (3 hours on a very windey cliff-edge road) from San Francisco. It was a haven for folks who had eschewed the city life for a heterogeneous community of individuals and eccentrics. The heart of the community was the Anchor Bay Store - a place where you could but almost anything from fishing gear to tools, food and leisure parephenalia. Everyone gathered there in the morning, to get their newspaper, their cigarettes, their provisions, and to chew the fat. It was a small community (about 400) with a few houses behind the soire but with most scattered in the hills and redwoods for ten miles in either direction. Everybody knew everyone's business - who was courting who, who was cheating on who and so on. The Anchor Bay Store was the centre of communicvation in general and gossip in particular.

Dick McCoy had a vision of the town being more than just a wide part of the road - the coastal State Highway 1 that ran up from the Bay Area to Mendiocino and beyond. He wanted it to be a thriving tourism destination in its own right, a place that people came to visit especially as they travelled along this beautiful stretch of coast. He didn't quite know how he thought this might be accomplished but he was willing to give me the opportunity to explore the possibilities. Over discussions I discovered that Dick had an old antique ship's bell that he treasured. It didn't take long to convinve him that we could use it in the design as the key to a bell tower that would act as an omphallus - a visual and cultural marker for the town that would highlight its social significance to the community and would transmit this sense to the passing tourists.


Preliminary Concept Drawing

Once the decision was taken, work priogressed rapidly and in very little time, the sorefront and bell tower were completed.

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But that was only half the story. The store went on to become an ioconic piece of the Coast's architecture, attracting artistic renditions on postcards, tee shirts and the like - tourism trophies that visitors took home with them to remind them of the special quality of the "Banana Coast" as it was colloquially called.. But the true mark of the store's success was that over the next 20 years, the development of the storefront became the theme that was extended along the entire east side of the town.



East side, 1986

At first the extended development carried out the rough-sawn and rustic quality of the original - an homage to the working community of loggers and fishermen that lived there. Byut as the years passed, and as the Coast became more accessible to the city, to town and its surrounding district grew in popularity and began to attract urbanites with their holiday homes and flexitime jobs in the city. It was at this point that the town took on a more middle-class, sophisticated look á la Sausalito.



The store, 2006.



I have to say that after all these years, I still prefer the original, rough-sawn quality of the original. Perthaps it's just that it reminds me of my old Coast friends, some of whom have since passed. Ken and Sarah Rogers, Kentucky John, Nancy McSherry, Bill and Roz Winkelholz, Eric Black, Richie Wasserman, Kurt Kopfer. They were good times and good friends and they marked a time in my life where the sense of community was complete and satisfying.






Read 2803 times Last modified on Monday, 15 July 2013 11:21

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