There’ll be a hot time in old city hall on May 3 as the first in a series of fundraisers by Jim and Erlinda Vindler of Vindler Real Estate kicks off behind the building, from 5-9 p.m. Old city hall, nicknamed the catsup and mustard building for the color scheme, is actually two buildings that share a wall. In January, the city of Placerville, owner of the building, leased the first floor of the mustard side of the building, built by Jane Stuart in 1862, to Vindler Real Estate and Acquisitions. The catsup side of the building, Confidence Hall, is not part of the lease due to structural safety issues, but the Vindlers plan to help in its restoration while working on the Immigrant Jane building.
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The Vindlers, who have lived in El Dorado County since 1988 and being in real estate for more than 20 years, have already spent $10,000 of their own money to remodel the interior of the Jane building. New carpet, paint, new light fixtures, fixing the peeling ceiling and replacing broken or missing molding to match the molding used throughout both buildings was done in just eight working days. “We didn’t change the footprint of the building,” said Jim Vindler. “We just wanted to make it look good.”
“When we got in here and started doing renovation, we got excited about doing what we could for this wonderful old building,” said Erlinda. That excitement carried over into what they could do for the exterior, the upper floor, which they are not renting, and the Confidence building.
“We’ve always loved Main Street and the old buildings downtown,” said Jim. “The city doesn’t have the money to do all the renovation and so many people love these buildings. This is a way we could give back to our community.”
The Vindlers painted over the 1970s-era wallpaper that covers most rooms of both buildings, with an updated paint scheme in ivory and sage green. The beauty of the beveled glass transoms adds another vintage touch. The floor, now nicely carpeted, still rolls under the uneveness of age and in parts of the Jane building, one can still see the invincible 8-by-8-foot beams and 2-by-6 foot boards used in the original construction.
On the other side of the shared wall, the Confidence building’s bare walls show the original brick with a crack that snakes up the outside wall of both floors. Stained glass transoms glow in the sunlight and glint off the black and gilt doors of two massive bank vaults. The embossed tin ceiling is beautiful, but it has a bowed look along one wall.
“There’s a lot that needs to be done to this building to make it ready for use,” said Bob Pyne, of the city’s Public Works Department. Some work, like repairing leaky ceilings, has been done, but the building needs a new roof, said Pyne. The crack in the wall is evidence of structural damage, one of the reasons a well-intentioned former tenant and renovator bailed on the project. Confidence Hall, with its structural damage and floors with holes, can’t be rented, but the Jane building is in good structural shape and now she looks good, too.
“We’ve offered to work with the city, free of charge, to find a tenant for the second floor of our building,” said Jim Vindler. “That would bring in some extra revenue for the city. You wouldn’t believe the amount of interest from people since we’ve moved in. People have all kinds of ideas about how the building should be used.”
The buildings share utilities, which caused some interesting moments when the Vindlers moved in. “We had to check all the hot wires to see where they went, ” said Jim. “There is a timer in the bathrooms that automatically locks the doors and every time we turned the power on and off to where the power went, it messed up the timer.” Several people during the first days of the buildings’ occupation reported being locked in the bathrooms.
The basement of the Jane building was once used as a jail and there is a blocked-up tunnel that reportedly led to the Courthouse next door. A dressmaker’s dummy shares the rock and mortar basement with assorted odds and ends and a window in the shared wall looks under the foundation of the Confidence building, which has no basement.
The Vindlers are contributing a portion of each real estate sale from their Placerville office to support city efforts to restore both the Confidence Hall and Emigrant Jane buildings and the planned fundraisers are a way for the community to contribute support.
“Our rental of the building was perfect timing,” said Erlinda.
Jim explained that old city hall was not originally on the list of possible buildings on Main Street to be painted by Benjamin Moore Paint Company in their “Paint What Matters” campaign.
“It was vacant and they don’t paint vacant buildings,” said Jim. “But, when we moved in on Jan. 1, the building became eligible to be painted.” The Vindlers want to capitalize on the excitement and energy of “Paint What Matters” by raising the funds so that the second floor can be painted at the same time.
Another project, slated for summer of this year, will be to prep and paint the back of the buildings. Then the balcony above the Emigrant Jane side, recently removed due to safety concerns, will be rebuilt.
“This will depend on the integrity of the unreinforced masonry on the front of the building,” said Jim. “The Jane building is in great shape, except for the front and that masonry may not be able to take the strain of a balcony.” Correcting the structural issues of the Confidence Hall building will be another phase of the project.
“The current plan is to hang on to old city hall and we’re looking for funding to restore it as quickly as possible,” said Placerville City Manager Cleve Morris. “How we would use the building after it is restored hasn’t yet been decided.”
He added, “I support what the Vindlers are doing. Getting the second floor painted, assuming we are chosen for the first floor painting, would be a big plus.”
The first fundraiser is May 3, from 5-9 p.m. Live music by 120 West, food and beverages for purchase, raffles and prizes and limited guided tours of the Jane building will be part of the fun.
All donations go into a fund administered by the El Dorado Community Foundation for the renovation of old city hall and can also be made on the Vindler Real Estate Website at teamvindler.com. Click on “Community Projects.” The Vindler office in El Dorado Hills is involved in helping the Clarksville Historical Society restore the Clarksville Cemetery.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun and it will really capture the local people and visitors who love these old buildings,” said Erlinda.
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or [email protected] Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.