A Healdsburg landmark with deep roots in Sonoma County's wine industry that had fallen into disrepair for years has been restored.
The stout, 15,000 square-foot brick building just off Healdsburg Avenue has been renovated by the Gallo wine family to serve as office space for its Sonoma County employees.
It was originally built by Domenico Lorenzini to house his Oliveto Winery in either 1902 and 1903, according to varied historical accounts. It was acquired by the Passalaqua family of Healdsburg in the 1930s and rented by a succession of wineries, including Paul Masson and
E.&amp; J. Gallo Winery. In the late 1990s the structure was bought by G3 Enterprises, a company owned by the Gallo family.
"There is a lot of history to this building, and that's why we thought it was important to restore it," said Matt Gallo, a third-generation grape grower and director of North Coast Operations at Gallo's Sonoma Winery. "What a project it was in its day, a state of the art winery."
Dozens of grape growers, business partners, employees, neighbors and community members sipped wine at a reception at the building on Tuesday. Gallo described how in the early days wine makers hauled grapes to the upper floor to crush them.
Several generations of the Lorenzini family attended and shared the stage with Gallo and his sister, Gina, as Holly Hoods, curator of the Healdsburg Museum, presented them with an award of merit for restoring the building.
"Everyone in town would drive by this building and wish for something to happen with it," Hoods said. "Really, I would say the whole town is very happy."
The Gallos, facing the high cost of renovating the building, initially planned to demolish it and build a new structure. They had to shut it down in 2003 because of retrofit and maintenance problems, Matt Gallo said. But in planning meetings with the architect, they couldn't stop discussing the possibility of renovation.
"I always, with everyone else in Healdsburg, had been looking at this building for years and years, hoping it would get saved before it faded away," said the architect, Alan Cohen. "With big masonry buildings like this, the biggest challenge is earthquake retrofitting."
The building's outer brick walls, nearly 2 feet thick, contained two rows of bricks, each two bricks wide, with an air shaft in between, a construction technique that may have kept the building cool, Cohen said. In the retrofit, those air shafts were filled with concrete and reinforcing steel, and the building's new second floor and its rebuilt hipped roof were positioned to act as a braces that stabilize the structure during a quake.
Construction took about 15 months, Cohen said. The building now houses about 80 Gallo employees who handle viticulture, marketing, hospitality and other roles. Most transferred from other locations, spokesman John Segale said.
The Gallo family stored more than 300,000 gallons of hearty burgundy when it used the building in the 1970s, Matt Gallo said.
"Hearty burgundy has a home here, and we will always have a bottle on the shelf," Gallo said.
You can reach Staff Writer Cathy Bussewitz at 521-5276 or cathy.bussewitz@ pressdemocrat.com.