New vision for Guerneville bank building

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In the 1920s, it was the Bank of Guerneville, but the building at 16290 Main St. has been empty and unused for 35 years – until this month. There was some hope that the Classic Revival structure would become a thriving community business when it was purchased in 1986 by Redding resident Audrey Rehfeld. She hoped to open a gift shop in the 2,100-square-foot building. That never happened, though, and the bank was finally put on the market a year ago.

The new owner is Bob Pullum, and he is thrilled to have the building, “with its high ceilings, grand arched windows, two bank vaults, and original teller windows.”

Pullum fell in love with the Russian River when he first visited in 1990 and decided to purchase a home there in 2000. He has now fallen in love with the bank building, designed by San Francisco architect Carl I. Warnecke.

Pullum comes by his love of historical buildings naturally. Originally from Camden, S.C., where his grandparents were instrumental in preserving the city archives as well as historically significant sites and buildings, he is vice president of the Northern California chapter of Docomomo US. It is an international organization devoted to the documentation and conservation of iconic modern architecture and landscapes built in the United States between 1910 and 1974.

Russian River Historical Society member Irene Deems reports that when Pullum discovered an old ashtray stamped with the words “The Bank Club,” he found his name for the building: The Guerneville Bank Club.

“One of the first things that crossed my mind after I bought it,” mused Pullum, “is what is the best way I can use an historical building that’s been empty for over 30 years? As fate would have it, soon after I got the keys to the building, I met with Crista Luedtke.”

The designer of Boon hotel+spa, El Barrio Bar and other destinations in the area, Luedtke became Pullum’s consulting partner and project manager.

“She was key to the renovation process and helped me figure out this multiple business idea,” he said. “Her design suggestions and layout for the adaptive re-use of the teller windows set up the building for the future.”

The vision was to make the building’s interior “a collective retail and art gallery space, featuring art shows, handcrafted pies, homemade ice cream, curated retail and a little bit of history – compliments of the historical society,” Pullum said.

On May 2, the vision became a reality when the grand opening featured vintage cars from the 1920s and 1930s in front of the bank building at Church and Main streets. Look Up art gallery was exhibiting. Chile Pies Baking Co. with roots in Pie Town, N.M., offered green chile apple, lemon buttermilk and chocolate peanut butter pies, and Cazadero-based Nimble and Finn’s ice creams were also on offer. The long-dormant Guerneville bank building had found its new life.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story contained incorrect information about the building’s earliest tenant and its architect. We regret the errors.

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