Published April 17, 2001
Volume 9, Number 4

Pleasanton's Historic Downtown Defines the Community with its Character

By Denise Howe
Special to Hacienda Network

Pleasanton's beautiful downtown is the heart and soul of the city. It's a welcoming place that draws residents and visitors to take a break from life's hectic pace. The tree-lined streets are filled with wonderful shops and dozens of restaurants with the savory cuisine of India, Spain, Greece, Mexico, Italy and France. Downtown is a place for shopping, strolling, meeting friends, enjoying lunch or dinner, or sitting on Victorian-style benches and watching the activity of this vibrant area. 

The many faces of downtown reveal the more than 500 businesses that call it home -- from antique stores, real estate offices, banks and title companies to attorneys, accountants, hair salons and clothing stores.

Added to the interesting mix are the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce, Pleasanton Veteran's Hall, city hall, Valley Museum, and Tri-Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau. The Lion's Ticket Office, Valley Humane Society, Volunteer Center of Alameda County, and Pleasanton Partnerships In Education Foundation, bringing vitality and important community services. 

Always Something Happening
Downtown also plays host to a number of special events -- some weekly and some seasonally. 

All year long, the Downtown Farmer's Market is open very Saturday, rain or shine. from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Shoppers will find farm-fresh produce, fresh-cut flowers, herbs, and specialty foods, on Angela Street, between Main and First Streets. Afterward, browse the shops and stop for lunch at one of the 32 great restaurants.

First Wednesday Street Parties
The entire street rings with music each month beginning in May at the 1st Wednesday Street parties. The outdoor festivities, which take place from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m., give local merchants an opportunity to market their goods and services right on the street. The festive mood increases with the music of live bands, local restaurant fare, street vendors, kids activities, nonprofit organization displays, and a micro-brew and wine garden. 

The season kicks off on May 2 with a Cinco de Mayo celebration. Then on June 6, it's a Reggae Festival with music to match. July is skipped due to Independence Day but August 1 brings a jazz festival that last year had three great jazz bands. On September 5, there's more music with a Blues Festival. The season winds down with a splashy Oktoberfest on October 3. 

Downtown AwningConcerts in the Park
Downtown is also host to the summer "Concerts in the Park" series. Music will fill the air on Friday nights from May through September at Wayside Park adjacent to Delucci park, both on First Street. This weekly summer family event, which officially runs from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m., begins to draw people in the mid-afternoon who reserve blanket space, many of whom bring a picnic supper or have dinner at a downtown restaurant. 

This year, the Pleasanton Downtown Association and PeopleSoft present Friday concerts in the Park beginning May 25 when the Amador Valley High School band plays a variety of pop and musical numbers, followed on June 1 by the Foothill High School band's selections of popular music. 

Other concerts include:
T. Lane and the Nitehawks, blues, June 8
The Clay Burton Band, June 15
Stony Ridge Ramblers, Dixieland, June 22
The Sliders, music from the 40's to the 90's, June 29
The Vintage Brass, June 6
Direct Access, rock 'n' roll, June 13
PeopleSoft house band The Raving Daves, rock 'n' roll, July 20
Liv Out Loud, classic rock and dance music, July 27
Off the Record, 70's and 80's hits, August 3 
Tom Rose and the Thorns, blues, August 10
Pleasanton Community Concert Band, August 17 
Tommy and the 4 Speeds, August 31. 

Heritage and Hot Rods
Continuing through the year, the next downtown event is the Antiques Fair May 27 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Combined with a second fair on October 14, these are two of the largest outdoor antiques fairs in California and offer the finest in genuine wares. Over 450 dealers from all over the West Cost attend and fill the streets with furniture, knick-knacks, and collectibles. 

The next big event is the two-day Heritage Days BBQ and Crafts Festival on June 9 and 10 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Downtown Pleasanton hosts over 200 crafts vendors while food booths offer a tasty variety of ethnic and BBQ treats. There is music as well as historic re-enactments. 

Pleasanton's biggest street festival, Hot Rod Heaven, is on August 24 from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. Hundreds of street rods, classic and muscle cars are parked along downtown streets for visitors to enjoy. Three live bands provide music for dancing for the 40,000 people who attend. 

Special Holiday Events, Too
Parents and children like to dress up for the Halloween Cat Walk that will be on Saturday, October 27. It's presented by the City of Pleasanton Parks and Community Services Department and the PDA. Participating merchants hand out candy to costumed trick or treaters between 2-4 p.m. That morning is the Foothill High School Band Review beginning at 8 p.m. on Main Street. 

The downtown event calendar closes for the year as HomeTown Holiday Celebration drapes the area in tinsel and sparkling lights. The big parade and tree lighting are on December 1 from 4:00 to 9:00 p.m. Community and children's groups march along Main Street in holiday costumes and on decorated floats. The mayor does the honor of turning on the lights of the decorated tree in front of the museum. 

Retail merchants open their doors and celebrate the holiday with cookies, cakes and cider at the Victorian Holiday Evening on December 7 from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. Carriage rides and photos with Santa are available, too. 

New Map Shows a Living History
One of the newest features of downtown is a guide to some of the oldest features of downtown. The Pleasanton Downtown Association, architect and local historian Charles Huff, and the Amador-Livermore Valley Historical Museum have created a new Downtown Walking Tour map which will be distributed at area businesses. The map, filled with photos and more than 60 history vignettes, will be presented for the first time at the Downtown History Walk at 10 a.m., Wednesday, May 9. 

Johnston BuildingThe area is packed with historic buildings representing a variety of architectural styles. Some highlights of the walk include the following: 
603 Main Street, the Amador-Livermore Valley Historical Museum. This Spanish Colonial building was constructed in 1915 as the City Hall on land donated by the Women's Improvement Club. At one time it housed the city staff, police department, council chambers and the library. Today it is the Amador-Livermore Valley Historical Museum, whose current exhibit, "Salute to the Military," is there until June 3. The exhibit features artifacts dating back to 1861 and includes a reception ribbon of one of the Minute Men of Massachusetts called up by President Lincoln and an 1862 Civil War musket. Hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 1 - 4 p.m. Admission is free.
The Pleasanton Arch across Main Street, one of the most recognizable sights of downtown, was built by the Women's Improvement Club in 1932 for $532 and was topped with police and fire horns. Today, it is one of the few original town gateway signs remaining in California.
600 Main Street, Kolln Hardware. Once the Pinklet Tin Store, this hardware emporium was constructed around 1899. Walk down Division Street to see this original building that was moved and now sits in the back as part of the hardware store. 
641 Main Street, the former New Lincoln Theater and Roxy Theater. Constructed in the 1940s in the Mission-Revival style, it still has the rear stage door entrance outside, and, inside, the backdrop from the old theaters.
520 Main Street, once housed Dall's Harness and Saddlery and local lore tells of a female ghost in a blue Victorian dress at that location. She is always seen, they say, on a Saturday morning.
450 Main Street, Arendt Commission House. This brick Italianate building was completed in 1893 and was extensively renovated in 1984.
288 Main Street, built in 1854, was the first commercial building in town and housed a general store, bar, and Wells Fargo stage stop. 
706 Main Street, the former Schneer Mortuary. The deceased were displayed in their coffins in the front window in this 1904 Mission-Revival building. The walkway to the right was used to park the hearse.
749 Main Street, the second Safeway grocery store. The Pleasanton chain's second store was located in this Modern-style building constructed in 1938.

Establishing a Focus
Helping to preserve the character, charm and history of the downtown while keeping it a strong economic force is the Pleasanton Downtown Association (PDA), headed by executive director Tim Meese. 

"We are trying to keep the downtown businesses very community oriented with compatible businesses that fit together," said Meese. "We want to keep downtown with a small, hometown atmosphere, with retail operations and many small businesses." 

The PDA's four committees--organization, design and beautification, marketing and promotions, and economic restructuring-- serve the needs of the business district. The committees and sub-committees, under the leadership of president Jeff Leuchi, are comprised of dozens of PDA members, property owners and city residents, and create a forum for maintaining cultural and economic vigor.

Leuchi remembers as a child visiting Pleasanton on Sundays with his parents and grandparents. "We came to the Cheese Factory to sample and buy cheese. I remember the Pleasanton Hotel and the Arch. When I moved here in 1987 I saw changes but I also saw that the Cheese Factory and hotel were still here. Downtown has retained so much of its original charm. It still reminds you of years ago. No matter what the future brings, the downtown will always have the old-time feel that people like and are proud of."

The PDA recently started an Associate Member program which allows businesses located outside downtown to join the group. Associate members are entitled to a number of benefits, including the opportunity to promote their businesses with a booth at the 1st Wednesday Street Parties. Meese reports that over 75 businesses are already supporting the PDA through the new program. Associate members from Hacienda are FutureLink, Asyst Computer, CarrAmerica, Four Points Hotel Sheraton, Tri-Valley Herald and University of Phoenix. 

Forming partnerships with other organizations and entities is high on the PDA priority list. The organization is working with the Pleasanton Police Department on a Pedestrian Safety Campaign for downtown. It is also supporting the City of Pleasanton employee health fair by offering downtown restaurant discount coupons to those attending the fair. The PDA, the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce and the Tri-Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau are planning a program for the Tri-Valley hotels to introduce them to downtown businesses and services. 

Several other Hacienda businesses actively support the PDA. This is the second season that PeopleSoft has sponsored the Concerts in the Park, for instance, and CarrAmerica has sponsored the May 1st Wednesday Street Party. 

For information about downtown businesses and special events, call Tim Meese of the PDA at (925) 484-2199 or visit the web site at www.pleasantondowntown.net.

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