I live in the Chicago area but I have had the good fortune of spending winter months in Palo Alto for the last three years. Our apartment is located near Allied Arts Guild, so I have had the chance to visit there a number of times. Recently, a cousin of mine from Los Angeles was visiting briefly, so I took him to Allied Arts Guild and had a lovely experience. In just a few minutes one can enjoy the historic Spanish Colonial architecture, beautiful seasonal gardens, unique shops, artist’s studios and a charming restaurant.
Allied Arts Guild has a fascinating history. It stands on part of what was once a vast 35,250-acre land grant, dating back to the late 1700s. A king of Spain, probably Charles IV, ceded the property to Don Jose Arguello, commander of the Presidio of San Francisco. It was called Rancho de las Pulgas, literally "Ranch of the Fleas"!
In 1929, wealthy art lovers Delight and Garfield Merner bought 3.5 acres of the land located at the edge of Menlo Park. Working closely with architect Gardner Dailey and artist Pedro de Lemos, they began to realize their dream of creating an arts guild in California. The Merners' goals were to provide a serene, beautiful workplace for artists; to encourage the crafting of handsome objects for everyday use; and to support all peasant or folk art, especially that of early California.
The Guild's iron and wood shops were the first in operation because they were needed in the construction of the rest of the complex. The original barn and sheds on the grounds were preserved, and the main building was constructed on the framework of the old farmhouse. New buildings of Spanish Colonial design were added. Ansel Adams was the Guild's photographer of record and took the first interior and exterior photographs shortly after the buildings were completed.
Through ownership of the Allied Arts Guild, the Allied Arts Guild Auxiliary is proud to say that they are supporting the arts, protecting an historic California landmark, and providing support to critically ill children at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and providing an inspiring environment for working artists.
The Allied Arts Auxiliary is an organization formed for the purpose of promoting the health, welfare, maintenance, and care of children, and acquiring funds to be donated for the benefit of the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. The Auxiliary owns and operates the historic Allied Arts Guild; all property and income of the Auxiliary is held solely for the purpose of supporting the Hospital.
Membership, which had traditionally been comprised of women who gave their time working at Allied Arts Guild, decided on an additional membership category in 2009, which allowed men to join as well.
It was a beautiful day and perfect for wandering through the gorgeous gardens, noting the charming architecture and trying the food at the Blue Garden Café. We also took a look at some of the frescoes painted by a student of Diego Rivera, Maxine Albro in 1931, and especially noted one at the front of the complex almost hidden by greenery. We learned about a recently opened Executive Conference Room which offers seating for about 45 people, state of the art equipment for presentations as well as catering and access to a beautiful courtyard. And a portion of the rental cost goes to support the hospital.
Wandering around through the shops was fun. The Davide Bigazzi Studio displayed gorgeous jewelry and serving pieces. Bigazzi comes from Florence, Italy and gives workshops including one in Tuscany, Italy in the summer www.dbcollection.net.
Among the several shops we observed, the Portola Art Gallery caught our attention. It moved from its Portola Valley location about five years ago. The artists who operate this gallery cooperatively love the surroundings here because many of them are outdoor painters. Barbara von Haunalter, one of the painters described an annual event when 20 juried artists are allowed to participate in a “Paintout” event annually which is very popular and brings many visitors to watch the painters. (www.portolaartgallery.com).
We enjoyed our food at the Blue Garden Café and then my cousin, being late, departed. We did comment to one another that Allied Arts Guild is a hidden treasure but one we think more people would enjoy knowing about.
Blue Garden Café is now open to the delight of patrons and shop owners. It serves coffee and pastries from 10:00 to 11:30 am, lunch from 11:30 to 2:30 and coffee and light snacks from 2:30 to 4:00pm. Open Monday through Saturday, 10am-5pm.
More information at: http://www.alliedartsguild.org/
Photos: B. Keer