Touring Arcata Plaza, Destination # 20

Burns Building

796 9th St.

Built: 1876

Period: Victorian Architecture c. 1885-1900

In July 1875, a catastrophic fire swept the Plaza burning to the ground the entire block on the north, all the buildings on the west half of the east side of the Plaza, and buildings on the block at the northeast comer. Without a public water system and no organized fire fighting department, the conflagration was too much for the town pump and a bucket brigade.

Building began immediately and the Bums Building at the comer of 9th and H Streets was among the first to be occupied. J.O. Craig opened his saloon shortly after the first of the year in 1876. For the next fifty-four years, the first floor of the building was a saloon under various names and proprietors: the Gem Saloon, Richards' Exchange, Exchange Saloon, and the Bank Exchange, with proprietors James Rose, J.J. Walsh and Chris Buck. It was later known as the Buck and Walsh Saloon.

The decade of the 1930's brought an entirely new use to the old building, when it was remodeled first for the MacMarr Grocery store and then for Safeway.

The Knights of Pythias occupied the upstairs until the Pythian Castle was constructed at 1lth and H Streets in 1885. The upstairs rooms were rented by dentists, while the lower rear of the building was rented by local physicians.

Nothing more architecturally than a rectangular, two story box, the Bums Building was, nonetheless, one of the handsomer buildings on the Plaza. Lacy rows of wooden cutouts decorated the edges of the porch overhang, creating a special feature on this plain building. It was further enhanced by comer quoins, roof cornice brackets, and another row of brackets above the porch roof. Remodeling by James Rose in 1902 added beautiful dark mahogany saloon doors. When dentist Redmond moved into the upstairs in 1903, a bay window was added at the corner, now long gone. The grocery store remodeling of 1930 wiped away the last remnant of the fancy old saloon, but restoration of that early beauty is feasible since the building retains its original form and window openings.