Touring Arcata Plaza, Destination # 6

Western Auto Building

826 G St.

Built: 1908

Period: Transitional Architecture c. 1900-1910

A modern front and unassuming appearance belie this building's colorful past as the Bavarian Saloon, C.C. Crawford's Hardware store, and Arcata's first "moving picture show" (1908). All of these uses were in the building when it was located at the comer of 8th and G Streets. Following its relocation to the present site in 1911, the building provided space for a jewelry store, a ten pinnet alley, grocery, LeVeque's card room and cigar factory, and a bakery. In 1915, Elias Wilson and Son opened a business here, variously known as the Idle Hour Shaving Parlor, Idle Hour Billiard Parlor, Idle Hour Cigar Store and Billiard Parlors, and Idle Hour Pool Rooms. A year later the Wilson's were arrested for trying to set fire to the building, but that wasn't the end of the Idle Hour's problems, only the beginning.

With the passage of Prohibition in 1919, the proprietors of the pool halls were raided, fined and padlocked more than once as dry squads located the illegal liquor. Undaunted, the pool room owners just came up with new ways of concealing the booze in secret drawers and unlikely looking containers, even using a wall to hide the still, discovered in the 1950's. During the 1930's and 1940's, Purity Grocery, Allen and Hensel's Furniture Co., and the Humboldt Gas Co. had their businesses in the old Idle Hour. Western Auto opened in 1951, serving the community for thirty years at this location.

The only building on the east side of the Plaza to survive the November 1889 fire, it was built in the spring of 1889 for Peter Anderson's saloon. Before its present modem look, this late 19th century building had an unusual slanted cornice, decorative brackets, large display windows and transoms. And, as always, the canvas awning which could be rolled in or out as the weather dictated.