Coast Gallery History
Little did I know in 1968 after resigning as an English professor in Oregon that I would become a candlemaker in Big Sur and the proud owner of the only art gallery on one-hundred miles of central California's world-famous Big Sur Coast.
At the time, I had no idea that the experience of changing careers from an English professor to a Candle Maker would allow me--thirty years later--to create the largest known gallery of American crafts in the United States.
The Gallery had been founded in 1958 to serve the Bohemian artist and writer's who had migrated to Big Sur after World War II. Local artists fondly referred to the gallery as 'The Bank', which was their depository for exhibiting and selling their consigned artworks.
In 1972, six months after purchasing the gallery, a one hundred-year storm clogged a faulty drainage culvert and floodwaters inundated the gallery. This bittersweet event provided the opportunity to rebuild the gallery out of used Redwood water tanks and create what has become a historic architectural landmark.
The water tank concept developed out of the need to rebuild the gallery on a shoestring budget. I designed the building after locating two used Redwood water tanks that had served as the Oak Knoll Naval Hospital's water storage facility for nineteen years.
I was surprised to learn that the tanks were milled from 'first growth' Redwood trees that had been growing during the life of Christ some 2,000 years ago. It was exciting to realize that by recycling the tanks as buildings a new life and new function would be given to this ancient wood. I also learned that each tank measured 34-feet across, which is the exact diameter of the largest known living Redwood tree, the General Sherman, that is located in northern California. When standing inside the water tank, one can comprehend the enormous size of the trunk of the giant Redwood tree, truly one of nature's most magnificent creations.
In 1990 I added the third water tank to the complex and built a two-story structure with arched doorways and round windows. A large outdoor spiral staircase connects the craft boutique to the Coast Café on the upper level. In 1994 a deck was built on the roof of the original lower tank to create outdoor seating for the Coast Café. Although the Coast Gallery water-tank complex will continue to evolve architecturally, the founding principals of the crafts business will remain the same: that people will patronize quality when and where they find it, especially the quality of materials and the pride of workmanship found in contemporary American crafts.