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Transformed: Antique tank house to be repurposed in Arroyo Grande

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Yards of manicured grass and colorful blossoming flowers encompass the little white gazebo that sits at the center of Arroyo Grande's Heritage Square Park. Surrounded by big bushy trees and some of Arroyo Grande's oldest historic buildings, this creekside haven is the perfect spot for a wedding, and the South County Historical Society knows it.

RESTORATION AND PRESERVATION This historic tank house at 1119 East Grand Ave. is one of the few remaining in Arroyo Grande, and soon it will serve as a single-stall bathroom in Heritage Square Park. - PHOTO BY KASEY BUBNASH
  • Photo By Kasey Bubnash
  • RESTORATION AND PRESERVATION This historic tank house at 1119 East Grand Ave. is one of the few remaining in Arroyo Grande, and soon it will serve as a single-stall bathroom in Heritage Square Park.

For years, the nonprofit organization has rented its garden in Heritage Square Park to residents and tourists hosting weddings and other special events, and uses the revenue to maintain the historic buildings located in the park.

But sometime at the beginning of 2019, as South County Historical Society member Chuck Fellows was driving alongside the park on South Mason Street, he noticed something he found paradoxical. As usual, the park was playing host to a wedding, and just outside the garden, with its fancy décor and fancy people, stood a long line of guys, all dressed up in their tuxedo vests and ties, waiting to use a porta-potty.

Fellows, a lover of antiques and all things with a little history, suddenly had a wonderful idea. He'd been eyeing an old antique tank house, one of the few remaining in Arroyo Grande, since 2001 with hopes of preserving it.

The tank house was under threat of demolition, but its owners eventually told the South County Historical Society that if they could move it off its current lot at 119 East Grand Avenue, they could have it.

"We don't want it torn down," Fellows told New Times. "We want it in Heritage Park."

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Fellows said a number of homes in Arroyo Grande's historic district were equipped with their own water wells and storage tanks, which typically sat atop towers called tank houses. When city water was later implemented, the need for tank houses died out, and none of those that existed in the village survived. The tank house in question is one of only two or three left in the town.

Now the South County Historical Society plans to move the tank house from its current location and drop it in Heritage Square Park, where it will then be renovated, furnished with plumbing and electricity, and transformed into a single-stall bathroom for wedding guests.

Heritage Park does already have public restrooms, but Fellows said they're small and far from the gazebo. There's also a single restroom in one of the historical buildings near the gazebo.

"But it's old and really scary to use," Fellows said.

The new 9-by-9 foot water tank bathroom will be modern, close by, clean, and is expected to draw in even more events for its convenience, raising an estimated extra $7,000 a year. The $100,000 project will be funded solely by donations to the South County Historical Society—it's raised about $44,000 so far, according to Fellows—and construction will likely start sometime in January 2021.

Arroyo Grande City Council approved the project at a meeting on Jan. 28, and council members lauded the Historical Society for its efforts to preserve the tank house in a creative and useful way.

These tank houses were once a huge part of Arroyo Grande's culture, Councilmember Keith Storton said at the Jan. 28 meeting, "and it's being saved and preserved."

Fast facts

• Marilyn Wilson and Victor Lund, managing partners of Pismo Beach-based consulting firm WAV Group, were recently recognized for their innovative contributions to the real estate industry. WAV Group provides strategic planning, research, communications, and advisory services to the real estate industry, and both Wilson and Lund were included in two prestigious lists of the nation's industry leaders: RISMedia's 2020 Real Estate Newsmaker and the Swanepoel Power 200.

• As part of large-scale service project, Cal Poly Circle K is giving hand-made, personalized book bags to first grade students at Pacheco Elementary School. Club members will also be reading books to the students in Spanish and English, with hopes of increasing the number of students proficient in reading. Δ

Staff Writer Kasey Bubnash wrote this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send tidbits to strokes@newtimesslo.com.

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