McFadden Market Building

Most of 1920 Santa Ana would come to this Mediterranean building to buy the household food for the week, or to pick up hardware or clothing ordered from back east. Today some of the locals refer to the building as the Old Arcade Building for its long arcade on the lower floor. Three restaurants are located there today and it is still the best place, east of Broadway, to have a sandwich, teriyaki or some of the best family-made Mexican cuisine.

In 1869, Santa Ana had its commercial beginnings along 4th Street, after William Spurgeon purchased 24 square blocks for $8 per acre. It was not long until the oil, agricultural and the industrial boom of the 1920s made Santa Ana grow from 15,000 to over 30,000 from 1920 to 1930. Like many of the buildings built or remodeled as part of the 1920s boom, the Arcade was over half destroyed by the Long Beach earthquake of 1933. The building used to extend from Main Street all the way through to Bush. The upper floor was a rooming house. Today only half of that original building can still be seen. The owner sold the rest of the McFadden market building after the earthquake. In fact, there was so little left of the building after the big shaker, that the land was the only remaining value. Nevertheless, it was enough to pay for the remodel of the building left standing. Since that time, the building had been unoccupied upstairs and the old Market became a piano store.

In 1986, I walked the building with some would-be investors who were attracted to Santa Ana. There was a kind of boom in town, and the City had over $100M invested in a refurbishment up and down 4th and Main Streets. It was easy to get a 90% loan in those days, and I became an investor along with some of my business friends. Our architectural firm has been upstairs in the old building ever since.

Naturally, fixing the old building was not an easy task, being unreinforced masonry, which gives the bricks all the resilience of a glass Christmas tree ball when hit by an earthquake. Our firm had repaired many as part of our contribution to the growing boom. One of the tricks to reinforcing the unreinforced brick is to use a cage of steel in the interior. This is easy to do if you tie the steel through to the outside of the wall with bolts attached to steel plates. However, if your building happens to be a historic monument, you can’t have the steel plates on the exterior. (Well, you can, but the investors don’t get to keep the historic tax credits, and that makes them real unhappy!) Around town, even today, you can tell the cheap fix from the more sensitive and difficult historic work, by looking for the plates along the floor and roof-line on the exterior—the presence of the plates is the cheap fix. The historic approach is epoxy bolts that only go two-thirds the way through the wall and don’t show on the outside. This leaves the exterior unblemished.

We enjoy our old building and invite you by. I’m usually good for a story or two. Come see us whenever you like!

(Donald Krotee, Downtown Business News, May 2000)

Diana NguyenBusiness News