The Chew Kee Store has a new roof!

As part of our continued work with the Fiddletown Preservation Society, GA Inc. developed design and construction documents for the re-roofing of the Chew Kee Store, a historic Chinese owned and operated businesses in Fiddletown, California. The existing building is an early example of a rammed earth structure making the re-roofing a high priority to protect both the historic structure, the interior finishes, and the artifacts. One challenge was to get the historically appropriate wood barn shakes used rather than the initially budgeted composition shingles. Another challenge was to meet the Wildlands Urban Interface (WUI) requirements for a rated roof assembly without compromising the historic appearance of the roof and overhangs. The end result presents the roof pretty close to how it might have appeared when the doctor was “IN.”

The Chew Kee store was built in 1851 by Chinese immigrant herb doctor Yee Fung Cheung for his business and residence. It is now a house museum that displays artifacts from the store, as well as other 19th century Chinese artifacts. Many Chinese immigrants arrived in California during the Gold Rush era, and Fiddletown had the largest Chinese population outside of San Francisco at that time.

Our prior work in Fiddletown included the stabilization and rehabilitation of the Chinese run General Store, and Gambling Hall which both won multiple awards, including a 2009 California Preservation Foundation Award, a 2010 AIA San Francisco Chapter Design Award, and a 2010 Governor’s Historic Preservation Award.

Lathrop House Relocation Underway!

Beginning on May 8, the historic 1860’s era Lathrop House in Redwood City, CA will be moved down the street to make room for a new County Office building.  Garavaglia Architecture, Inc., led the A/E team, and was instrumental in the plan to save and protect the Lathrop House from potential demolition, and to maintain it’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). The building, being relocated intact and placed with the same orientation at the receiver site, similar to its current setting, where it received its NRHP listing. Our work included architectural drawings for the building’s rehabilitation and a site design. The relocated historic house will continue to be used as a house museum and will be integrated into the overall visitor experience at the San Mateo County County History Museum.

Because of the proposed juxtaposition of the historic Lathrop House adjacent to the historic San Mateo County Courthouse, GA, Inc. conducted an evaluation of the potential impact under CEQA Criteria Consideration B (moved properties) Evaluation, along with discussions with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), to confirm that there would not be any negative impact to the building’s NRHP listing. The proposed relocation and siting was deemed acceptable by SHPO and NPS. 

“GA, Inc’s planning and technical involvement supported the relocation of the Lathrop house while protecting its historic significance and its continued presence in an urban area that has changed greatly from its original setting.” –Mike Garavaglia, Principal

Viewing of the house move will be available for the general public and the media, from May 8 to May 12 and will be captured with time lapse photography.  More information about the project is available on the County of San Mateo’s website:]

Bringing Back the Beacon

On Tuesday, October 22, the “Eye of Diablo” was returned to its home at the top of Mount Diablo in a ceremony attended by volunteers, Park Service employees, and, most notably, Pearl Harbor Attack Survivors Mickey Ganitch, Chuck Kohler, and John Tait. The Beacon, as the “Eye” is known, is a rotating light that helped ships and airplane pilots navigate their craft. It was installed at the top of the mountain in 1928, and Charles Lindbergh himself flipped its inaugural switch. The light went dark in 1941, the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, for reasons of national safety. The Beacon sat still on its perch on the mountain for more than two decades before WWII veterans and Pearl Harbor survivors began a tradition of broadcasting its light every year on December 7, to commemorate the attack on Pearl Harbor and to honor its 2,402 victims. Thus, the Beacon came to symbolize not only a significant period in aviation and maritime history, but became an emblem of patriotic pride for Pearl Harbor survivors and military veterans.

The Beacon shines on October 22, 2013, after its restoration and reinstallation at the top of Mount Diablo State Park. Credit: Garavaglia Architecture, Inc.

This important East Bay treasure was not immune to the ravages of time, however, and in 2013 the nonprofit group Save Mount Diablo reached its fundraising goal to restore the light, which suffered from numerous mechanical issues borne from 85 years of exposure to salt air and mountaintop gusts. Garavaglia Architecture, Inc. is very proud to have played a part in the restoration of this important Bay Area treasure. As the preservation consultants hired to oversee the painstaking conservation process, we were thrilled to attend the October 22 reinstallation ceremony to honor the Beacon and its caretakers, who have ensured its light will continue to shine for years to come.

“Our involvement in the beacon project is a distillation of historic preservation architecture. Melding the emotional content of a physical structure with the repair of its archaic system to ensure its survival for many more decades, goes to the heart of why we do what we do. The Beacon project, although straightforward in its need and implementation, holds so much meaning for our culture. It is emblematic of real patriotism and how we now honor those persons seven decades later. It has become a symbol to a group of Americans that fought and died (or survived to tell their story) at Pearl Harbor. It is also a means for volunteers to contribute a part of themselves to this important event and the individuals that are being honored. While the Beacon exemplifies early aviation navigation, it has become a memorial, a crucible of memory. Every year its single shaft of light shines into the darkness, reaching out to the atmosphere, lighting a way for those that came before, and those that might tread that path again. So, on December 7th, look to the mountaintop for the beacon and participate in history.” – Mike Garavaglia, AIA, LEED AP BD+C