The recent history of the Powder Works Clubhouse in many ways mirrors Hercules itself. It has seen better days. Then worse days. Then better days again.
And these days? Not really better, not really worse. Just kind of in limbo.
I wrote a very brief history of the Clubhouse a few years ago. Its restoration was first mentioned in the February/March 1983 Herculean:
The Hercules Historical Area Restoration and Preservation Committee (HHARP) has been meeting regularly to determine steps necessary to prevent further deterioration of the building and to find funding sources for the restoration of the Clubhouse.
The City Council supports the restoration of the Clubhouse and has set up the mechanism for a fund to be used to restore it. Donations are being solicited by HHARP from citizens, community groups, and foundations interested in restoration of historic buildings.
HHARP anticipates that volunteers will do a great deal of the restoration work. HHARP is exploring a method which will allow members of groups who might want to use the restored clubhouse facilities to volunteer their services toward restoration in return for free or reduced rent in the future.
The Spring ’84 Herculean announced Jay Tucker as winner of the “Good Neighbor” award, in large part because of his tireless efforts in restoring the Clubhouse:
His background as a contractor has been invaluable in the restoration of the Clubhouse. He has spent countless hours poking around the building to determine how it was built so it can be restored properly. He has guided the volunteers at work parties and done a great deal of the work himself.
By the following February, the Clubhouse bar was ready for its close-up, as reported in the Spring ’85 Herculean:
On February 9th a grand re-opening ceremony and open house celebrated the completion of work on the Historic Clubhouse bar. The redwood paneling, lace curtains and fan lights complimented the refinished 26-foot bar and mirrored backbar. Volunteers, who spent nearly a thousand hours sanding, scraping and painting, enjoyed the fruits of their labors.
HHARP, the Hercules Historic Area Restoration and Preservation committee, spearheaded the restoration of the bar. They now have ambitious plans to restore the rest of the building. When work is completed, the public will be able to dance in the ballroom to live music on the stage, dine on fare cooked in the kitchen, saunter around the porch surrounding the Clubhouse and toast friends in the cozy bar.
The process took a huge leap forward just months later, as the Summer ’85 Herculean broke news of a large grant awarded to the restoration project by the state:
The City of Hercules received a $90,000 grant for the restoration of the Clubhouse in Old Hercules from the State Office of Historic Preservation. The grant will be used to reinforce and, in some areas, replace the foundation of the Clubhouse, which was originally built in 1899. The State told the City staff that the Clubhouse project was one of the most highly rated projects in the State because of its historic interest and because of the support of the community in restoring the building.
The current project is to repair or replace unsafe portions of the Clubhouse so that volunteers can begin working on restoring the grand ballroom and stage to its former glory.
By the end of 1986, the Clubhouse had a new roof, foundation, and the front entry had been repaired, according to the Winter 1986 Herculean. Residents also helped in the design and creation of a new stained glass window to be inserted into a skylight above the bar.
Once the electrical and plumbing systems had been updated, and fresh coats of paint applied, the next phase of the Clubhouse’s life began in earnest when the renovation was dedicated in September 1990. Throughout most of the next decade, it was used for community gatherings and meetings, continuing education classes, and private-party rentals.
However, the Clubhouse’s rebirth as a social center would be short-lived. Construction activity for a nearby housing development demolished access roads and severed utilities, and the Clubhouse was closed by Spring 2001.
It remains idle, waiting for the next phase of development to weave it back into the fabric of a bustling district, and restore it to its rightful place as the social center of a thriving community.