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Restoring a piece of history

In 1927, Hollister Mayor J.E. Pendergrass erected the building at the corner of San Benito and Fifth streets as a hotel. The building is viewed as a potential anchor for increased consumer traffic downtown.

In a city transformed in recent decades by rapid development,
contractor Tim Lantz aims to restore a piece of Hollister
history.
One of downtown’s ancient structures, originally opened as the
Hotel Pendergrass in 1927, went up for sale in September when its
owner, Union Bank, vacated the site for another location.
Located at the corner of Fifth and San Benito streets, the
four-story concrete building served as a city anchor for decades.
Downtown’s tallest building has since represented a version of a
small-town high-rise.
According to the San Benito Historical Society, the building
maintains 80 percent of its original grandeur.
Lantz, a real estate owner and contractor impassioned by old
buildings, wants to maintain that and also refurbish any lost
luster.
In a city transformed in recent decades by rapid development, contractor Tim Lantz aims to restore a piece of Hollister history.

One of downtown’s ancient structures, originally opened as the Hotel Pendergrass in 1927, went up for sale in September when its owner, Union Bank, vacated the site for another location.

Located at the corner of Fifth and San Benito streets, the four-story concrete building served as a city anchor for decades. Downtown’s tallest building has since represented a version of a small-town high-rise.

According to the San Benito Historical Society, the building maintains 80 percent of its original grandeur.

Lantz, a real estate owner and contractor impassioned by old buildings, wants to maintain that and also refurbish any lost luster.

While most 10-year-old boys played with Lincoln Logs and Legos, a young Lantz was collecting his first architectural antique. Eventually, that hobby developed into a life of collecting old buildings.

“That’s my life, doing this,” Lantz said. “I collect them because I like them.”

His best shot at restoring the Hotel Pendergrass lies with Hollister city officials. The Redevelopment Agency plans to buy the building and re-sell its levels to people, such as Lantz, who would utilize all four levels.

“We’ve had an under-utilized building there for a number of years,” Redevelopment Director Bill Avera said in an earlier interview.

Since 1990, the top three floors have remained vacant, and officials said they want to avoid another 20 years of dormancy.

The building was recently appraised at $495,000, and several other interested parties are also ready to make bids.

The RDA vision includes retail space on the first floor and several possibilities for the top three levels, including offices, a hotel, educational services or senior housing.

Lantz said he’s the right man for the job, and the San Benito Historical Society publicly endorsed him.

“He has a different mentality. Anyone else is going to gut it,” said Sharlene Van Rooy, vice president of the Historical Society. “We would like to see him do it because he appreciates the history.”

Lantz said real estate professionals rarely promote historic preservation as he does.

“I’m probably one of the few people around that does what I do,” he said.

Ultimately, Lantz strives to avoid a state of urban renewal, and he cited San Jose’s development as an example of “wasted history.”

City Treasurer Frank Felice has lived in San Benito County for 66 years. Since he can remember, the building has possessed historic significance in Hollister.

“It would be nice to make use of it instead of having it just sit like that,” Felice said.

Originally owned by former Hollister Mayor J.E. Pendergrass at a cost of $136,000, the building was erected at the “prime” corner of downtown, Van Rooy said.

Since Pendergrass, the famed Holland Hotel and Union Bank have owned the property. Medical offices, along with other businesses, previously rented the upper floors.

A Free Lance edition dated June 11, 1927 expressed a citywide enthusiasm for the seemingly instant landmark.

The following anecdote from that day’s newspaper describes the mood:

“So he bought the property and built the new four story hotel and office building that today graces this dominating corner and constitutes one of Hollister’s greatest attractions – a landmark to be proud of and one of the several recent improvements that tells the world this community has emerged from its Rip Van Winkle sleep.”

Lantz wants to restore that kind of pride for the “built history” of downtown.

“It’s something that’s been in my soul from time of birth,” Lantz said.