The Hidden History of Sherven Square

Sunday March 12, 2017 at 1:30 p.m.

Old City Hall – 1313 Market St. Downtown Redding

The Shasta Historical Society is excited to partner with This Place Matters—Redding for our monthly program on March 12th at 1:30pm at Old City Hall. Historian Michael Kuker returns to take a brief look at the history of development in Downtown Redding and the importance of historic preservation. This presentation will focus on historic development patterns, building materials, and architectural styles using the Sherven Square building as a case study.

Sherven Square, located on the northwest corner of Tehama and Market Streets, has a lot of hidden history— in fact over 110 years of it. The history of the property itself goes back even further than Sherven Square. In 1878, German immigrant Augusta Gruttner purchased Lot 5 and the east half of Lot 6 of Block 14 for $2,000 in gold coin.

By 1881 Augusta’s husband, Friedrich Herman Oswald Gruttner had opened a bakery and saloon on the corner. Portions of the current building date back to 1896, when Gruttner built a one-story brick building on the corner after a fire destroyed a wooden one. The Gruttners gradually extended the building with additions northward on Market Street, first as frame buildings, then as brick ones following another fire in 1902. The property became known as the Gruttner block. It’s not clear who supplied the bricks for the first corner building, but the bricks for subsequent additions came from the local brick company Holt and Gregg.

The Gruttners sold the building in 1916 to another immigrant couple, Eugenio and Marguerita Giubbani. The Giubbanis arrived in America around 1902–1904 (accounts vary) and settled in Keswick where they opened a saloon. After their purchase of the Gruttner building, the Giubbanis announced plans to extend the building north and add a second floor for apartments. Known now as the Giubbani Building, it featured a wraparound porch that covered the sidewalk and allowed the second story residents to sleep outside on warm nights. The porch was removed along with all the others in the city in 1924. It was probably around this time that the clay brick was covered with what is called a cement render, a layering of sand and cement on top of the brick. This was a common treatment in Redding and was done for aesthetic reasons and/or weatherproofing.

The night of Halloween 1936, the second floor of the building suffered a fire of unknown origin. Possible causes were from the bakery on the ground floor, the heating system for the apartments, or the electrical system. The walls held, and the second floor was repaired the following year. According to the 1938 city directory, there was no longer a bakery operating on the property for the first time in nearly sixty years.

Over subsequent decades, businesses and tenants came and went, but the building always adapted well and vacancies were rare. Historic preservationists have a phrase for this: “adaptive re-use.” Historic preservation is not about putting buildings under glass. Stephanie Meeks, director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, writes in The Past and Future City, “[Historic Preservation] is about keeping [buildings] alive, in active use, and relevant to the needs of the families and the cities that surround them. We do not honor the historic buildings in our midst, nor those who once inhabited them, by trapping these structures in amber or sequestering them away behind velvet ropes. We do it by seeing that they continue to play a vibrant role at the heart of the community.”

Although the Sherven Square building is not as stately as some of the buildings demolished during the 1960s and 1970s it is still standing. It is a prime example of the local vernacular architecture (utilitarian design) built piecemeal with local materials by two hardworking immigrant families. It embodies not only the American Dream, but the hardscrabble, enterprising Redding Dream.


Market Street and Shasta Street ca. 1930. SHS 1977.31.297