The lower Russian River’s sweetest treat spot, the Guerneville Bank Club located at 16290 Main Street, is being awarded a prestigious historic preservation award this week (Oct. 21) by the Californian Preservation Foundation.
Originally a local bank built in 1921, new owner Bob Pullum bought the empty and desolate building in 2014 and completed a faithful restoration of the Neoclassic and pillared building, replacing the teller stations and original bank vault with an ice cream and sweets counter, a fun photo booth inside the vault, art gallery space and revolving local historical displays.
Pullum, a Bay Area freelance creative director and Guerneville resident, enlisted the design help of Crista Luedtke, owner of the nearby Boon Eat & Drink. Muralist Jessica Hische also worked with Pullum, Luedtke and others to bring splashes of color, bold graphics and fun spaces to accompany the historical restoration and more traditional architecture features. Pullum relied on his years of design and marketing experience to bring together the full palette of graphics and colors.
Fabled architect Carl I. Warnecke designed the building. The building served as a community bank and its last tenant before Pullum was the scandal-riddled Centennial Savings & Loan that closed in default in 1986. Audrey Rehfeld bought the former bank building with plans to open a gift shop. She never occupied the building and let it stand vacant and untouched for 30 years until listing it for sale in 2014 for $299,000. (The actual sales price is unknown.)
Pullum’s vision for the restoration was to “keep the building honest with one foot in the past and one in the future and preserve as much originality as possible but update the details,” quoting from his original project prospectus from 2015.
“It’s been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” said Pullum this week. “I didn’t realize how it holds a special place in so many people’s hearts — locals and tourists alike.”
Pullum’s restoration project was previously recognized by the County of Sonoma in 2016. Pullum partially funded his project with a public façade grant and low interest loans.
The Guerneville Bank Club is currently shared by the Chile Pie Baking Company, Nimble & Finn’s ice cream, Jam Jar (art, jewelry and local goods), the Russian River Historical Society and the tasting room of INIZI wines. Wines can be purchased but onsite tasting is suspended due to COVID-19 cautions