Allied Arts Guild
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Allied Arts Guild, located in Menlo Park, California, stands on part of what was once a vast 35,250 acre (143 km²) land grant dating back to the late 18th century. A king of Spain, probably Charles IV, ceded the property to Don Jose Arguello, commander of the Presidio of San Francisco. It was called Rancho de las Pulgas, literally “Ranch of the Fleas.”
In 1929, wealthy art lovers Delight and Garfield Merner bought 3.5 acres (14,000 m2) of the land located at the edge of Menlo Park. Working closely with architect Gardner Dailey and artist Pedro de Lemos, they began to realize their dream of creating an arts guild in California. The Merners’ goals were to provide a workplace for artists; to encourage the crafting of handsome objects for everyday use; and to support all peasant or folk art, especially that of early California.
The Guild's iron and wood shops were the first in operation because they were needed in the construction of the rest of the complex. The original barn and sheds on the grounds were preserved, and the main building was constructed on the framework of the old farmhouse. New buildings of Spanish Colonial design were added. Ansel Adams was the Guild's photographer of record and took the first interior and exterior photographs shortly after the buildings were completed.
Delight Merner was a self-taught decorator with an interest in color. She believed that blue was a difficult color to use for interiors but was a perfect color for outdoors, where it set off green foliage and reflected the sky. Her garden furniture was always painted blue.
The gardens were inspired by the gardens the couple had visited in Spain and were named in the Spanish manner: The Court of Abundance, at the entrance to the main building; The Garden of Delight, or Blue Garden; and Cervantes Court, the inner courtyard featuring a mural of Cervantes dedicating Don Quixote to his patron, Count de Lemos.
Paths were paved with stones from nearby San Francisquito Creek; and the tiles and objects of art used to decorate the walls were brought from Spain, Tunis and Morocco. Mosaics and frescoes were executed by Maxine Albro and the de Lemos family. The Guild's logo was designed by Mr. de Lemos, who arranged the letters AAG in a monogram depicting a boat sailing upon a tranquil sea.
In 1932, the Merners' interest in the Stanford Home for Convalescent Children prompted them to invite its Palo Alto Auxiliary to provide lunch service at Allied Arts Guild for the benefit of the Home. Irma McBryde, a friend of the Merners, trained the approximately 25 young women (no one over 35 was admitted!) and set a high standard for correct service. Since the complex lacked a kitchen, auxiliary members prepared food in their homes and brought it to the Guild to serve. Lunch cost 75¢; and on the first day, they served eight guests and earned $6.00. The Palo Alto Auxiliary members continue to operate the Restaurant.
The Merners retired from active operation of Allied Arts Guild in 1935 and leased the complex to the Home's Senior Auxiliary. Later, Allied Arts Guild Associates, Inc. bought the property and continued to operate it for the Home's benefit. In 1951, the Woodside-Atherton Auxiliary assumed its trusteeship and management. This auxiliary has been landlord, shopkeeper, supporter of the arts and protector of this historic site since that time.
The Guild premises were completely renovated in 2004 at a cost of $8.5 million to meet current earthquake standards and to repair structural problems. Replacements for broken roof tiles were produced by hand to match the original tiles.