The Clovis Chamber of Commerce wants the public to know that their board of directors did not recently vote to demolish their building, which dates back to 1914, and previously housed the Clovis Library.
“We would like to clear this rumor up,” says Greg Newman, President and CEO of the Clovis Chamber of Commerce. “There was never a vote to specifically demolish our current building.”
Leaders with the Clovis Chamber of Commerce have agreed that the organization needs to move forward with looking at various options to upgrade their current facilities. One proposal is to construct a new building on the current site.
The Clovis Chamber of Commerce is located at 325 Pollasky in Old Town Clovis.
The building has been part of the Clovis landscape for over 100 years. In 1914, Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish-American industrialist and philanthropist, who led the expansion of the American steel industry in the late 1800s and became one of the wealthiest Americans, granted money for a library to be built in Clovis.
The Clovis Library was one of 1,689 libraries Carnegie funded in the United States. According to local historians, it’s one of very few Carnegie Library buildings still standing in the Central Valley.
In 1976, Fresno County built the current Clovis Library branch across from Clark Intermediate School and the Carnegie Library location closed. In exchange for the new library site, Fresno County deeded ownership of the old library site to the City of Clovis.
“In 1986, the City of Clovis entered into an agreement with the Clovis Chamber of Commerce to transfer ownership of the building and property to the Chamber,” says Luke Serpa, Clovis City Manager. “The Clovis Chamber of Commerce has owned the building for 34 years, after acquiring it from the City. During that time they have continuously occupied the property.”
For many years in addition to functioning as the office for the Clovis Chamber of Commerce, the building served as meeting space for the public and Chamber members.
That changed as building codes and ADA accessibility requirements became more stringent.
“This past decade it became evident that the current building could no longer meet the growing needs of the Chamber and its membership,” Newman says. “The building is non-compliant and has become functionally obsolete as it relates to the day to day operational needs of the Clovis Chamber and its membership for offices and meeting space as originally intended.”
The Clovis Chamber and its board of directors have worked with several contractors and architects to evaluate the building and develop options to move forward.
“These options could include a major remodel and expansion of the current building, to today’s building standards, or build a new building that will have the desired amenities for our organization,” Newman says. “The overall goal of the project is to have a fully accessible, professional office space with a meeting room that our community will be able to proudly use for the next 100 years.”
The consideration of the building being demolished has angered some residents, who do not want to see a piece of Clovis history erased.
The Clovis-Big Dry Creek Historical Society, which operates the Clovis Museum, has formed the Save the 1914 Carnegie Library Committee. It’s comprised of a group of citizens who are passionate about the need to preserve what they call a “historical structure.”
“The tale of Carnegie’s largesse is in itself an important civics lesson,” says Sayre Miller, co-chair of the Save the 1914 Carnegie Library Committee. “Beyond that, historical buildings connect our citizens with the City’s past in a meaningful, tangible way. The remarkable success of Old Town Clovis as a destination must be attributed to the fact that it actually is an old town made up of genuine historical buildings. The idea of demolishing an authentic landmark structure in pursuit of modern office amenities really has to be reconsidered.”
The committee to save the building is reaching out to Clovis residents and stakeholders about the threat of demolition. They hope by drawing attention to their cause the Clovis Chamber will not move forward with the plan that includes taking down the current building.
“Unless the City and the Chamber are aware of the impact that demolition of the building will have on the people of Clovis, they are operating in a void,” Miller says. “Our goal is to make them aware of the Carnegie Library’s cultural significance, as well as the community’s emotional attachment to the building and readiness to defend its preservation.”
Miller says the Save the 1914 Carnegie Library Committee has met with leaders from the Clovis Chamber of Commerce and understands that the Chamber cannot function efficiently within the confines of a historical building.
“It is the goal of the committee to facilitate a win-win solution for both the Chamber of Commerce and the preservationist community,” Miller says. “There are lots within the City that would benefit from urban renewal and, in the wake of COVID-19’s assault on businesses, available office space with modern amenities will be plentiful.”
Newman says the Clovis Chamber of Commerce has no interest in moving away from Pollasky and Old Town Clovis. “The Chamber promotes our local business and our community, and it is very important, especially to visitors, to have the Chamber building on Pollasky in Old Town,” Newman says. “The Clovis Chamber is very respectful of the history of the building and those that have an emotional attachment to it. If and when a new building is constructed, it will not only honor our rich heritage with remnants and memoirs of the old Carnegie library, but it will also be a building that our community can enjoy for many years to some.”
The City of Clovis says that they have not received any application from the Chamber for a new building, but has been part of several informal discussions over the past few years regarding different options for the site.
“The City certainly understands the opposition from the Clovis Museum and other long-time residents of Clovis to the possible demolition of the building,” Serpa says. “However the City also recognizes the challenges to the feasibility of the continued reuse of the building due to such issues as handicap access.”
The Clovis Chamber of Commerce has been serving the community for over 100 years by supporting local business and hosting events such as Big Hat Days and ClovisFest.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced those signature events to be canceled this year, which takes an economic toll on the organization. As a result any immediate plans regarding the Chamber’s building are on hold.
“Once the pandemic has subsided and we can be able to safely gather together again, we plan to meet with the concerned members of the community and have an open dialogue regarding the building and its future,” Newman says. “The Clovis Chamber is looking to the future and growing with our community and being able to have a functional building for the current and future generations to appreciate.”