BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — An important Kern County institution has a new home – in the home of another Kern County institution.
The handsome, historic office building that for nearly a century was the home of The Bakersfield Californian, the city’s daily newspaper, has undergone some changes since the heirs of founder Alfred Harrell sold the business — after 122 years of family ownership — to an Illinois company three years ago.
The building never really struggled for a post-newspaper identity – a century-plus of operation is its identity – but it was lacking a name brand tenant. Until now.
That brand name is the United Way of Kern County – the local chapter of a 130-year-old international organization that provides a supportive network for multiple community charities. United Way had been in an office building in what was then considered southwest Bakersfield – the corner of Stockdale Highway and New Stine Road. But as the lease’s renewal date approached, local United Way leaders decided to consider other options.
Gabriel Alvarez, United Way’s vice president of development, said the advantages of moving into the city’s downtown core bowled them over.
“The amount of years that this building has been here – it’s really centralized, right?,” he said. “People know it — the Bakersfield Californian building. We don’t necessarily have to mention the address. It should be a lot easier.”
And now the United Way has moved into the third floor – the west half, anyway, that the newspaper’s sports, opinion and photography departments used to call home.
The Charles Biggar-designed building, crafted in an Italian Renaissance Revival style, opened in 1926, withstood the 1952 earthquake undamaged and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. The newspaper itself moved to an industrial park north of the city three years ago, and was sold a year later. Meanwhile, the old building at 1707 Eye Street, now owned by Harrell Holdings, accelerated leasing.
United Way director of marketing Sydney Cullen is excited to be in the middle of the action.
“It connects us back to our mission and who United Way is and why we do what we do,” she said. “When you’re able to look around and see Bakersfield and really see Kern County, it reminds you of who you’re serving and why you’re doing it. You remember that things are a lot bigger than just you and sometimes even bigger than just United Way.”
The United Way mission – Education, Health and Financial Stability – remains the same as ever. But the view – that’s considerably better.
The United Way of Kern County is not really ready for visitors but they’re always open – and soon they’ll be happy to show guests around their new location in downtown Bakersfield.