(Below follows the text from a TIMES-STANDARD article of 2012, written by Stock Schlueter.)

Evolution of a gallery:
Building in Old Town has a long and colorful history

Editor's note: This is the first part of a two-part story about how the building at 208 C St. in Old Town Eureka morphed from industrial usage 104 years ago into the vibrant array of artists' studios it is today. The second part will run in next Friday's Art section.

Let me start by painting a picture of Old Town in the late 1960s and early '70s. In those days it was known as “The Deuce,” a wild, rough-and-tumble world of loggers, fishermen and all sorts of local color. At this time, the “hippie generation” also started to emerge. It was the place to party.

A walk down Third Street from the little shack that was my home while I went to College of the Redwoods would take me past places like the Vance Log Cabin, Fogs and the Snug, and the Old Town Bar and Grill. There was the Manora Thai Restaurant, Charlotte's Club, Jimmy Dunn's and Peggy's Café. There was Lazio's Seafood restaurant, where you could watch them clean fish while you ate. (I was never clear on the appeal of that.) The dock was old wooden pilings and there were many large, old warehouses, standing like monoliths from a timewhen the tall ships filled the harbor, waiting to load their hulls with lumber.

In the early '70s while at a reception at the Art Center, I was invited to an opening and party at a place called “WACO.” I remember a long, narrow hallway, dimly lit but filled with art, then going up a staircase where there were several studios made by stapling black plastic from the beams to the floor. I was just back from going to college in Colorado, so I didn't know much about the art scene here in Eureka. I met many people that night and it was a fine party.

In May 1970, I was fortunate enough to contact Peter Santino, who was one of the original founders of WACO. He told me there were three of them: Keith Kays, a weaver who was also a forklift operator for Eureka Ice and Cold Storage; John Intersimone, a sculptor who also worked at Lazio's warehouse; and himself, who was a painter as well as a commercial fisherman.

A Unique Idea

At the time, the idea of using industrial buildings for art studios was a new concept, Peter said. ”There was a place in San Francisco and a couple of places in the Netherlands back then,” said Peter. “Important to note that, every once and a while, we pull off something in the forefront. While there were some artists living in lofts in New York's SoHo District after World War II, it wasn't until the early '70s that the whole thing took off.”

The WACO founders rented the whole building at 208 C St. for $100. That doesn't sound like much these days, but then it was a tidy sum. Right away, they looked for other artists to join in and found Dave McDougall, a student at Humboldt State University. Eventually there were about 10 artists living and working in the building for various lengths of time.

When I asked Peter just what WACO stood for, I got an answer I did not expect. I was thinking something like “Western Art Co-op” but, as Peter explained, it was taken from the movie “Midnight Cowboy.” ”There is a scene where Dustin Hoffman is kind of hosting Jon Voight around Times Square talking and shuffling, moving quickly across a street right in front of a cab which has to stop to avoid hitting him,” Peter said. “Ratzo Rizzo slaps the hood of the cab and yells 'I'm walkin' here! I'm walkin' here.' The cabbie yells back, 'Get a job, wacko.'
That became a tagline for everything from a friendly put-down to getting a laugh. Kind of like the line all artists have no doubt heard a thousand times, mostly from family:
'When are you going to get a real job?'”

Peter said that in his mind, “it was always spelled WACO,” so it was a process of reverse engineering to come up with 'Worker Artist's Cooperative Outlet.'” He did relate one humorous story about a deranged and confused Texan standing in the middle of the street yelling “Why'd y'all paint the name of my hometown on your door?”

During this time, the building became a veritable “Who's Who” of the local art scene. Artists such as Martin Wong, Tim Inglert, Ray Cross, Bill Thurman, Laurie Gregory, Jeff Anderson, Phil Carlisle, Jeff Jorden, Bill McWhorter, Jer Smith and Charlie Brown either had studios or were in large shows held in a gallery space on the ground floor.

Other people involved at the time were Marianna Simpson, Bob Benson, Chuck Ellsworth, Bill Swanson, Steve Dockter, Dave Doodah, Henry Collins, Allen Olmsted and Suk Chu Kim.

Humble beginnings

The building was constructed in 1908 on land owned by the McGaraghan family. It was briefly owned by an A.W.R. Barr and sold back to the McGaraghans, and was listed in one source as Humboldt Engineering and Supply Co. At the time, it was the largest building -- in square footage -- in Eureka.

It's constructed out of rough-cut, 2-by-6 redwood boards nailed together into solid walls of wood. Evidently the lower floor was built as four different sections, with air space between the walls to serve as a fire break. They are said to be up to 14 inches thick. There is enough lumber in it to build a modern subdivision, it seems.

At some point before prohibition, the building housed the Delaney & Young Brewery and Bottling Co. When prohibition came along, it became the Delaney & Young Candy Factory, which manufactured candy and soda water.

In the late 1970s it was owned by Bob Coffey, who remodeled the lower floor and rented out sections to various businesses such as the Bosen Locker, a marine supply store. There were also Steam Master Carpet Cleaners, Piano Boutique and Affordable Frames.

I knew that the place looked familiar when I first went upstairs in 1990 to check it out; I had a dim recollection of roller skating and dodging all the posts when I was a kid.

To be continued ...

Stock Schlueter is a Eureka artist whose studio is in the 208 C St. building.