The tall, long, yellow building that used to stand at the corner of Lakeshore Drive and Main Street in Lake Elsinore was almost destroyed, and it was by accident that it’s being brought back to life.
Known locally as the Tank House, the 1880 building used to house a mineral spring as part of a health spa complex. By 2010, however, the structure was falling apart and the new property owner was planning to tear it down.
member Pete Dawson inquired: could demolition be stalled? He contacted Joyce Hohenadl, secretary of the Lake Elsinore Historical Society and Historical Commissioner of Riverside, District 1.
“What are you going to do about it?” Dawson asked Hohenadl.
“Let’s research and investigate to see if it is historical and, if it is determined to be, we will make a plan of action,” she told him.
Historical Society member Vick Knight had taken an inventory of all Lake Elsinore historic homes and structures in 1990, so Hohenadl and Historical Society President Ruth Atkins looked up the Tank House.
Indeed, the building was worth saving.
“Once a Tank House, now used as office space, this very narrow two-story structure has a low-pitched gable roof, one double-hung window facing the front in each story, a narrow door, and a clapboard siding. A small shed addition is set to the left,” according to Knight’s notes.
The Tank House was expanded upon in the 1930s, according to additional findings, and a second story was added. The property also featured rental cabins and a recreation room at one time. H&R Block Tax Service operated out of it for years, and it remained occupied through 1990.
Former Lake Elsinore City Councilman Jerry Harmatz was enlisted by Hohenadl and Atkins to help save the historic structure.
“I’ll be happy to help,” he told the women. “It’s my city, it’s my home and I love it here. We have to leave it in better shape than when we found it.”
So Tank House life-support began. Since the new owner wanted to develop the Tank House property, the first order of business was to relocate the old structure. The corner of Spring and Graham streets, adjacent to the building, was chosen, but transporting the dilapidated building was going to be an expensive process.
Harmatz had a solution to the budget snafu: “Let’s take it apart, board by board” and move it that way, he said.
Harmatz knew that in Lake Elsinore had been doing community work, so he approached Dan Lincoln, the church’s community leader, and asked if there were any volunteers who might be interested in assisting with reconstruction efforts.
“This is exactly what we do!” Lincoln replied. “It is not so much for one person, but for the good of the community.”
In January 2011, the Tank House was carefully disassembled by 25 volunteers from Lamb’s Fellowship and the Lake Elsinore Historical Society. A new shell was constructed at Spring and Graham, and the building’s old boards are now being placed atop in compliance with current city building codes.
Many local businesses have donated or discounted materials for the project.
“We are getting a lot of community cooperation,” Hohenadl said.
“Without Jerry and the Lamb’s Fellowship Church crew, who would I get to save this structure?” Hohenadl continued. “They have all been absolutely wonderful.”
The Tank House owner, who wished to remain anonymous, gave the Historical Society a $1,000 donation to help with the project and other donations have come from the Daughters of the American Revolution Luiseño chapter, as well as the Historical Society.
“Jerry and Joyce were the vision for restoring the Tank House and we (Lamb’s Fellowship) are the labor/ hands,” Lincoln said. “I can’t sing, I can’t preach, but I have been in construction all of my life and I can help others in this practical way. The Historical Society is feeling blessed by our help, but we are just as blessed by helping, if not more.”
Yesterday, a handful of Lamb’s Fellowship volunteers, along with Lake Elsinore Historical Society members and a few members of the Daughters of the American Revolution turned out in the pouring rain to continue rebuilding the Tank House. The process is ongoing, but it’s happening.
It is expected that once reconstruction is complete the Tank House will become a museum of sorts, open for all to enjoy.
Gary Ennis, founder of Lamb’s Fellowship in Lake Elsinore, believes the process is restorative in many ways.
“We have been called to restore (and) rebuild the people and property of Lake Elsinore -- spiritually, emotionally and physically.”
Money is still needed to help rebuild the Tank House. To make a donation, contact Ruth Atkins at 951-579-4852, or mail checks to the Lake Elsinore Historical Society at P.O. Box 84, Lake Elsinore CA 92531.