Iconic Property Repurposed

Cliff May, Thomas Church design of former Sunset mag offices carries on unharmed
Fridays on the Homefront
Iconic Sunset magazine's equally iconic former headquarters in Menlo Park recently got a second chance at life, preserved and repurposed with a new tenant. The rendering above shows a birdseye view of the campus, which captures the buildings' low-slung ranch-style design of Cliff May.
Fridays on the Homefront
At the building's central courtyard. Photo: Dave Weinstein
Fridays on the Homefront
Cliff May in the 1950s.

We have fretted in this corner many times in recent years about the dreaded 'dragon of demolition,' so it's about time we get to celebrate a victory over ruinous forces, in this case on behalf of the 'Bible of the West,' Sunset magazine.

Good news! The iconic periodical's equally iconic former headquarters in Menlo Park just got a second chance at life, preserved and repurposed when a new tenant recently passed through its doors.

Sunset was founded in 1898 and spent its first half-century in San Francisco before it came time for it to 'walk the walk' regarding the modern style it had begun to advocate after World War II. The company hired architect Cliff May and landscape architect Thomas Church to create a campus on the Peninsula in which it could showcase the style of living promoted in its pages.

Time Inc. sold the seven-acre property in the Menlo Park neighborhood of Linfield Oaks in 2014 to San Francisco-based Embarcadero Capital Partners, and Sunset moved to Jack London Square two years later. Some feared for the property's architectural integrity and, worse yet, its vulnerability to that darned dragon, but an executive for the buyer promised restraint.

"We are going to treat this project with tender and loving care," said John Hamilton, principal partner, in 2015.

Renovations to the site appear to have done just that, retaining terracotta tiling, adobe brickwork, and the central courtyard ringed by the glass walls of the main house. According to the Curbed.com real estate website, additional conference rooms were created, the kitchen was renovated, and employee perks added like a gym, rec room, and wellness and mothers' room.

Built in 1951, the structures at 80 and 85 Willow Way by all reports remain what former Sunset editor Dan Gregory termed an "early, precedent-setting example of the garden-oriented corporate campus" and "one of the first examples of environmental design in Northern California."

Contacted last week, leasing agents for Embarcadero Capital reported that they were still managing the property but have split and sold the two addresses to separate buyers.