It seems like a lot of millennials these days are into vintage style. The classic look of 1920’s art, music and clothing has resonated with younger people. Not surprisingly, this theme is often carried into wedding-day planning. One of the best Fresno wedding venues that has that vintage look in a very authentic way, is at The Grand 1401, where I have photographed a few weddings. And to think that the building that houses two of the most beautiful ballrooms in the Central Valley was never originally intended to serve such a purpose.
Construction began at the historic building in 1922 at the corner of Fulton and Tuolumne in downtown Fresno. Owned by a early power company, the San Joaquin Light and Power Corporation Building became one of the city’s first high-rises. Most of the floors were office suites, and on the 10th floor there was a banquet room for special events and company dinners. It was a beautiful room with an amazing panoramic view of the city from its veranda but open only to those private events. The ground floor looked like a hotel lobby with Italian Renaissance Revival style, featuring palm trees and marble floors. There you could head to the main counter to pay your bill or walk up to the mezzanine level and purchase a chandelier or some other electrical appliance.
Today, much of that old time flavor still shines through but instead of it being only available for private business, the rooms are open to rental and used for celebrating about 200 events a year – 90 percent of those being weddings.
It wasn’t always that way, though, says Liz Boghosian, events specialist at The Grand 1401. By the end of the 1930s, San Joaquin Light and Power had merged with PG&E. That company continued to use the building but moved to another part of town in the 80s, leaving it locked up and in deteriorating condition. In 2005, the Tutelian Company bought the landmark property, then known as the International Trade Center, and invested more than $10 million to preserve as many of the 1920s architectural features as possible, according to a 2010 Fresno Bee article. The 10th floor, dubbed The Grand on 10, and the ground floor were turned into ballrooms. The rest of the floors were restored as office suites. When it opened in 2010 the first floor was selected by the Downtown Association of Fresno for the mayor’s State of Downtown speech.
Challenges at The Grand 1401
Today, with the Fulton Mall, Tuolumne Bridge and Parker Nash Building construction projects, the area is a little bit of a mess. But Boghosian says to hang tough. When it’s all done, it will be amazing, but currently the blocked streets and chain-linked fences have had some brides in tears. Still, weddings at The Grand 1401 are not to be fretted about. Parking, at least, isn’t a problem. Boghosian points out that the company owns many of the parking areas around the building and street parking on weekends is not metered. And once you’re inside, the fences and jackhammers are easily forgotten about. By sometime in early 2017 most of that construction is expected to be completed, revealing a brand new downtown corridor with even more to celebrate.
For brides coming into The Grand 1401, the ground floor ballroom is a space of 8,000 square feet and another 3,000 square feet on the mezzanine to handle about 500 guests. On The Grand on 10, it’s 5,000 square feet with room for 250. Rental of the facility includes the tables and chairs for their preferred list of caterer vendors to take care of the details. An event host will always be on hand to make sure everything goes as planned and security is on site as well.
And costs are not exorbitant. Although the lavish look of the place comes across as being expensive, brides are often surprised that it ranks in the moderate level among similar venues, says Boghosian. She mentions that the company is very flexible with weekday and weekend rates, as well as off-peak times. They have special rates for conferences, seminars, non-profits and members of the military. It’s best to call to discuss your particular event where event planners can give you the best scenario and a quote that works in your budget. The best part about The Grand 1401 is that it doesn’t need a lot of dressing up. Because of the ornate detail, beautiful columns, ironwork and marble floors, the venue generally requires a simple backdrop here and some nice linens there and you’re good – a cost savings from the start.
Thankfully, The Grand 1401 has not only opened doors for a venue with vintage look to wow today’s brides, it brings folks south of Shaw Avenue to help participate in the revitalization of downtown Fresno too. As the downtown goes through its growing pains, it’s good to see that there is some thought and care going into preserving some of what give it its character. And who would have thought an old landmark that was built to promote electricity and pay your power bill would become such an important anchor for that?
More historic and recent wedding pictures below
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