The Maydestone

Posted on September 30, 2010 – 7:40 AM | by OldManFoster
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By William Burg  Photos by Scott Duncan  B&W photo-Author’s collection.

The Maydestone Apartments building on 15th Street provides views in all directions, with the skyscrapers of Downtown to the west and the rooftops of Midtown to the east. Built in 1912, the 32 unit Mission Revival building was closed after a mysterious fire on Halloween 2003. After seven years, the building is about to come back to life.

Many people claim they have stories about the Maydestone, but few are willing to share them. Secondhand stories about prolific drug dealing and use, roommates and neighbors with unspeakably poor housekeeping habits (including one roommate who urinated in the sink when the bathroom was occupied, even if there were dishes in the sink) abound, along with assorted ghost stories.

“Some say the old girl is haunted.  If you didn’t believe in ghosts before you lived in the Maydestone, chances are you came to believe before moving out,” claims former Maydestone manager Rick Owens.  “The Maydestone seemed to choose its own tenants.  It seemed to decide who could live there and who couldn’t and even which apartment someone could live in…. I remember apartment 12.  This apartment never accepted a single tenant I rented to.”

The building’s charming appearance and cheap rent often overcame concerns about safety and sanitation (and ghosts).  The public face of the building was usually quiet, except for the “Advice Guy,” a friendly fellow who would offer advice to anyone who asked from his second-story window.

Apartment buildings like the Maydestone were products of Sacramento’s rapid growth in the early 20th century. Young professionals of 1912 sought apartments that were close to their jobs but with more amenities than a residential hotel. Located at the center of town and close to the J and K Street streetcar lines, a tenant at the Maydestone could traverse the city quickly and easily. The building had steam heat and a modern elevator. The rooms were small but well-lit with bay windows. Each apartment had separate kitchens and bathrooms, quite a luxury in 1912. Another standard feature was a roll-away Murphy bed that retracted into a wall beneath one of two types of built-in furniture: a ceiling-height Arts & Crafts hutch with central shelf and cupboard doors, or a Mission style fold-up desk. This feature allowed the compact studio to serve as bedroom and sitting room.

The building’s glory days were gone long before the Maydestone closed in 2003, but even in rough times, a community thrived. “The Maydestone housed a vast diversity of people,” remembers Owens. “There were writers, artists, theater people, waiters, cab drivers, hairdressers, straight, gay, and lesbians and people of every race, culture, and occupation that you can think of.  They all had one thing in common.  They were drawn to the Maydestone by a sense of the spirituality of the building.  They lived at the Maydestone because of the attraction they felt towards it, me included.”

“I spent nine years as the manager of the Maydestone.  It was the most fascinating time of my life.  Although there was many times [when] I wanted to give up on the old girl, the good times far outweighed the bad.”

Today, demand for Midtown housing is as high as it was in 1912. D&S Development, whose projects include the iLofts in Old Sacramento and the 14th & R lofts on R Street, will complete repairs and reopen the Maydestone by the summer of 2011. Bay Miry of D&S explained that the Maydestone’s classic design will not be obscured by the remodel. Unlike their lofts’ contemporary interiors, this project will repair, restore and rehabilitate the building while updating its plumbing, electrical, heating and air conditioning. Historic features like wooden windows and the vintage elevator will be retained, but its steam radiators and antique wiring will not. Some units will be combined to create larger apartments, but most will remain compact and efficient. Rents will be reasonable enough for working people to afford.

Disaster, development and neglect have claimed many city landmarks over the years, like the Alkali Flat grocery store on 10th and E or the Merrium Apartments at 14th and L. Housing demand, interest in Sacramento’s architectural legacy, and a bit of luck can spell the difference between restoration and demolition. Soon, the Maydestone’s new residents will add another chapter to its legacy of ghosts, nightclubs, advice and roommates good and bad, and city life on the edge between Downtown and Midtown.

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  1. 17 Responses to “The Maydestone”

  2. avatar

    By Bella Q on Sep 30, 2010 | Reply

    Great article. I lived in the Maydestone twice, each for a couple of years, a decade apart. Never believed in ghosts until I lived there. Ghost stories experienced first hand.
    Full of eccentrics and characters, not all of them other-worldly. I was the neighbor to Bobby Burns there. He used to knock on my door and ask me to fix him up supper. LOL.

    Glad someone’s finally fixing the old girl up. Essential Sacramento.

  3. avatar

    By Sean P Kelly on Sep 30, 2010 | Reply

    I had a son born there on March 1 of 1998. It was on the third floor in apartment 23. Appropriately we named him Zen.

  4. avatar

    By Tony King on Sep 30, 2010 | Reply

    Great story! I love this old building. Let’s hope they repaint it a cheerier color though and restore it to the glory of that older inset photo. One thing I hope they don’t change is the backwards letter “e” tile in the main entrance. Tiny bits like that give this building its whimsy.

  5. avatar

    By Rick Owens on Sep 30, 2010 | Reply

    Be sure to visit Maydestone Friends on Face Book!!!/pages/Maydestone-Friends/108955139151274?v=wall&ref=ts

  6. avatar

    By Jon Duran on Oct 2, 2010 | Reply

    I remember when Sean’s son was born there, and I can certainly back up Rick Owen’s comments: There is no question that the Maydestone has spirits, but I have always shied away from the word haunted. To me haunted has a negative spin, and the spirits of the Maydestone were never anything but kind to me. It was as if they were more like guides. I love that building and for the ten years I lived there I always tried to care for and preserve this downtown gem, and I always felt as if the spirits thought well of my efforts.

  7. avatar

    By Mickierat on Oct 2, 2010 | Reply

    I wish I had lived there. I remember when Jon and Sean and Zach lived there but I’ve never actually been inside. One of my exes lived there for a bit too. I love that building despite all that because it’s just so fucking cool looking and i’m so thrilled that it’s being restored. Maybe someday I’ll have a chance to explore it.

  8. avatar

    By David Walsh on Oct 2, 2010 | Reply

    Wow. The Maydestone. Where to begin. Whats in the middle? Does an experience like the Maydestone ever end? So many things that made me the person I am today originated from the Maydestone. I met my best friend and my future wife (and mother of my children) there. I experienced the tragedy of senseless death there. I was awarded the Golden Dildo award there. I first learned what “bomb” weed was on the second floor of the Maydestone. I acquired my first legally psychotic stalker at the good old Maydestone. I met sooo many interesting people at the Maydestone, Jon Duran being one of the them (hi Jon!) Sean being another. Had my first knife pulled on me there. The Maydestone is a legend amongst the subculture of downtown and it feels weird to hear they will be filling it up with yuppies, but better than a slow moldy death. I also agree with Jon about the “haunting”. I felt things there , but never malevolent….no matter how much acid I was on. I first learned this adage there: Theres no such things as strangers, just friends you havent met yet.

  9. avatar

    By Melanie on Oct 7, 2010 | Reply

    i am so glad they are restoring the maydestone. very exciting news. i walk by it often and have always wondered what would become of her. my favorite part about the building is that in some of the apartment closets, there were doors to paths where you could travel between apartments through the walls. i wonder if they’ll keep that. probably not. 🙂

  10. avatar

    By Natalie on Nov 17, 2010 | Reply

    I need more info on the Maydestone! What caused the fire of 2003? Who of note has lived there since 1912? What are the circumstances of the “deaths/suicides” that took place there?

    I have been really drawn to the Maydestone since I moved to Sacto several years ago. I recently began researching its history, and I’m completely enthralled.

    I can tell from other articles that William Burg is the MAN for this stuff – can you help me, Mr. Burg? Where can I get more facts on this awesome building and the spirits that supposedly reside there? I’m thirsty for more facts!

  11. avatar

    By chris on Mar 28, 2012 | Reply

    Im not sure of the exact date but one night while looking out the front room window I saw a person fall to the street out front, I ran out to do what I could, which sady was no more than hold his hand while he passed. I later found out he lived upstairs and was locked out so he tried to scale the building and stand on the planter box outside his window so he could climb through the window.Ill never forget that night or the building itself which I truly believe to be haunted. during my time there I saw and heard lots of things that frightened me, the scary dwarf size passage in the wall of the kitchen that lead you down a set of stairs that a normal human could barely fit through, the srtange air shaft in the walls that looked like windows that lead to either the roof or ,and the noises and shadows that saw out of the corner of you eyes……

  12. avatar

    By Sherri Garcia on Jul 24, 2012 | Reply

    It is actually a backwards “N”

  13. avatar

    By Brittney on Jul 24, 2012 | Reply

    Really? I live here now, I can tell you they don’t have that anymore 🙁

  14. avatar

    By Dvora Rafter on Sep 1, 2012 | Reply

    Maydestone offers inner tranquility and spiritual visions. A safe place to live with all the whistles and bells and lovely caring neighbors.

  15. avatar

    By denise on Feb 5, 2013 | Reply

    does anyone remember Tony that lived there…tall redhaired guy….once I had to climb up to his window to see if he was overdosed or not….and anyone know what happen to the man at the window who answers questions…what his name was

  16. avatar

    By denise on Feb 5, 2013 | Reply

    hi do you remember the name of the man at the window at maydestone who answered questions….and what happened to him

  17. avatar

    By denise on Feb 5, 2013 | Reply

    anyone know the name and story of the man at the window that answered questions…

  18. avatar

    By rebeccataylor on Aug 11, 2013 | Reply

    iused tolive there asmymomdid.

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