1421 17th Place – “The Office” And More…
T.L. Maxwell’s Restaurant & Bar is located in the oldest building in downtown Bakersfield. It was built between 1895 and 1905. While the first forty-five years are a bit fuzzy, the history is rich with stories about “The Office” which was opened in 1946 by Mr. Clyde Barbeau.
Mr. Barbeau started out in 1945 by building the mahogany bar and using what is now the dishwashing room for a kitchen to put out sandwiches and the like. He was an immediate hit and the average day saw most of the lawyers, doctors and judges three deep at the bar. Most of these people had offices next door in the Haberfelde building (built in 1925). The Office was a watering hole at night and many times a patron would realize he was late for dinner at home. The tardy husband would slip into the phone booth and call home to tell the wife he was sorry but he was still at “The Office”. It must have worked because many patrons used the same story.
As business grew Mr. Barbeau began allowing some betting on football games, horse races, and other sports. Before long he was a well-known bookmaker. One day a Judge whom Clyde knew urged him to apply for a card room license. There is a breezeway and stairs between the buildings that leads down to a room with an old door having a peephole. Soon the room downstairs was converted into a speakeasy and the action on the card tables was high stakes. At some point Clyde’s license was revoked but the card games continued only with the occasional interruption of a raid from the police. One night a raid netted the police chief and the mayor of Bakersfield.
Somewhere in this period the restaurant dining room was added. In our bar is a picture of “The Office” from 1951 (one year before the earthquake) and it shows the bar before the addition. When the room was added some of the cherry wood panels went into the dining room. As the current kitchen was being built the marble steps of city hall were being replaced. Some of the marble ended up in the kitchen surrounding the cooking area. It is still there today.
“The Office” had four well-known owners. Besides Clyde there was Barney Gill, a local lawyer who had an office fronting on Chester with the office behind it (a door that was inside a closet went into Barney’s office and became a common exit when the card room was raided with many people walking out Barney’s front door). Tom Jones, a local oil prospector and investor and Phil Ammenta were each subsequent “Office” owners. Sometime in the 70s “The Office” was closed.
In the early 90s, the old office was reborn as “The Basque Tradition”, then as “Dave’s Deli”, followed by, “The Swing”, “Joe’s Place”, and “Frank’s Office Bar & Grill.” In spite of a reputation as the Bermuda Triangle for restaurants, Paula and I opened “T.L. Maxwell’s Restaurant & Bar” in 1999. We look forward to many years in this location and adding to the rich history of this building.