The loss of the Andreotti barn in Half Moon Bay was a loss for the family, of course, but it was felt across the city and beyond. Many of us saw that barn as more than a farmstand on the way to the beach.

The barn stood on Kelly Avenue for 100 years. Not much has changed in that time, unless you count a world war, space flight, the invention of the computer and Netflix. Obviously, the barn stood sentinel over generational change in Half Moon Bay over the years. A farming community then, Half Moon Bay remains one today, but saying so does no justice to the many ways the town has evolved both good and bad since the Andreottis bought the place shortly after the last global pandemic.

Many, many people have bemoaned the fire that burned the barn to the ground on the night of Feb. 12. Sometimes a tragedy for particular property owners erases a landmark for the rest of us. Thankfully, we have other local landmarks, and perhaps now is a good time to recognize some of those coastal spots that are worth more to us than their simple replacement cost.

We are blessed with a pair of lighthouses in our readership area. They have their place in the history of the San Mateo County coast and are worth their weight in gold to untold mariners who relied on their signals over the years to stay afloat.

There is the Johnston House, the white saltbox house on the hill on the southern end of Half Moon Bay that itself burned down once upon a time. Nevertheless, it is unique in these parts and its story tells the history of early settlement on the coast.

The I.D.E.S. halls in Pescadero and Half Moon Bay deserve mention and have been the centers of the Portuguese culture in these parts. There are many historic buildings in downtown Half Moon Bay, from the Debenedetti Building to the Zaballa House. And the World War II military installations that can be found “protecting” the coast to this day are worthy of exploration.

And there is another barn worth mentioning. The Johnston Barn leans behind the old jail on Johnston Street in Half Moon Bay. John Higgins bought the land underneath it from the Johnstons in 1911. He did barn things inside — using it to keep his horses and wagons out of the weather. These days it belongs to the Half Moon Bay History Association, which is planning, once the pandemic ends, to use it as part of a grand local museum that includes the adjacent jail.

If the loss of the Andreotti barn taught us anything, it’s the true value of our old stuff. Wouldn’t it be something if we channeled the collective loss of the Andreotti barn into a community effort to continue the rehabilitation of the Johnston barn with an eye to preserving what remains of our history? To learn more about those ongoing efforts and to donate, visit

— Clay Lambert

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