Maintenance Garage

The Maintenance Garage was one of the eight Nelles-era buildings remaining on the Nelles School site after the campus was modernized by the California Youth Authority. It was one of the several buildings added to the complex during or just following Fred C. Nelles’ tenure as Superintendent, to improve the school and fulfill the ideal of a cottage system for the school. Despite its comparatively larger footprint, the one-story height and brick masonry materials of the Maintenance Garage fit with the human scale de-institutionalized environment that was the goal of the cottage system, to help provide the young wards with a sense of family, community and belonging. With its large windows, open interior, and low profile it was an example of early 1930s industrial architecture.

Architectural Character

Similar to many of the other buildings at the Nelles School from the 1920s and 1930s period, the Maintenance Garage had a red terra cotta barrel-tile roof. The single-story building had a cement foundation, and brick walls laid in English bond. Distinguishing features included the arched door opening at the southeast corner, the large metal industrial transom windows, and a bank of quadrupled square window openings on the southwest elevation.

The interior was divided by wood-framed partitions. The building had a concrete slab floor with an imbedded vehicular lift for motor maintenance. The roof was supported by metal trusses and the ceiling had exposed wood rafters and saw-tooth skylights. Industrial lighting was provided by suspended fluorescent lights. Original machinery, including a drill press and a lathe, were housed in the building.

Floor Plans

The Maintenance Building had a simple floor plan which consisted of eleven total spaces. The main garage area was located at the southwest corner of the building and was the largest room, taking up over one-third of the building’s square footage. At the northwest corner of the Maintenance Building, there was a large storage area, approximately one-fourth the size of the garage area. East of the large storage space was a room once used as a plumbing shop. Further east along the north side of the building was a small space previously used for lawn mower repairs and a larger room that served as the machine shop. At the southeast corner of the building were three spaces used for the electrical shop and storage. Additional spaces in the Maintenance Building included offices and restrooms located near the center of the building.

Historical Landscape Design

The landscape around the Maintenance Garage suffered erosion after it was originally constructed in 1931. The Maintenance garage retained an open lot to the rear of the building. However, the open lot was paved and partially in-filled by the construction of the Classroom 12-19 Building in 1962. The Maintenance Garage also retained its relationship at the southeast corner of two historical roads, an east-west road linking the entrance to the Assistant Superintendent’s Residence and a north-south road linking the Assistant Superintendent’s Residence to the Kitchen and Commissary (Chapels and Training Center) Building. The plantings and landscape surrounding the north and east elevations appeared to be contemporary.

Additional Information

For more historical information, including more building specifics, floor plans, and photos, download the HABS Report and reference page 289.

Physical History

Date of Erection

Constructed in 1931


Deputy Chief W.K Daniels

Builder, Supplier, & Contractors

The Division of Architecture at the State of California Department of Public Works



The Maintenance Garage was a rectangular T-shaped building with overall dimensions of approximately 220’ long by 150’ wide. The building was approximately 19,000 square feet.


The Maintenance Garage sat on a reinforced concrete foundation.


The exterior walls consisted of brick masonry laid in English bond with decorative clinker brick accents.

Structural System & Framing

The Maintenance Garage’s structural system consisted of a pre-fabricated steel frame attached to the brick masonry walls and steel girders and beams.

Porches, Stoops, Balconies & Bulkheads

There were no porches, stoops, balconies, or bulkheads.



There was one interior stairway located in the plumbing shop leading to a small, raised storage space. The stairway was constructed with wood-framed treads and risers. The stairs began at the ground floor and rose east to a landing, where it reached the second floor. A wood handrail and enclosed balustrade was attached to the north side of the stairway.


The interior floors throughout the Maintenance Building were concrete slab.

Walls & Ceiling Finish

The interior walls of the Maintenance Building were composed of exposed and painted brick as well as wood paneling, plywood, wire mesh, and corrugated metal. The ceiling was constructed with wood planks supported by steel trusses.

Decorative Features & Trim

The Maintenance Building was a utilitarian structure and did not possess any decorative features or trim.


Doors throughout the Maintenance Building retained the majority of their original hardware including hinges, and push plates.