From garage, to bookstore, to empty shell: the history of 559 Tyler Street

One of the things that made the last Old Capitol Books store location such a special place to be in was the building itself, with its high ceilings and beautiful wooden beams. The building was originally commissioned by Arthur C. Metz (b. 1879), a local real estate investor and Vice President of the Gross Canning Company, which flourished during the 1930s. The contractor who for the building was George C. Miller (b. 1875), from Gonzales, who used the newly constructed building as his shop.

Note: This article is about the last location of Old Capitol Books (2012-2020) on Tyler Street. The bookstore is currently located at 482 Alvarado St., downtown Monterey.

The structure was designed to serve as an automotive repair shop in what was once called the service area of Monterey, where one could get upholstery, radiator, and electrical repair and a new paint job for one’s automobile, all on the same street.  These walls were the home of Bill’s Garage (1930-1937), Stoops Auto Repairs (1937-1947), Mission Motors (1947-1962), Tom’s Muffler Service (1963-1977) and Ernie’s Mufflers (1977-1978).

1922 Seagraves tire change from hard rubber to pneumatic. Old Capitol Books is where the dark colored building is behind truck. Downtown Monterey was heavily populated with auto related business from 1920’s to 1960’s.

The building was vacant and closed for remodeling and was reopened in 1981 as the Monterey Dance Studio, and was renamed Impulse Dance Wear and Dance Center in 1989.  Two years later it became a martial arts studio under two different owners, Monterey Bay Karate until 1997 and then Korean Martial Arts until 1999 when the structure once again became vacant and underwent an earthquake retrofit.

In 1999 the space found a new use, this time as a bookstore – The Book Haven. With its new paint, windows, and doors, soaring original wood ceilings and skylights it became the perfect place to house a large collection of books. In 2004, Guy Rodriguez and Jerry Welling bought the Book Haven and combined book stock from their book store in Moss Landing – Yesterday’s Books, with the existing stock, plus books from the original Old Capitol Books. Then it all came full circle with Matthew Sundt bought Book Haven in 2012 and changed its name to honor his sister’s original bookstore on Lighthouse Ave, Old Capitol Books.

With rents increasing and the pandemic forcing the bookstore to make some difficult decisions, Old Capitol Books left that location to move to its current location in October 2020. The building at 559 Tyler Street has been empty ever since.


Published by oldcapitolbooksmonterey

Proprietor of Old Capitol Books

%d bloggers like this: