The Watermark on Main is a labor of love by Mark and Kathy Hartley. Some 20 years ago they fell in love with Ventura and made it their home. A veteran music producer and talent manager to international recording artists, Mark located his business to the historic Livery complex just off Main Street in Downtown Ventura. Believing the city deserved a first-class venue for fine dining and entertainment, the Hartleys purchased the 1920's-era Groene building, an historic Downtown landmark, and lovingly restored its Spanish Revival and Art Deco architectural details.
Mark and Kathy take a personal interest in seeing that everyone enjoys their visit to the Watermark, whether it's for a full course dinner or drinks and music. With Mark's entertainment background, it's no surprise that music is a major part of the Watermark experience.
Watermark chef Gary Daniel began his culinary arts graduating with honors from the prestigious New York Restaurant School in 1992. Armed with a culinary degree, Gary worked his way through the kitchens of New York, North Carolina, and Colorado. Along the way, he learned to love and respect ingredients, nurture staff, and make client satisfaction the kitchen's primary goal. Following the tutelage of chefs Jim Galileo at Oceana, Ralph Fernandez at The New York Museum of Art, and Joseph Leli at Baby Moon Café, Mr. Daniel returned to Southern California to guide and launch the vision of numerous startup restaurants. He is presently vested in a high quality, value driven, small plate experience. Along with his 20 years of experience, it is his goal to take this vision and continue to modernize the restaurant industry.
In 1907 the Ventura County Power Company constructed a plain, utilitarian rectangular brick structure at 598 East Main Street. This was the first recorded structure on this property.
In July 18, 1927 Edison Securities Company sold the building to the Ventura Guarantee Building and Loan Association. In 1929 construction commenced with Los Angeles architects Frederick M. Ashley and John C. Austin (also builders of the Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles City Hall, and the Shrine Auditorium). They were responsible for the highly ornate exterior and interior redesign that was Spanish Revival with strong Art Deco influences. Following construction the bank opened on Dec. 3, 1930.
In 1928 muralist Norman Kennedy of La Jolla, CA was commissioned to paint the three murals depicting the Camino Real. Ten years later the building was sold to Theodore Groene who owned the property until 1978. In these early years when the building was leased, the hand-painted plaster ceilings and murals were covered to remain concealed for 30 years!
In 1961 Mr. Groene exposed and restored the damaged murals and removed the exterior paint from the brick faÃ§ade. However, he removed the original exterior tiled curtain walls, replacing them with plate glass designed for the Bahn Jewelry Store. On October 27, 1975, the structure was designated as City of Ventura Landmark #15 and given the local historic name of Theodore Groene/Bahn Jewelry Store.
From 1985 to 2004 there were numerous owners and businesses, most recently Natalie's Fine Threads, a high-end women's clothing store.
On March 16, 2004, the building was purchased by the Hartley Family. From 2004 to 2006 the Hartleys, along with Ojai architect Mark Whitman, designed the building for a restaurant application. In 2006, construction began with the addition of an independent structural 3rd story, W2O. More than 61,000 pounds of steel were used to support the structure suspended above the original roof for the rooftop restaurant and bar. In keeping the historic integrity of the building, the exterior curtain walls and tiles were rebuilt and reproduced (by Ventura artist Michael Kelly), the plaster ceiling restored, and the original walls and woodwork enhanced. Ventura's finest craftsmen, painters, designers, and contractor, Peter Livingston, worked to replicate the authenticity and parallel the craftsmanship of the original building. Many of the antique architectural accents have been added to the enhanced design. The solid bronze signs and the reception are reproductions from the 1928 pre-cast wall motif and are the trademark of the restaurant. The 3rd floor marine-theme lounge, aptly named W2O, displays the scenic Ventura hillsides, historic downtown, and ocean.
Watermark and W2O officially opened on August 12, 2008 by Mark and Kathy Hartley and restaurant partner, Jim Rice.