MODESTO — The old Cote d'Oro stood along Yosemite Avenue for 88 years. It took only about 88 minutes to come down Thursday morning.
A crew from Central Valley Demolition of Modesto leveled the once-revered restaurant to make way for a Dollar General store, just one day after the city issued a permit to the Embree Asset Group of Texas for the new building.
The Cote was built in 1925 as an accessory to the crime that went on at the Tower Club speakeasy during Prohibition (1920-33). A tunnel connected the two buildings, giving the imbibing customers an escape route should law enforcement raid the Tower Club, which is now the Eagles Lodge. Then they crept through the narrow tunnel to the Cote, which had a hidden room upstairs, as well.
The building housed several restaurants, including The Castle pizzeria, before Joe and Hazel Pastore opened the Cote in the mid-1960s. Tony Cardoza ran it from 1977 until 1987, hosting a list of celebrities that included Howard Cosell, Frank Gifford, Burt Reynolds, Rocky Marciano, Clayton Moore (the Lone Ranger), Art Linkletter and Slim Pickens, to name a few.
"It was prestigious to come to the Cote when anybody came into town," Cardoza told The Bee in February.
Cardoza closed the Cote when the Lara family of Ceres bought the building in 1987. The Laras opened Alfonso's El Castillo Mexican restaurant, which closed in 2006, and recently sold the property to Embree.
Some longtime Modesto residents lobbied to save the building. But it hadn't been occupied in more than six years and had been vandalized by metal thieves those elements alone making restoration costs prohibitive. And Thursday, the demolition exposed major decay and dry rot in the walls. It took only a gentle nudge from the excavator's bucket to send bricks from the chimney and front turret falling to the ground like loose gravel.