FAIRFIELD — It was a groundbreaking ceremony in which no ground was broken.
Large on symbolism and history, the leaders of the Solano County judiciary convened Wednesday with other local political leaders and the chief justice of the California Supreme Court on the steps of the old Texas Street courthouse to commemorate the start of a $27.5 million project that will add three new courtrooms to the 25 other courtrooms in the county.
The event comes about a year since Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening in March 2012 of two new courtrooms, staff offices and file storage space, altogether costing $4.8 million.
The renovation to the century-old court building will restore the historic building with complete seismic, mechanical, electrical, life safety, plumbing, telecommunications and accessibility upgrades.
Renovation plans were designed by the San Francisco-based architectural firm of Hornberger + Worstell, whose other projects have included the grand Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park and private Olympic Club in San Francisco, according to Presiding Judge Paul L. Beeman, who served as emcee the groundbreaking event.
Chairwoman of the Solano County Board of Supervisors, Linda Seifert, a lawyer, quoted Winston Churchill, who said, “We shape our buildings and thereafter they shape us.”
Assemblyman Jim Frazier declared the groundbreaking “an exciting moment for Fairfield and for Solano County.”
State Sen. Lois Wolk gave a special thank you to Cantil-Sakauye for her support for the project.
State Sen. Noreen Evans reminded those in attendance that courthouses have long served as “the hearts of our communities.” She said the courthouse was “a symbol of a lot more than an old building.”
Cantil-Sakauye referred to courthouses as “temples of justice” and described the project as monumental.
The ceremony culminated more than 11 years of planning for renovations.
Designed by architect E.C. Hemmings, the historic courthouse is considered an outstanding example of Beaux Arts architecture, with its flat roof and expansive exterior colonnades. The 1911 building served as a functioning courthouse until the 1970s, but has been vacant since 2005.
Completion is scheduled for summer 2014, after which the new courtrooms will be used for civil lawsuits.
For more information, visit the California court’s website at www.courts.ca.gov/facilities-solano.htm.
Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.