On May 29, 1971, 650 people attended the dedication ceremony for the new Fairfield Civic Center. Built on the 33 acres where the Waterman Park federal housing had once been, the Civic Center featured a figure-8 man-made lake, City Hall, police administration building, council chamber and a community center. The design was by Robert Wayne Hawley, who won an architectural contest.
One of the driving forces behind the construction of the Civic Center was B. Gale Wilson, Fairfield’s city manager for 32 years.
B. Gale Wilson: “How many cities have a spot like that to build a civic center? We wanted to make the most out of it instead of slapping something together. We wanted to make it a focal point of community pride. I became acquainted with Frank Lloyd Wright, the architect of the Marin Civic Center. He made the statement: ‘We shape our public buildings and after that, they shape us.’ I was very impressed and thought we had this unique opportunity, let’s not blow it. One of our community values in line with the Wright quote was to build public buildings that stand the test of time. It’s very satisfying.”
My memories include my brother Orvis and his wife Patty getting married next to the lake in 1982, watching seagulls catch tossed bread crumbs in midair over the shimmering water with my daughter Kaci and attending the “Where is Fairfield?” festivals. It was also the somber spot for an impromptu vigil on the day Matt Garcia was taken so tragically.
Kathleen Adams McIntyre: “My mother worked for the city of Fairfield for nearly 40 years. They had a vacuum tube system throughout the building. When we’d visit, we loved watching the containers go up the tube then come back down. When I was in high school, I would take my little brother there to feed the ducks and visit our mom. On the side of the pond by City Hall there is a plaque dedicated to my late mother.”
Yvonne Apilado: “In 1978 we had our wedding reception there – 400 guests, three bands (Mariachis, Mexican Band and Trans Bay Central), homemade Mexican and Filipino food, and no one left the party until it ended at 12:30 a.m. And we are still married; how about that!”
Terrence J. Mulich: “Grange Intermediate’s eighth-grade class of ’76 graduation dance was there. I got a graduation kiss from Jennifer Ramirez. Yeah, buddy, that’s what I’m talkin’ about.”
Mary Angle Weaver: “I got my first ticket on my bike for riding on the sidewalk delivering a paper to the Police Department! And my skateboard is probably still in the bottom of the lake there! Years later my son read his award-winning poetry from the library young poets contest there.”
Julie Carter-Latimer: “The Civic Center had a preschool program for 4-year-olds called Tiny Tots. My sister attended first and then it was my turn. Dad used to take us fishing in the pond; Mom popped popcorn for us to feed the ducks. My parents threw my surprise “sweet 16″ party there. I can’t count how many dances, parties, wedding receptions and other gatherings I’ve attended there. Great times and great memories!”
Neil Blaney: “As a kid, my brothers and I would walk from Suisun City over to the pond at the Civic Center and fish all day. My mother would come and have to drag us home. When my older children were young, I took them over there and my wife came looking for us just like my mother had so many years before.”
Judy Anderson Engell: “We grew up down the street and watched the progress of the buildings and the pond. Even though it was posted to stay out of the water, our neighbors would “accidentally” ride their bikes right into the cool pond on hot summer days. They thought of it as their personal pool. When our kids were young, they loved to feed the ducks and they especially loved to gather all the neighbors and have Wiffle ball tournaments. We recently took our granddaughters there so they, too, could feed the ducks and enjoy the beautiful setting that sits in the center of town. Three generations of memories for me!”
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at email@example.com.