Tuesday, March 31, 2015
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Historic county courthouse amid transformation

old courthouse renovation

A construction worker sweeps, near a hole in the floor for a new elevator, inside the old Solano County courthouse in downtown Fairfield. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)

By
From page A1 | January 02, 2014 |

FAIRFIELD — Solano County’s landmark 1911 courthouse has become a massive, granite-clad shell that is hiding some big changes inside.

This neoclassic monument to government, with its front Doric colonnade, is amid a $29.8 million restoration project. The state Administrative Office of the Courts is reshaping it to serve Solano County Superior Court.

The 102-year-old building – among the most striking on Texas Street in downtown Fairfield – looks essentially the same as ever from the outside. The biggest difference is the scaffolding draped along the exterior so workers can restore the granite facade.

Inside, the difference is striking. Inside is a construction zone, where welders strike sparks and workers in hard hats tramp along bare concrete floors.

“The building was essentially gutted,” said Aaron Holm, the project manager. “The historic elements are really the only thing that remain inside. The rest was stripped to the bone.”

When last occupied, the old courthouse held the Solano County administrative offices and various other county offices. The county moved out in 2005 to the new, six-story county Government Center across the street. The courthouse sat vacant.

In 2010, the county sold the courthouse to the state for the symbolic price of $1. The county no longer needed the building, but Solano County Superior Court officials had long had their eyes on it. The court intends to create space there for three civil courtrooms, a civil court office, jury assembly rooms, office space and an alternative dispute resolution/mediation center.

That will free up space at the existing court facilities, which are cramped, Solano County Superior Court Presiding Judge Paul Beeman said.

Most of the renovation work done since April has been seismic strengthening. Buildings in 1911 didn’t have to be constructed to today’s standards to withstand certain intensities of earthquakes.

The old courthouse might look like a block of granite sculpted into a Greek building, but it’s not. It has brick walls with a granite facade six inches to three feet thick.

Workers have used shotcrete – concrete shot through a hose – to create new perimeter interior shear walls from the bottom to top of the building. They’ve added a million pounds of rebar and they’ve secured the granite facade. Though an large earthquake hopefully won’t hit the area, the old courthouse is now ready to rock.

The inside of the courthouse these days is a mixture of old and new. Amid the gutted interior, arched entryways and the original windows can be seen near new, silver steel beams where future walls will go.

A grand marble staircase inside the main entrance is now covered with wood for protection. This striking feature will reemerge when the construction work is done.

“When the public enters the building, it will look much as it did in 1911,” said Brian Taylor, executive officer for Solano County Superior Court.

The county prior to vacating the courthouse in 2005 used one upstairs room for decades as the Solano County Board of Supervisors chamber. Long before that, the room was a courtroom. Now it will become a courtroom again.

This room will be restored to an old-time look with a row of seats to one side and the judge’s desk topped at both ends by light fixtures. The other two courtrooms to be constructed in the building will have a more modern look, but not this one.

“You’re going to have one (courtroom) that is going to be as historic in nature as the law will allow,” Beeman said.

Judge Scott Kays said a photograph of the old courtroom is being used as a guide for the restoration.

Bids for the Solano County courthouse renovation came in higher than expected. The state came up with a stripped-down renovation project to stay on budget.

On Tuesday, the Solano County Board of Supervisors helped out. It made available $936,000 in developer fee money that is collected for county court facilities. That will allow the state to add back some restoration features.

For example, the outdoor front monument steps leading to the Doric columns and the adjacent piers have settled unevenly. A cost-cutting measure addressed this problem by simply leveling the individual steps. Now the state can can rebuild the stairs and further support the foundations at a cost of $165,000.

Once again, the state can install wool broadloom carpet in the courtrooms and chambers at a cost of $90,000, instead of using an acrylic carpet tile.

It can replace old and failing irrigation lines on the courthouse property at a cost of $85,000.

Local officials at one point had wanted to finish the old Solano County courthouse renovation by 2011, the 100th anniversary of the building’s construction. Instead, renovation work didn’t even begin until this year.

But now the project has a second chance, in a way. The old courthouse was completed in 1911, but for some reason the county never got around to dedicating it until July 4, 1914.

It’s a different 100-year anniversary, but still an anniversary. The renovation has about another six months to go and is to be finished by the end of June 2014.

“Our grand opening will probably be around July 4 (2014), which is 100 years after they did the grand opening, which is kind of cool,” Taylor said.

Another dedication ceremony is on the way, a century after the first.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling has been a reporter with the Daily Republic since 1987. He covers Solano County government, transportation, growth and the environment. He received his bachelors of art degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 1 comment

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • LilJanuary 02, 2014 - 5:50 pm

    I am so glad they are keeping the staircase. I have a lot of memories of playing on that staircase as a kid (don't tell anyone). It is a beautiful marble staircase. Can't wait to see the inside after it is done. I hope they have a public day of viewing like they did with the new county building.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

Records detail shooting victim’s court history

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3, 11 Comments | Gallery

 
 
Free Healthier Living workshops begin this week

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A5

Frazier to deliver keynote at Solano EDC event

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: B10

 
25th annual Rush Ranch Open House on April calendar

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A2

 
Helen Mirren film set for debut

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B9 | Gallery

 
Authorities release names of Sunday crash victims

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5

 
Saturday Club schedules Shower of Flowers event

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5

WIB to host regional career fair

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: B10 | Gallery

 
Group plans Haiti missions fundraisers

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

Travel presentation ready to roll in Vacaville

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5

 
.

US / World

 
24 percent of voters registered without political preference

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Ex-FBI agent sentenced to 10 years in Afghan kickback scheme

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Police: Missing college athlete died on Los Angeles freeway

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
BNSF railroad adds new safety rules for crude oil trains

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
California leaders routinely use private email

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Endangered bighorn sheep moved to Yosemite, Sequoia parks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

An apple a day may not keep the doctor away, study says

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Church van crashes into canal, killing 8 and injuring 10

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Tennessee pastor, son who saved 3 boys among Carnegie Heroes

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Pentagon chief considers easing of enlistment standards

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

 
NSA: Car smashes into police vehicle at Fort Meade; 1 dead

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Former Israeli Premier Olmert convicted in corruption case

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Prosecutors: Co-pilot treated for suicidal tendencies

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Guinea shuts border with Sierra Leone in effort to end Ebola

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Saudi-led forces strike Yemen rebels, blockade ports

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Iran nuclear talks near deadline; differences remain

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Prosecution rests its case against Boston Marathon bomber

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

.

Opinion

Rebuild Gaza to avert next war

By Former President Jimmy Carter | From Page: A13

 
Reid’s US Senate legacy: Obstruction

By Jennifer Rubin | From Page: A13

State moves up national school spending chart

By Dan Walters | From Page: A13

 
.

Living

Community Calendar: March 31, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
.

Entertainment

NBC, Cirque du Soleil bringing ‘The Wiz’ to TV, Broadway

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

 
Animal Planet lives wild with its new programming slate

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Attorney: Robin Williams’ wife wants to keep wedding tuxedo

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Eliane Elias enjoys musical homecoming on new CD

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
No ‘narsisstics': Music festivals ban fans’ selfie sticks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

5 things to know about new ‘Daily Show’ anchor Trevor Noah

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
TVGrid March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

.

Sports

Four No. 1 seeds in the women’s Final Four

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
UConn reaches 8th straight Final Four with win over Dayton

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Grizzlies beat Kings 97-83 to end three-game skid

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Cauley-Stein, Kaminsky, Okafor among Wooden Award finalists

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Hendricks’ shutout streak ends, Cubs top Giants

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Lawrie hits 2 homers as A’s rout Rockies 11-2

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Montoya has swagger back, but also shows softer side

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
A year later than expected, Michigan St back in Final Four

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Connecticut governor: move ’16 Final Four unless law changes

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Raiders re-sign free agent defensive lineman C.J. Wilson

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

2 Alabama players arrested in separate weekend cases

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Falcons fined, lose draft pick for pumping in fake noise

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Racial quotas controversy re-emerges in South African sport

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
NFL suspends Browns GM for texting, team holds onto picks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Kaminsky, Okafor lead 2014-15 AP All-America team

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Ex-NASCAR driver gets jail after 3-state high-speed chase

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Nebraska, winner in 14 of last 15, at front of Big Ten surge

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
McGraw appreciates Notre Dame women’s run more than ever

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Gonzaga’s great season ends in Elite Eight but more ahead

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
StubHub files lawsuit against Ticketmaster

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Judge again rules Joe Paterno can’t sue for contract breach

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Free agent linebacker Lance Briggs visiting with 49ers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Fiancee says she discarded box at Aaron Hernandez’s request

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
.

Business

US consumer spending edges up 0.1 percent in February

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
UnitedHealth bulks up for prescription drug cost battle

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Business forecasters boost 2-year outlook for US economy

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Amazon.com offering to help get jobs done around the house

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

McDonald’s to test all-day breakfast beginning in April

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
SEC files fraud charges against Lynn Tilton, firms

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

US university, foundation invested in frozen Chinese stocks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Regulators plan to drop case at closed California nuke plant

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Michigan entrepreneur claiming idea for Heinz Dip & Squeeze

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4 | Gallery

.

Obituaries

.

Comics

For Better or Worse March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Garfield March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Crossword March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B8

 
Zits March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Get Fuzzy March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Word Sleuth March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B8

Bridge March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B8

 
Sudoku March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B8

Baby Blues March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Frank and Ernest March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

B.C. March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Blondie March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Peanuts March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Baldo March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Beetle Bailey March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Dilbert March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Cryptoquote March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B8

 
Sally Forth March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Pickles March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Rose is Rose March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Wizard of Id March 31

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7