Thursday, July 24, 2014
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 beberling@dailyrepublic.net. 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

 
City buys PG&E property for train station project

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A1

Artists with trowels transform highway wall

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
 
County court employees rally against cuts, furloughs

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Crews to begin Vacaville slurry seal street project

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A3

 
2nd candidate eyes Vacaville mayoral run

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Bertani schedules town hall meet

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Inmate wants $47,657 for artwork he says guards took

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4

Incumbent Hunt to run for Vacaville council seat

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A4

 
Vacaville police arrest fugitive Dezmon Frazier

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

Accused foster father testifies in murder trial

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A4

 
Sesame Street USO tour visits Travis

By Staff Sgt. Christopher Carranza | From Page: A5 | Gallery

Fairfield police log: July 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

 
Weather for July 24, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B10

Fairfield police log: July 20, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

 
Suisun City police log: July 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

Suisun City police log: July 21, 2013

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

 
Suisun City police log: July 20, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

Fairfield police log: July 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

 
.

US / World

Lawsuit tests racial policy at California prisons

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 2 Comments

 
40 bodies from jet solemnly returned to Dutch soil

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Honduran families deported back to a bleak future

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Lockdown lifted at Little Rock Air Force Base

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

US pushes for truce as Gaza battle rages

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Casualty numbers raise questions about Gaza war

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

.

Opinion

Good men lost due to Bergdahl

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A7

 
Is Logue tripping over words?

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A7

 
.

Living

Community Calendar: July 24, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Today in History for July 24, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Horoscopes for July 24, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

 
.

Entertainment

4-day Comic Con festival kicks off in San Diego

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Filmmaker Michael Moore’s divorce is finalized

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

CBS says Colbert keeping CBS’ ‘Late Show’ in NYC

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
CBS event marks civil rights anniversary

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

.

Sports

Pence drives in 3, Giants beat Phillies 3-1

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Raiders start to arrive for start of camp

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Tight end Vernon Davis arrives at 49ers training camp

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Cespedes hits 2 HRs, A’s hold off Astros 9-7

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Big innings fuels 16-1 Expos victory in Area 1 opener

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Testimony ends in trial over $2B Clippers sale

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Playful Pole wins Tour stage, as Nibali marches on

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
4 Cities to meet with USOC about 2024

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Mavericks’ Felton pleads guilty in NYC gun case

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Chiefs, running back Jamaal Charles reach deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Seattle’s Sidney Rice announces his retirement

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Broncos owner giving up control due to Alzheimer’s

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

.

Business

Stopping deadly oil train fires: New rules planned

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
US economy, though sluggish, may now be sturdier

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

GM issues 6 more safety recalls

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
.

Obituaries

Mary Bell Scrivner Sanders

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Arturo Montenegro

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Joseph Ross Smith Jr.

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Shirley T. ‘Mac’ McFadden

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 5 Comments

.

Comics

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9