Friday, August 1, 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

Trifecta: ‘The Who’s Tommy’ third play in three months

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Gemstones shine at Solano County Fair

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Japan Summerfest returns this month

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Vallejo police arrest suspect in shooting death

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A4 | Gallery

Fairfield man settles suit against Raley’s

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4

 
Solano Tea Party Patriots schedule meet

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

Details limited after shooting leaves 1 with injuries

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

 
Highway 12 to close overnight in Jameson Canyon

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A4

Air district calls Spare the Air alert

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A4

 
Stabbing victim dies in Vacaville

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A5

Fairfield police log: July 30, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: July 30, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

.

US / World

A look at the impact of Wisconsin’s union law

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Union: California prison staff told to fake checks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Abbas seeks broad support for war crimes charges

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
US, UN announce deal on 72-hour Gaza cease-fire

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1 | Gallery

As US job market strengthens, many don’t feel it

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Dow plunges as multiple worries vex investors

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds 2011 union law

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Report: Secrecy enveloped Bay Bridge construction

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Yosemite wildfire weakened, evacuations to end

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Candidate goes homeless to show economic gap

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5 | Gallery

California ex-mayor sentenced in corruption case

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Californians to see increase in health plan costs

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Appellate court overturns high-speed rail rulings

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
US warns against traveling to Ebola-hit countries

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Demoted worker shoots CEO, kills self in Chicago

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
NASA to test making rocket fuel ingredient on Mars

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Investigators reach Ukraine jet wreckage site

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7 | Gallery

 
Congress races to finish VA, highway bills

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

See-through mice reveal details of inner anatomy

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
CIA spied on Senate, internal review finds

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

.

Opinion

Why do so many Americans support Hamas

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11

 
Nice guy becomes House majority leader

By Dan Walters | From Page: A11

 
Should union organizing be a civil right?

By Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis | From Page: A11

.

Living

Community Calendar: Aug. 1, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
.

Entertainment

 
Review: Boseman drips with charisma as James Brown

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

.

Sports

Safety Bethea finding a groove with new 49ers team

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
A’s deal Tommy Milone to Twins for Sam Fuld

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

A’s get Lester, Gomes from Red Sox for Cespedes

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Chekwa taking reps with Raiders while Hayden sits

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

Expos fall short in 10-9 loss to Leghorns

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B7

 
Phelps to compete in 4 events at US nationals

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Another decent start for Woods at Firestone

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
Ravens’ Rice: His actions ‘totally inexcusable’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Dustin Johnson takes leave of absence from golf

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Commonwealth Games athlete convicted for assault on rival

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Lynch ends holdout, arrives at Seahawks camp

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Nick Watney leads PGA Barracuda Championship

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Rich get richer: Rays’ Price traded to Tigers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
Dumdumaya takes third in World Junior/Junior Olympic tourney

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B8

AP Source: Trump advances in Bills sale process

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Mudcats get 15-7 win in Auburn Classic

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B8

Signups for Friday, Aug. 1, 2014

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B9

 
Derrick Brooks set standard for NFL linebackers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9 | Gallery

.

Business

Daimler launches new version of tiny Smart car

By The Associated Press | From Page: C1

 
SeaWorld, Southwest Airlines ending partnership

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

Target taps outsider as CEO for needed shakeup

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
Iliad of France makes surprise bid for T-Mobile US

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

Facebook’s Internet.org expands in Zambia

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
In San Francisco real estate, $1M won’t buy much

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

Debit overdraft fees often exceed cost of purchase

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
Panasonic, Tesla to build big US battery plant

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

.

Obituaries

Clifford C. Hemler

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
.

Comics

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9