Friday, November 28, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Landmark Fairfield building reaches centennial milestone

10 hall of justice 1

The Hall of Justice building in Fairfield was built 100 years ago as Armijo High School. (Aaron Rosenblatt/Daily Republic)

By
From page A1 | August 10, 2014 |

FAIRFIELD — Solano County’s Hall of Justice building is marking its 100th year with the normal flurry of activity that takes place there.

Judges pound gavels and oversee cases ranging from drug charges to murder to burglary. People come to look at files on various civil court cases. There are crowded rooms and crowded hallways, all reached after going through a metal detector at the entrance.

The exterior is fitting for a building of civic importance. Granite steps lead to a towering porch with columns in the classical revival style, much the same as with the old county courthouse across the street.

But the building at 600 Union Ave. was constructed a century ago for a much different purpose than dealing with the weighty matters of justice. What is today the Hall of Justice started its existence as Armijo High School.

When local resident Guido Colla sees the Hall of Justice, he remembers the old Armijo High School. He was born in Cordelia in 1924, moved to Suisun City in 1928 and attended school at Armijo from 1938 to 1942.

“It brings back a lot of fond memories to me,” Colla said. “I enjoyed the school.”

Construction crews built this substantial building quickly. They laid the cornerstone in early April 1914. By August 1914, they had nearly finished with the structure.

“Every dweller in this section, be he large or small, young or old, educated or uneducated, is proud of the new high school building,” the Solano Republican said in an Aug. 14, 1914, front-page article.

The newspaper went even further, saying everyone “wishes once more to be young and privileged to attend school in such a palace of convenience for study and research.”

All of this came with the price tag of $85,000.

The old Armijo High School building in its original glory looked even grander than today. It had a couple dozen windows visible along its front. Today, most of the windows are gone, with two metal screens breaking up the monotony of the huge, white walls.

Students started their school days by going up granite stairs and passing through the neo-classical columns to a lobby with a marble floor. The 16,000-square-foot building had 37 rooms and included an auditorium and the area’s new library.

“To the voters who so generously gave us our new high school building,” said the title page of the 1914 edition of “Mezclah,” the Armijo High School yearbook.

Much of the grandeur went up in smoke in a Sunday, Dec. 8, 1929, fire. Smoke poured out from the columns of the main entrance near the roof. Firefighters had no ladders long enough to scale the walls to reach the fire.

People went into the library and handed books out the window until forced to leave by the smoke and fire. The Napa and Vallejo fire departments rushed to help the Fairfield Fire Department, but to no avail.

The roof collapsed and the building got gutted, with losses estimated at $200,000. Armijo High School had to move to temporary quarters in such places as the firemen’s hall and the school gym, creating what some said resembled a college campus with students running here and there.

Professor J.E. Brownlee of Armijo High School said faulty wiring undoubtedly caused the fire. But Napa Fire Chief Otterson disagreed. He said someone could have placed a slow-burning torch in the attic above the main entrance.

A fire insurance adjuster also suspected arson, saying 11 public buildings in the region had recently been destroyed by fire. He claimed an arsonist could have placed a certain chemical that ignited within 24 hours in the attic.

Colla said he can barely remember his parents driving him as a child out to see the burned-out Armijo building. He didn’t go inside, but remembers seeing smoke damage on the outside.

The building still stood proud, having survived the fire, Colla said.

Armijo High School got rebuilt. This is the version of the building that Colla recalls. He described the location of the English classrooms and the study hall and government classroom and the auditorium, which had its entry off Texas Street.

“It was a beautiful auditorium,” Colla said.

By the 1950s, though, the school was ready to leave its grand building and move to its present-day campus a short distance away on Washington Street, on the other side of Texas Street.

It was a slow transition. Armijo began building the $500,000 gym at the new site in 1952. By 1956, the school planned to modify three homes on Washington Street as classrooms. By 1959, most of the classes for the 1,094 Armijo students took place on Washington Street, though students still had to cross Texas Street to the old building for science, mathematics, music and arts classes.

The old, majestic Armijo High School building in subsequent years sat deteriorating. Even so, the building still got used by the community. Some rooms had offices. Social organizations met there. Theatrical groups used the auditorium.

By 1966, the county needed more room for its offices and decided to buy the old Armijo building. But the Armijo Union High School District didn’t get a great price for such a grand building at such a key location.

Only a public building can be on this particular property as long as Fairfield has the county seat. That stipulation comes from a deed restriction dating back to the birth of Fairfield in the 1850s, when city founder Robert Waterman conveyed the land to the county.

In addition, the 1893 deal that had the county give the land to the Armijo High School district said the district could only use the site for a school.

Given all of this, the district sold the old Armijo High School building to the county for a mere $11,700. The Armijo district didn’t even get this relatively small amount. Because of past state loans to the district, the state took the money.

With a historic building in hand, the county had to decide what to do with it.

County Counsel James Shumway said the building was deteriorating quickly. County officials didn’t know if the building could be saved and talked of possibly razing it and building something new.

Solano County decided to save the old school building. It spent $1.4 million transforming it into a new Hall of Justice, originally with four courtrooms, district attorney’s offices, public defender’s office, probation offices and other offices.

By June 9, 1970, the work had been finished. County supervisors toured the building and county offices began moving in.

Colla had gone on from Armijo High School to become a teacher and become superintendent of the local Crystal School District. He just happened to be in school offices down the street from the Hall of Justice when the 1970 rededication ceremony took place, so he walked down to see his old school.

The ceremony took place on the first flight of outdoor stairs, near the landing area where Colla used to hang out during lunch while a student there.

On the outside, the Hall of Justice still appears much as the Armijo High School building that got constructed in 1914, with the exception of those metal screens and lack of windows.

But Solano County Superior Court Executive Officer Brian Taylor sees little of the 1914 version of Armijo High School remaining on the inside. The building might still have the original inside steps near the entry, he said.

In one sense, the Hall of Justice building is a mere 44 years old instead of 100, given the extensive 1970 remodel.

“It definitely shows its wear and tear,” Taylor said. “We regularly have to watch the maintenance, the roof and windows, just general things you have to do with any building of this age. In general, I think it’s in decent shape.”

On its 100th anniversary, the Hall of Justice is a busy building that continues to serve the public.

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 | 4 comments

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

  • Tony WadeAugust 10, 2014 - 11:26 am

    Wonderful article, thanks!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • StRAugust 10, 2014 - 11:40 am

    I would just like to say that Tony's Hip, does not waist words, always has a chest full of fun ideas for columns and has a good cranium on his shoulders...... and yes I should write an..... Ode to the penmanship of Barry Eberling...... Staff Writer/Reporter for the Daily Republic ... published in beautiful downtown Fairfield Ca.... etc... etc.....

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • KenRAugust 10, 2014 - 5:03 pm

    Great article. I went to scout meetings in the old building in the mid 60's. It was kind of creepy old when I was Just starting there. The library across the street was elegant old to that same kid.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Trixie's MomAugust 10, 2014 - 11:29 pm

    Enjoyed the article! I am a fan of old buildings (well history in general); would love to see some articles on the older places / homes along Abernathy Road and Old Town Cordelia, Rockville Rd., etc. Thanks!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

Giving thanks, ‘even in this broken world,’ on Thursday

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Solano Turkey Trot draws 2,600 to college

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
 
Il Fiorello schedules olive milling day

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Early Black Friday shoppers take advantage of deals

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Eagle Scout project adds floating docks at Rockville Park

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
.

US / World

‘Guardian angel,’ community join to give man home

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
US celebrates Thanksgiving with parades, turkey

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Tons of marijuana seized in Central California

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Gorilla death prompts San Francisco Zoo changes

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Health agents still unpaid after plan’s rollout

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
California Burger King employee finds $100,000

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

At 1 month, US Ebola monitors finding no cases

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Families asked to host visitors for pope’s US trip

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Researchers discover ‘pre-cancers’ in blood

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
35 arrested in Oakland after protest march

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

A glance at Ferguson: Then, now and the future

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
For some, location of Brown’s hands irrelevant

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Ferguson gives thanks after a quiet night

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Colorado mastodon bones show ancient warmer Earth

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Queen of crime writing PD James dies aged 94

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Ebola aid dogged by coordination lags in Guinea

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Taliban attack rocks upscale Kabul district

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Small quake rattles California wine country

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

.

Opinion

Harvard admissions, then and now

By Bud Stevenson | From Page: A11

 
 
What it costs to fight the Islamic State

By Walter Pincus | From Page: A11

.

Living

Today in History: Nov. 28, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Nov. 28, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Movies just another course on Thanksgiving

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Poor health is no excuse for not behaving like a caring person

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

Horoscope for Nov. 28, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

 
.

Entertainment

Week in preview: Nov. 28 to Dec. 4, 2014

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Prison theater transforms Colombian inmates

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Singer John Mayer among ‘Late Late Show’ subs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Review: ‘Horrible Bosses 2′ doesn’t work

By Jake Coyle | From Page: B2

Review: ‘Madagascar’ spin-off hatches family fun

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Reading Harry Potter gives clues to brain activity

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Talking songs with She & Him

By Kim Durbin | From Page: B3

 
Entertainment calendar Nov. 28, 2014

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B4

 
Cosby testimony describes accuser’s spiked story

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

.

Sports

College notebook: Many happy returns for Arizona’s Bondurant

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Sherman’s big night leads Seattle past 49ers again

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

Rookie quarterback Carr is Raiders’ silver lining

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
US cities urged to keep price tags down for 2024

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

Eagles roll over Cowboys 33-10 for NFC East lead

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
5 investigated in FIFA WCup bid corruption probe

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Johnson shines in Detroit’s 34-17 win over Chicago

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Signups for Friday, Nov. 28, 2014

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B10

No. 9 UCLA must overcome Stanford for Pac-12 title

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

 
.

Business

Kia’s ‘Soulful’ first electric car

By Ann M. Job | From Page: C1

 
Automakers aim to drive away car computer hackers

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2

3 Reasons holiday shoppers will spend cautiously

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
OPEC keeps oil output on hold despite low prices

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

.

Obituaries

Deanna L. Haines

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Esther Ringler

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

‘Chipper’ Douglas Lee Anderson Jr.

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Rose is Rose

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

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9