On May 3, 1952 a new city hall was dedicated. The day before the then Telegram-Tribune published several extra pages dedicated to congratulatory ads and historical stories related to the opening. Here are some highlights:
• The first historical event to recorded on the site of City Hall was the encampment of Col. John C. Fremont when he arrived in town with a contingent of American volunteers and Walla Walla Indians on the evening of Dec. 14, 1846. The 300 men were formed into a column, bugles were sounded and the group accompanied by the Indians war calls charged into town was captured from Mexico without bloodshed.
• Cattle and goats were the primary users of the block until 1906. Pacific Telephone & Telegraph took advantage of the high ground and built on the corner of Morro and Mill in 1949.
• The previous city hall at 869 Higuera had been the center of government for almost 70 years. Built in 1879 for a cost of $1,500 for the lot and $5,875 for the building. The building had survived a fire, especially embarrassing because the first floor was the fire station. In 1916 a city jail was built to the rear of the building.
Structural weakness limited the weight allowed in the old city council chambers so large meetings were held at the Presbyterian education building or later at the city recreation center on Santa Rosa Street. The final meeting was held there in spring of 1948 and the building was auctioned off for $37,000 that provided the beginning of the new city hall fund of $300,000. The story opined that if the new city hall appreciated at the same rate it would be worth well over $1,000,000 in 2022. That seems like a sure thing.
• Part of the city property was purchased from the owner of the Fremont Theater. The company had bought the site for parking and to prevent the possibility of another theater from opening there. When Lou Rosenberg sold the property to the city he stipulated that it could only be used for municipal purposes.
• Originally the city was thinking big for the new site, library, fire station, civic center were all part of various plans. Plans changed when the Veteran’s Hall on Grand Ave. was completed and freeway construction made the second station location move west of the freeway.
• The city hall was designed to be part of a City/County civic center. Architect William D. Holdredge called the design “Spanish modern design with a nostalgic touch.” A plaque of Spanish explorer Don Gaspar de Portola graces the northwestern entrance to the building. There were five entrances for various offices including an office that is no longer on the city roster, police judge. The bronze double doors were among the last shipped before the Korean War shut down decorative use of the metal. The dais is extra wide to allow seven city council members if the city representation ever increases. (It has not.) The basement, except for a small storage vault for old city records, was completely vacant with no plans for use.
• The building was paid for the day it opened, no bonds were needed.
Mayor Jan Marx wrote to say that the city will hold a ribbon cutting April 11, 2013 at 3 p.m. to celebrate rebuilt landing and steps.