By KRISTIN HENDERSON
Special to the Tribune
NOTE: The following is Part 4 of several installments on Martinez City Hall.
Many thanks to retired Deputy City Clerk Mercy Cabral for setting me up with these records and lazerfiche.
In 1950, the City of Martinez sold its 1912 City Hall that stood where now the creek meets Main Street and took up temporary digs. Meanwhile, a State audit deemed the Grammar School building not up to modern standards for education, even though the 1917 school was in a U-shape plan to maximize ventilation and light, according to Post-Victorian edicts. It was designed for K-5 in nine or 10 classrooms in two projecting wings. It was erected with wood and in the auditorium, steel columns and beams. But when it came up for sale, the City vied with the Catholic Church for the purchase of the building.
Where the police and building departments are today were open but covered areas with skylights. There was a mezzanine on the east side above the auditorium. There was a low wall with an iron fencing that met in the middle for the iron gate that let students into the front courtyard. Around 1928, two school rooms were added to the upper west corner of 525 Henrietta St. Photographs from this time also show play structures, trees, and shrubs in the courtyard.
When the City of Martinez took over the building, it began to partition the classrooms into offices, remove original wood work, and plaster walls. By the time of the 1993 fought-for historically-sensitive seismic upgrade, what was left of the interior integrity was found mostly in the Council Chambers and those two 1928 second story classrooms with their wood trim, black boarding, chair railings, etc. Council Chambers retains its original plaster, including capitals (those ornate square columns with pretty tops that stick out of the walls), box beam ceiling, and molding around the school stage.
The 1993 renovation said goodbye to the original stair case, fountain and greenery in the courtyard, a door to the Police Department, which is now bricked over, and a few other things. In their place came a seismically sound building, a 15 percent expansion of the second floor (the stuccoed parts up there), replacement of some historic elements; ADA compliant ramps, bathrooms, and elevator; first floor now all even level to match a courtyard raised above the 100 year flood plane, and better work spaces and work flow for City workers.
And yet, Mario Menesini could still exclaim, “I went to school here!” Check in next time when we wrap up City Hall in the birthday paper it deserves.