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Part 5: Happy 100th Birthday City Hall Building!

By KRISTIN HENDERSON
Special to the Tribune

Gentle Reader:

 You have inspired me in this, the 100th year of 525 Henrietta Street to nominate, and hopefully list on the National Register of Historic Places, the City of Martinez Grammar School/City Hall. Is that not a nice birthday present?

 In 1992, Page and Turnbull felt there was enough architectural integrity to make the National Register. However, a Mr. Kite decided otherwise and so the building remains officially found to be not historic. However, buildings can be recorded as such for reasons having to do with inaccurate documentation, etc., and then found to be historic after all. The Borland Home is one example.

 This will be my biggest gamble to date. Anyone wishing to help with a National Register of Historic Places listing can email me. Exterior photography would be a good start and it has to be done how they want it. City Hall is a difficult building to get exterior shots as it is.

 But before we move on, let us remember:

  • Martinez City Hall was built in 1917 in Prairie School style as designed by Stone & Wright.
  • Prairie School is an authentic American architecture that celebrates the open spaces of the Midwest and resulted from the building opportunities the Great Chicago fire presented.
  • Frank Lloyd Wright is considered the father of Prairie School Architecture.
  • We did not go over this, but Page and Turnbull identified a “Sullivanesque” characteristic in City Hall’s architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright was mentored by Louis Sullivan who is known as the father of modernism and the father of sky scrapers. Sullivan is a major inspiration to the Prairie School of Architects.
  • Brick and terra cotta manufactured by Livermore Bricks.
  • Housed K-5 in about nine classrooms.
  • Bought and inhabited by the City of Martinez by 1955.
  • The 1989 earthquake caused consideration of the seismic health of 525 Henrietta.
  • Three sides of the building’s brick facade were almost removed but the town and the Design and Planning Commissions fought to keep the historic elements and won while overseeing a retrofit, expansion, and modernization of City Hall.
  • Mario Menesini exclaimed, “And I went to school here!” upon his son’s reelection to City Council in 2006.  

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