West side, Alameda County Courthouse - Oakland CA
Alameda County courthouse is a striking example of Moderne Architecture. It consists of a large base filling a city block, a setback tower, two further stories of jail set farther back and a hipped roof with observation cupola at the top. The base and tower are white concrete with striking vertical window columns. The south facade features a large bas-relief eagle over the door (and has been altered for wheelchair access). The main entrance, no longer used, faces Lake Merritt to the east, with a grand lobby and staircase flanked by large marble mosaics. The interior, housing several floors of courtrooms and offices, has inlaid marble floors and beautiful brass metal work on the elevators doors and courtroom windows.
It was constructed in 1934-36 with funds from a local bond issue and aid from the Public Works Administration (PWA) (which was called the Federal Emergency Administration for Public Works in its early years). The design was by a local team of architects led by William Corlett. It is presently known as the René Davidson Courthouse.
The official history of the PWA describes the building thusly: “The project consisted of the erection of an 11-story building to house the courts and county government. The building occupies the site of the old hall of records and provides approximately 300,000 square feet of floor area. It houses the superior courts which include 12 court rooms…the justice’s court, offices of the district attorney, library, offices of the tax collector, county board of supervisors, clerk, civil-service commission, recorder, treasurer, county library, and other agencies of the county government. The building is fireproof throughout and is constructed of steel and reinforced concrete. The base and the masonry terrace walls and steps are granite and the walls above the base are finished concrete. Project Calif. 1100-R consisted of an addition to the original contract for the granite base, terrace walls, steps, and steel sash. The structure was completed in 1936 at a construction cost of $1,657,890 and a project cost of $1,657,890.” (Short and Brown, 1939).
The courthouse was damaged by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and renovated thereafter.
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Short, C. W. and R. Stanley-Brown (1939) Public Buildings: Architecture under the Public Works Administration, 1933 to 1939. United States Government Printing Office, Washington, DC.
Project originally submitted by Shaina Potts on December 19, 2011.
Additional contributions by Richard A Walker.
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