Friday, April 25, 2008

Group says Courthouse needs a facelift


The towering archways, lofty corridors and majestic fountains at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse look good from afar, but some say the historic building is badly in need of a makeover.
At least that’s what the Courthouse Legacy Foundation hopes to achieve, even if it happens one small step at a time.

The foundation is currently trying to generate $410,000 to repair, or completely restore the sandstone “Spirit of Ocean” fountain, which faces Anacapa Street.
Jennifer Ono, executive director of the foundation, which was founded in 2004 by former County Supervisor Naomi Schwartz, said the fountain has been slowly beaten down by 77 years of water damage, and has undergone regular emergency stone conservation efforts to prevent it from completely deteriorating.
But she said the fountain might need to be completely redone because some of the repairs over the years were done with concrete and other materials.
“It hasn’t been properly attended to,” Ono said. “We want to make sure the restoration work being done is done properly.”
Ono said aesthetic maintenance at the courthouse hasn’t been a priority for the county, nor should it be. She said the foundation was formed in order to raise money for maintenance issues, while the county pays for more pressing repairs.
So far the foundation has raised $125,000 to repair the fountain, but Ono said estimates a complete a top-to-bottom revamp of the entire courthouse could cost as much as $40 million.
She said one of the project’s completed by the foundation was a restoration of the Theodore Van Cina murals, which hang in a corridor on the second floor known as the Figueroa Gallery.
After the fountain is restored, Ono said she hopes to raise enough funds to repair the Mural Room, which is covered by paintings and canvasses that have never been cleaned or restored. Repairs in that room are estimated to cost $750,000.
She said some money is raised through a docent program at the courthouse, which generates a modest sum through the sale of postcards. But she hopes the community will get on board and begin donating.
The foundation is hosting two guided tours of the courthouse on May 9 and 16 that cost $15. Ono said the tours visit some areas of the courthouse that aren’t often seen, such as a jail that is no longer used.
“Most people just drive by and say it looks so beautiful,” she said. “There’s definitely some work needed.”
More information about the foundation is available at

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