The Historic Library & Courts Building: An Architectural Treasure

Introduction

The Library & Courts Building located at 914 Capitol Mall is one of the most beautiful state government buildings in California.

On May 24, 1984, the Library & Courts Building was named to the National Register of Historic Places. The building underwent an extensive restoration completed in 2014.

The Library & Courts Building opened in 1928 as part of the "Capitol Extension Group." It faces a twin structure, Office Building Number 1 – re-named in 1987 to honor former Assembly Speaker and State Treasurer Jesse M. Unruh.

Designed by the San Francisco architectural firm of Weeks & Day, both neo-classical structures are located across the street from the State Capitol. A circular drive with a fountain in the middle separates – and connects – the two office buildings.

Both five-story exteriors are clad in Sierra white granite quarried by the McGilvray-Raymond Granite Company in Madera County and granite architectural terra cotta manufactured by Gladding, McBean and Company of Lincoln, Placer County.

Library & Courts Building, north facade. 2001. Photograph by Cathy Kelly (image 1 0f 28) Aerial photograph of the State Capitol and Capitol Extension Group (image 2 0f 28) Library & Courts Building, Cornerstone Laying Ceremony, March 26, 1924 (image 3 0f 28) State Capitol with Library & Courts Building under construction. Looking south, southwest. McCurry photograph (image 4 0f 28) Library & Courts Building, 1926 depicting the east and north facades. (image 5 0f 28) Library & Courts Building and circle, circa 1930. This view of the north facade was taken shortly after the completion of the landscaping (image 6 0f 28) The north facade features a granite pediment group created by New York sculptor Edward Field Sanford, Jr. (image 7 0f 28) The sculptor Edward Field Sanford, Jr. inspects the work on his pediment (image 8 0f 28) Memorial Entrance Vestibule. Photograph by Cathy Kelly (image 9 0f 28) Detail of one the decorative urns surmounting the marble pillars. Photograph by Cathy Kelly (image 10 0f 28) Detail of bronze torch light standards in the Memorial Vestibule. Photograph by Cathy Kelly (image 11 0f 28) Frank Van Sloan murals. Photograph by Cathy Kelly (image 12 0f 28) Detail of Frank Van Sloan murals. Photograph by Cathy Kelly (image 13 0f 28) Grand staircase. Photograph by Ross Steiner (image 14 0f 28) Courtroom. Photograph by Cathy Kelly (image 15 0f 28) State Librarian's Office. Photograph by Cathy Kelly (image 16 0f 28) The Anoakia Murals by Maynard Dixon. Photograph by Cathy Kelly (image 17 0f 28) The Anoakia Murals by Maynard Dixon. Photograph by Cathy Kelly (image 18 0f 28) Ceiling details. The ceilings of the public floors are painted with figures from mythology including this portrait of Medusa. Photograph by Cathy Kelly (image 19 0f 28) Ceiling details. The ceilings of the public floors are painted with figures from mythology including this portrait of Medusa. Photograph by Cathy Kelly (image 20 0f 28) Gillis Hall, 1929. Named in honor of State Librarian James L. Gillis, this stately room serves as the main reference center for the Library. (image 21 0f 28) Maynard Dixon mural in Gillis Hall. Photograph by Cathy Kelly  (image 22 0f 28) Maynard Dixon mural in Gillis Hall. Photograph by Cathy Kelly (image 23 0f 28) Maynard Dixon at work on the mural. Dixon worked from a scaffold. For three and a half months, Dixon labored daily in Gillis Hall finally completing the mural in November 1928 (image 24 0f 28) Circulation and Catalog Room, 1929. The room is graced by a highly ornamented ceiling, terrazzo floor, and bronze chandelier (image 25 0f 28) Bronze entrance gate to the Circulation and Catalog Room, 1929 (image 26 0f 28) Eelevated bronze statue by Edward Field Sanford, Jr., flank side of the Circulation and Catalog Room. Photographs by Cathy Kelly (image 27 0f 28) Eelevated bronze statue by Edward Field Sanford, Jr., flank side of the Circulation and Catalog Room (image 28 0f 28)

On May 24, 1984, the Library & Courts Building was named to the National Register of Historic Places. The building underwent an extensive restoration, completed in 2014.