Cupola from historic Fresno Courthouse, moved to new home

Saturday, March 21, 2015
Cupola from historic Fresno Courthouse, moved to new home
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It was moving day for a piece of Fresno's history.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- It was moving day for a piece of Fresno's history. The Cupola that once sat on the very top of the old county courthouse was moved from a downtown warehouse to it's new home, at the Fresno County Fairgrounds.

The move was definitely something to see. The 110 year old architectural feature was carefully carried through town with a police escort. The historic cupolas journey started at the historic entrance to Fresno on Van Ness Avenue. From there, it was a slow motion procession to the Big Fresno Fairgrounds.

The trip was less than two miles long, but to keep the nearly 30 foot tall, 10,000 pound structure from tipping over the movers went at walking speed. With police keeping traffic out of the way.

The move is the latest step in the long process of saving this last remnant of the once majestic Fresno County Courthouse which was torn down back in 1964. The cupola was saved from destruction by Leonard Kevoian and kept safe by Frank Caglia. Frank's daughter Sally says both men would be pleased.

"Oh, I am so thrilled I know both Leonard and my dad are both smiling down knowing its going to be on permanent display lovingly cared for and enjoyed by the whole county. I'm thrilled to death!" said Sally Caglia.

The cupola is owned by the Fresno Historical Society, and it, along with other artifacts from the old courthouse, will be part of a new museum at the Fresno Fairgrounds.

"Obviously this is an iconic move for the City of Fresno. But for the Fresno Historical Society it means something we've been working on, in the fulfillment of our mission which is sharing our assets, our collections with the community at large," said Dan Adams, Fresno Historical Society President.

Fair manager John Alkire says the goal is to restore the structure, which is made of redwood covered with copper sheeting. "We would like to have it up for this years fair, but we have to see how much restoration it's going to take because we want to do it right."

Alkire estimates restoration will cost from 50 to 75 thousand dollars. A crane and two forklifts were used to gingerly lift the cupola into it's new temporary home a shop building at the fairgrounds where the restoration work will take place. When it was placed atop the courthouse in 1895 the cupola was visible for miles. If all goes well, it won't be long until it will be back in a place everyone can see it.

On a historical note, the old courthouse was built in 1875. The cupola was added along with a dome and wings in 1895. It is all that is left of the structure that was torn down in 1964. No good explanation for the demolition was ever made, but the public was outraged, and the county supervisors who supported the demolition were voted out of office.