Old Pima County courthouse getting 1st makeover since 1954

Old Pima County courthouse getting 1st makeover since 1954

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The old Pima County courthouse in downtown Tucson is getting its first makeover since 1954.

A county memo estimated the cost could be as high as $25 million for the 87,000-square foot building. The money does not come from the general fund or bond sales.

"I know people are not going to believe me but they're coming from savings from the public service building," said Lisa Josker, the county director of Facilities Management.

But the county feels it is worth the cost to preserve what is one of the most iconic buildings in the Tucson area.

It was built in 1929 by noted Tucson architect Roy Place in 1929. A south addition was built in 1954, but since then it has had no major remodeling.

"That's why it's so exciting to be part of this project," Josker said. "We're remaking it for the next 100 years."

Parts of the old courthouse will be preserved as is, especially Courtroom 8. That's where one of America's most famous outlaws, John Dillinger, was arraigned after being caught in Tucson in 1934.

Even though it has been a working courtroom for the past century, nothing has changed.

"This is the courtroom we are going to preserve," Josker said. "We've taken measurements, we've taken photographs, we going to keep it, we're going to clean it up, but keep it in it's state."

History buffs visit the courtroom often.

Also being preserved are the original glass windows which are tinted a dark purple. It was a way to block the sun and heat, a form of air conditioning back in 1929.

The courthouse will become home to the Jan. 8, 2011 shooting memorial, a host of museums and other public attractions. Weddings will likely return to the grounds.

The building, which once housed Juvenile Court, the County Assessor, County Recorder and Treasurer, should be fully gutted by October. Then comes the painstaking process of reconstruction and historic renovation.

No timetable has been set for that because there's still some uncertainty as to how the building will be re purposed.

"There's so much interest in the old courthouse, we won't have any problem finding tenants," Josker said.

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