Santa Rosa celebrates reunified Old Courthouse Square with festival
Saturday’s celebration of the newly reunified Old Courthouse Square in downtown Santa Rosa has been in the planning stages for a couple of months, or for half a century, depending on how you look at it.
Festival planning began in March, but it has been more than 50 years since the square was divided in half. “The idea of the festival is to feature and highlight what the square can be, and the kinds of things that can happen there,” said Janet Rogers, vice president of the Santa Rosa Metro Chamber of Commerce.
After of years of debate, study and proposals, the decision was made last year to reverse the division of the square, and the reunification construction got under way last summer.
Now the newly restored square is ready to welcome the public.
“We’ll have a live band, and stilt walkers throughout the day,” Rogers said. “We’re going to have folks dressed up in period costumes talking to people about the history of the square.”
The festival runs from 1:30 to 4 p.m., following a 12:30 p.m. dedication ceremony, and will feature information booths, children’s activities, a historical photo display, food and beer and wine for sale, and more.
The Sonoma County band Highway Poets will play from 2:30 to 4 p.m.
The event celebrates the completion of the $10.5 million project to restore the central space to its original configuration, in the hopes of bringing new life to downtown Santa Rosa.
The first courthouse on the 1.5-acre square went up in 1884, came down in the 1906 earthquake and in 1910 was replaced by the larger version that lasted until 1966, when it was deemed seismically unfit and removed.
That’s when the decision was made to take Mendocino and Santa Rosa avenues, both of which dead-ended at the square, and link them with a four-lane road through the center.
The side streets - Hinton on the east and Exchange on the west - were removed, and, eventually, two narrow parks were created.
You can reach staff writer Dan Taylor at 707-521-5243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @danarts. Staff Writer Kevin McCallum contributed to this article.