Santa Rosa's Old Courthouse Square, then and now

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Old Courthouse Square, first known as a plaza before the mall usurped the name, was the master work of Julio Carrillo and Barney Hoen. Over 160 years ago, the pair donated two halves of the square for a new county seat. Carrillo had the vision of building a central plaza, similar to those found in Spanish and Mexican towns.

The square was a site for gatherings, social and political. The first county fairs were held there. Business addresses and directions started from the plaza. Everything from Maypole festivals to protests were held there.

In the 1960s, planners were inspired by a wave of Urban Renewal programs that swept the country. In an attempt to draw consumers back downtown from outlying shopping centers, such as Coddingtown and Montgomery Village, they divided the square into two parts to connect Mendocino and Santa Rosa avenues.

Before a decade had passed, public dissatisfaction led city planners to reconsider their possible mistake. That was over 30 years ago, and it is finally coming to fruition.

Click through our gallery of Old Courthouse Square from 1885 to today.

— Press Democrat columnist Gaye LeBaron contributed to this report.

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