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WPA: Court adobe

SUN-STAR PHOTO BY MARCI STENBERG
WPA-ADOBE-

VICTORS STORY
SUN-STAR PHOTO BY MARCI STENBERG WPA-ADOBE- VICTORS STORY Merced Sun-Star

Located next door to the Merced County Sheriff's Department Main Jail, The adobe building at 670 W. 22nd St. is one of the most recognizable Works Progress Administration projects in Merced County.

Built in 1936, the U-shaped, one-story mission revival-style structure received its name because adobe bricks were used in its construction -- a common trend in construction during the 1930s and '40s, according to documents from the state's Department of Parks and Recreation.

Adobe stabilizers, which were oil-based liquids, were added to the bricks to harden them. Back then, commonly used adobe stabilizers included "Bitudobe" and "Caladobe." Some speculate the popularity of adobe construction may have been because of low labor costs associated with the Great Depression.

The building was constructed to serve as a community theater and office building for the city, county and state relief agencies, according to state documents. Today, the building houses county offices, including the traffic division, work release program and central accounting.

According to a July 1936 Sun-Star article, the cost of the building was $30,000. It was designed by county surveyor William "Bill" Bedesen.

After its completion, the main structure housed an auditorium that had a stage and a box office. The auditorium was later turned into the law library, according to a column written by Sarah Lim, director of the Merced County Courthouse Museum.

In recent years, the 22nd Street view of the tan Adobe building had been blocked by trailer buildings. The trailer buildings housed departments 7 and 8 of the Merced County Superior Court system, and were placed in the courtyard in 1978 to help accommodate mushrooming caseloads.

What was meant as a temporary fix, however, remained in place for nearly 30 years, until the county finally tore down the decaying trailer buildings in 2007, after the new courthouse finally opened at M and 23rd streets.

Since then, the courtyard in front of the adobe has been restored.

Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsun-star.com.

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