The two-story brick building complete with Spanish-style roof tile at the point of a triangle-shaped block across from Library Park where Manteca and Sycamore avenues connect at one time was the pride of Manteca.
More than a thousand residents turned out on Nov. 2, 1923 to celebrate the laying of the corner stone for what was to become Manteca’s City Hall.
It was built at a cost of $20,000 or one-thousandth of the $20 million estimate made in 2006 for the price of a new civic center complex. Manteca this summer is paying six times what it cost to build the city hall 92 years ago to place pre-fabricated restrooms in place adjacent to the Civic Center council chambers.
The 52 by 84 foot original city hall not only housed the city clerk and city marshal offices on the first floor but also the post office along with the city jail and fire engine. The second floor was designed for council chambers as well as the dormitory and club room for the fire department. Even at that, there was space left over to initially lease four rooms to the San Joaquin County Health Department.
Completed in January of 1924, it served the city for 54 years until the first phase of the current Civic Center at 1001 W. Center St. was opened in 1978.
The cornerstone placed at what is now referred to as “Old City hall” included a variety of items.
Among the items are various sketches and photos of Joshua Cowell who was 80 years old at the time of the ground breaking ceremonies.
Cowell had walked from the Carson Valley across the Sierra to what is present-day Manteca in 1861 and purchased 3,400 acres that today encompasses most of Central Manteca.
His ranch house once stood where Bank of America is now located on the southeast corner of Yosemite Avenue and Main Street.
Cowell, affectionately known at the time as “The Father of Manteca”, was the city’s first mayor following incorporation in 1918 just five years earlier.
There were dozens of other bits of history sealed in the corner stone including the 1923 copy of the Manteca Union High School book “the Tower”, the Nov. 2, 1923 edition of the Manteca Bulletin, various directories such as the Manteca Telephone book as well as numerous sketches and information on various churches and associations of the day.