Manteca was incorporated as a city barely five years when its brick City Hall was built. That was in 1923. The small town was home to nearly 2,000 hardy souls – most of them farmers – at that time. Irrigation water had been flowing for two decades – liquid gold then as now to the local farmers. Prevailing economic conditions all conspired and guaranteed that it was a good time to build a city hall for the fast-growing town which only counted 100 settlers in 1910.
Soon enough, the imposing brick building joined the small but thriving commercial skyline in the heart of Manteca.
Nine decades later, the benevolent-looking structure is still standing in the center of today’s downtown, a mute witness to the growth that has sprouted all around it and beyond through the years.
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The City Hall of 1923
The following details about the original one-building city hall were culled from long-time Manteca residents, primarily Ken Hafer of the Manteca Historical Society and Museum and Albert Boyce, Jr. who, with the late Al Brocchini, became the owners of the building after they purchased it from the Ramsey family who were the owners of the now-defunct Ramsey Seeds, later Cel-Pril, on Oak Street.
Manteca’s first city hall originated as a one-building city operation. All business was transacted inside the two-story structure. Upstairs was the council chambers. Downstairs was home to the town’s library which occupied a corner of it, the courthouse, the council chambers which were upstairs, the post office, a one-cell jail, the police department, and the fire department.
On the north side of the building is a “bump-out,” about three to four feet deep, which was part of the city jail.
The main entrance was on Sycamore Avenue. The double doors opened to a wide staircase that took people straight to the council chambers upstairs where meetings were held.
Today, that entrance opens to an airy lobby, with doors to the left and right. The door at left leads to one of the two occupants on the ground floor, an insurance company. The door at right is the other entrance to Boyce Development, but is not the main entrance into the business. That entrance is located on the side of the building facing the Library Park.
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The new and improved old city hall
Sometime in the late 1970s or maybe in the 1980s – the exact dates could not be ascertained – Cel-Pril which was owned by the Ramsey family in Manteca, bought the old city hall. It was Cel-Pril which remodeled the upstairs portion of the building, Boyce said. Later, when the property was acquired by him and Brocchini from the Ramseys, “Aldo and I remodeled the downstairs,” he said.
There are three suites on the ground floor – two are occupied by Boyce Development, the other by the insurance company. Both have separate entrances.
“It wasn’t bad; it just needed to be remodeled to be usable,” Boyce said, recalling the fine condition of the building when they took ownership. It also needed to be made earthquake-proof which they did.
The “new” building, while manifesting all of its old brick glory on the outside, enjoys all modern features inside. The most spacious executive suite is the office of Boyce, who is also a farmer and cattle rancher. The taxidermy head of a rare blue Texas Longhorn dominates one wall of his office décor.
Two other suites inside, behind the spacious front lobby and counter, belong to Boyce’s son, Albert, and the company CFO, Gary Rose.
There was a move afoot to get a historical-site designation of the building from the state. However, that did not materialize. The state, as it turned out, would not approve that designation unless the building was brought back to its original configuration. When the building was remodeled, some architectural changes were made; hence, the building did not qualify for the historical-site designation.
After Brocchini died, the old city hall building was sold to Susan Dell’Osso who is the current owner today, with Boyce Development now leasing from her its offices downstairs.
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The building was sold when the new civic center at 1001 W. Center Street was built, and the old cornerstone was taken out. On the 2-1/2-feet “very heavy” marble cornerstone was engraved the year city hall was built. That cornerstone is now on display at the Manteca Historical Museum.
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A bit of trivia connected
about the old city hall
Before the present-day library was built, the library was moved out of the old city hall to the building on Yosemite Avenue that is now a Chinese restaurant at the end of the block.