Photos: Historic Pima County Courthouse reopens after 6 years of renovation
After a six-year closure for renovations, the Pima County Courthouse was reopened during a ceremony Tuesday morning. The event also marked the public opening of "The Embrace," Tucson's memorial marking the Jan. 8th shootings, which sits just to the west of the courthouse.
The event marked the culmination of $32 million project to take the building back to its historic roots. The building has been in use since 1929 and has gone through a handful of renovations, but Pima County officials said that none have been extensive as the most recent one.
The building has been closed since 2015, when the county shifted public services over to the new Pima County Public Service Center, a new building completed that year that contains the Consolidated Justice Courts, as well as the Pima County Assessor's and Recorder's offices.
Members of the Tohono O’odham Nation held a short blessing ceremony to begin the festivities.
While the event was largely celebratory, it was also marked by the absence of Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, who was seriously injured after a car hit him while he was riding his bike in Downtown Tucson on Oct. 23.
During the event Tuesday, Maureen Huckelberry told the crowd that her husband was doing "better, a lot better."
"In fact, he spent Saturday watching the Wildcats beat California on my phone," she said, adding that "My arm is still sore from holding it up for him that long."
"I can’t tell you how excited Chuck was for this event and how disappointed he is that he can’t be here," she said. "He is so proud of how the restoration turned out, how amazing this building is, and how great all the wonderful partners are who have made it their new home."
She added that Huckelberry "talks about this building all the time and brings all of our friends here to see it."
"If he ever retires, you’ll probably still see him every day because I bet he’ll volunteer to be a docent and give tours all day long," she said. "The day of his accident, he was here. He and his bicycle buddies ride here most weekends to get coffee and enjoy the building before continuing their weekly bike ride."
"I wish I could tell you when that will be but we’re still taking things day by day. His progress is slow and steady, but it’s progress," she said.
"Thank you for all your kind words and thoughts and please enjoy the historic courthouse," she added. "Nothing would make me happier. And to know you all love this great public building as much as he does, or maybe not quite as much as he does."
Outside the event, well-wishers were given the opportunity to sign a book for Huckelberry.
Jan Lesher, chief deputy county administrator, acted as the event's MC in place of Huckelberry. Along with Lesher, Sharon Bronson, chair of the Pima County Board of Supervisors, spoke during the event, and was followed by Dr. Joaquin Ruiz, the executive director of the University of Arizona Alfie Norville Gem & Mineral Museum that has been installed in the renovated courthouse, along with Brent DeRaad, president of Visit Tucson.
Bronson said that the building was one of Huckelberry's "gems" and joked that he's the historian of Pima County because "I'm sure he's been here for the 250 years that the courthouse existed."
She praised Huckelberry for turning the "lemon" that was the courthouse into "lemonade," and for working with the Board of Supervisors to ensure that the historic building wouldn't "sit empty and decay further."
"Tearing it down to build something new was simply out of the question," Bronson said.
Former U.S. Rep. Ron Barber also spoke, introducing the January 8th memorial sculptural installation that sits just to the west of the renovated courthouse.
Architect Roy Place designed the historic courthouse, which is considered one of the most outstanding Spanish Colonial Revival buildings in Arizona, Pima County officials said. In 1978, the National Park Service placed it on the National Register of Historic Places, noting its "elegant blue-tiled dome" as the most prominent feature. Today, the mosaic dome serves as the official Pima County logo.
The county will continue the celebration of the courthouse with a weeklong series of free events.
From Nov. 15 to 19, the Historic Courthouse will host 47 special events ranging from an interview about former Pima County Deputy Sheriff Wyatt Earp to a presentation by a movie director sharing his secrets about filming in the Sonoran Desert, county officials said.
The building is rich with history, county officials said. Among the many highlights is the Dillinger Courtroom, which has seen dozens of high-profile cases over the years, including the arraignment of notorious bank robber John Dillinger and his gang.
Visitors can identify the sounds of the Sonoran Desert; discover what Juan Bautista de Anza saw in 1775; and broaden their understanding of the region’s gems and minerals at the UA Gem and Mineral Museum, the county said.
Following the speeches, there was a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and a cake shaped like the courthouse was served along with cupcakes.
Tuesday also marks the county’s birthday, officials said. On Nov. 9, 1865, the first Arizona's territorial Legislature created Pima County as one of Arizona’s four original counties.