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Fresno City College OAB Earns National Historic Preservation Honor

Nov 12, 2014

The historic Old Administration Building at Fresno City College was restored in 2011after sitting vacant for decades.
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Long abandoned and once nearly demolished, Fresno City College's newly restored Old Administration Building (OAB) is now the recipient of a prestigious national award. The National Trust For Historic Preservation announced Wednesday that it has awarded the project its Preservation Honor Award. It is one of 17 projects nationwide to receive the award, which is one of the nation's top historic preservation honors. 

Tim Mikulski with the National Trust says the OAB is significant both in Fresno's history, and in the development of school architecture nationally:

Mikluski: "It was the first permanent structure at what became the state’s first community college. Along with the Old Library, it is the original campus’ only remaining building. It was also designed around two open air courtyards to take advantage of the mild, sunny climate – a distinct step in the advancement of healthy school architecture."

The building was constructed in 1916 as the main academic hall for what was then the Fresno Normal School, which later became Fresno State College. After the college relocated to Cedar and Shaw Avenues in the 1950's, the OAB became a part of Fresno City College. After serving as classroom and office space for years, the building closed in the mid 1970's, and was threatened with demolition. In 2002, voters passed a bond measure that provided for the building's restoration and seismic retrofit, which was completed in 2011. The project cost $39.2 million and included renovated classroom space, auditorium and courtyard.

Mikulski says the restoration of the building not only provided new space for about 2,000 students on the crowded Fresno City College campus, but was also environmentally friendly.

Mikulski: "The rehabilitation and reuse of the space is also sustainable with the reuse of all exterior walls; 80% of original roof tiles recycled for reuse; and 90% of the 1,200 windows rehabilitated for reuse. The building is also tied to Fresno’s Porter Tract Historic District, the city’s first official district." 

The award is shared by the State Center Community College District and project architects ELS Architecture and Urban Design of Berkeley.

The National Trust For Historic Preservation described the honor:

The National Preservation Awards are bestowed on distinguished individuals, nonprofit organizations, public agencies and corporations whose skill and determination have given new meaning to their communities through preservation of our architectural and cultural heritage. These efforts include citizens’ attempts to save and maintain important landmarks; companies and craftsmen whose work restores the richness of the past; the vision of public officials who support preservation projects and legislation in their communities; and educators and journalists who help Americans understand the value of preservation. 

The project also won an an Award of Merit from the San Francisco chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 2012 for historic preservation.