Manteca’s Old City Hall at 123 Sycamore Ave. was really the community “everything building.” According to Ken Hafer, founder of the city’s Historical Society, the lower floor had the post office and other offices for the city marshal and city clerk; a large vault for city records; and even a few jail cells. The upper floor contained a room that was then the only library. There was also a courtroom, and a public assembly room used for city council and other community meetings. “The second story also had quarters for the fire ‘boys’ bedrooms and bathroom,” added Hafer.
The seemingly people-popular building appropriately got its start with a lot of help from the public. “The community didn’t really have any money to build the Manteca City Hall in 1923, so a group of citizens organized and incorporated into the Manteca Building Association,” Hafer continued. “They raised the money either amongst themselves or through donations.”
Originally budgeted at $20,000, the city hall ended up costing $28,000. The cornerstone was laid on Nov. 9, 1923, and several thousand people came to see the ceremony. It began at 2 p.m., with the band playing, and songs performed by the grammar school students and the high school glee club.
“Mayor R.E. Leventon acted as the Master of Ceremonies and introduced the town’s first mayor, Joshua Cowell, who was then 80 years old,” said Hafer.
Under the cornerstone, they placed a box containing one-cent memorial stamps, a 1923 silver dollar, a half dollar, a dime, and nickel. There was also a sketch of St. Anthony’s Catholic Church drawn by its first pastor, Rev. J. M. Marchisio, said Hafer.
When the new Manteca City Hall was built in 1975 at 1001 Center St., the cornerstone and box under the old city hall was moved to the Manteca Historical Society’s museum at 600 West Yosemite Ave. Hafer said one contingency in the original donation of the coins in 1923 stated that if they were ever moved, the value of the coins would be given to the donor’s heirs. That request was honored, Hafer said. Other items in the box included the first Manteca High School graduating class yearbook from 1923, an issue of the Manteca Bulletin, and a copy of Pacific Telephone Magazine.
Hafer added that the building has its own interesting history tidbit: Some unknown person in the Manteca area, he said, has the original jail cell door from the Old City Hall.
The current owner of the Old City Hall is Susan Dell’Osso from the Dell’Osso Family Farm. Some of the tenants there now include Word Insurance Service, Bianchi Enterprises, Agape Villages Inc., Software Services, Boyce Resource Development Company, and Narcisse Janitorial.