Save the Citadel – Our Historic Capitol Annex


Milford Wayne Donaldson FAIA
California State Historic Preservation Officer, 2004-2012
Chairman of Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, 2010-2019

My name is Milford Wayne Donaldson. I am a Preservation Architect for 44 years with my old firm. And a few years ago, I was appointed as the State Historic Preservation Officer and served in that capacity for 10 years. During that time in 2010, I was appointed by President Obama to become the Chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

There is a big difference between the planned glass monstrosity as I was saying, because it's so large, or the Crystal Palace for our legislators and this wonderful, designed Annex building from 1952 by the state architect Alfred Eichler. And it's important to note, that when he was designing this one, he was thinking not only of permanent materials. You can never build a building like this now because you got wonderful book matched marble panels in there.

… incredible Terrazzo floors. You have one of the first uses of aluminum storefronts inside. So, the maintenance of this of the building, at least in terms of the materials is very low. That's not the problem.

Also, notice the size of the openings of the windows. In today's post 911 problems that we have in security he was actually thinking of that. Remember we were, only what? Seven years away from the ending of WWII when this was built.

They certainly knew security during this time. They also knew what riots would do and everything else. So, this is a haven. It's a citadel for our legislators right now. So why change that? We can rehabilitate it. We can make the rooms better if that's the case. And certainly, we can bring up all the communications, fire sprinklers, all these things that we always use in historic buildings to make it first.

Besides just the annex itself the Capitol that we have here in California was greatly influenced by the nation's capitol. In addition to that, just like the nation's capitol we have our own mile long mall that goes all the way down from here, and as you're looking from the West Steps you can see Tower Bridge which goes into West Sacramento. Also, designed by State Architect Alfred Eichler.

So why did Eichler design all these buildings? Well, back then the State Architect did all the design. They did the schools. They did any of the public buildings themselves and they had a very large firm. It was only later that they're hiring now, architects that are private, are in private business. Which is a shame because you can see the continuity.

For instance, the Library and Courts Building which DGS, when I was a State Historic Preservation Officer went and rehab that building.

We understand that the hazardous materials are going to be removed from the building in a couple weeks. It's been my experience, in the past that the contractors that remove this material are also demolition contractors.

But there are some good ones out there. And if the building was going to be rehabbed, then only those elements that are basically friable or loose or flaky or that need to be basically remediated. They're good at doing that without as we say, ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater.’

They're not going to take the time and care to do it. They're going to make sure that they follow all of theEnvironmental Protection Agencies laws in doing it. But they're going to get in there and just rip it apart. So even though we've been told that they're not going to start demolition until August of this year, by the time the hazardous material contractors there will not be anything left. And I've had this happen in the past. Mostly from developers that did not want to really save the building.

In fact, we had a horrible project in San Diego. Where they came in and actually chiseled off all the ornamentation and everything else. And then what happens, is you don't have any architectural integrity left. So, they say we lost all the integrity this can't be historic now so therefore, none of these laws apply.

So, we're really worried. We do have some lawsuits on the books to try to at least stop this. So, people can try to clear their heads. And really come back and take another look and give us a rehabilitation plan like the legislators were supposed to in the Environmental Impact Report.

So, here's my fear, is that if this project moves forward, and this annex is demolished, and this horrible Crystal Palace is built in its place is it sets a horrible precedent that will start us not believing in our government can preserve historic structures like everyone else has to. Whether you're a developer, whether you're another state agency, or whatever, you have to preserve these buildings.

So now what you're starting is you're going to start a horrible precedent that nobody is going to believe that California can actually do serious historic rehabilitation and preservation of our history.

It just irritates me that we have been completely isolated from this process. Meetings held secretly by our own legislators it just irks me. I can’t tell you how much it upsets me.

But especially in today's preservation world that we have throughout the world now. That people are very sensitive about everything that we do.  

We're talking about the multitude of everyone's history in this. And everyone's history is in this Annex building, and we must preserve it at all costs.