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Hotel goes back to drawing board on renovating historic building

The Public Market Building entrance to the Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel on the corner of J and 13th Streets

The Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel has been forced to shelve plans to alter the Public Market Building after community members and the city’s Preservation Commission raised concerns at last week’s meeting that the changes could destroy some of the building’s historical features.

Designed by acclaimed architect Julia Morgan, the red brick building was last renovated in 2001 to accommodate the hotel’s lobby, restaurant space and 20,000-square foot meeting room. The hotel now wants to move the restaurant – Morgan’s – from the second floor to the first floor, where it would enclose the existing 300 square feet of the outdoor sidewalk café. The second floor, in turn, would be converted into a 2,500 square-foot junior ballroom.

The changes would alter the equally spaced façades on J and 13th Streets, a fact that did not sit well with some commissioners and community members.

“In every way, this upsets those balances,” said Melissa Mourkas, commission chair. “If this project comes back in this form to this body, I would not approve of this project. I don’t think this type of building will be able to handle this change.”

“There is really no way to add an external addition to this building without representing a negative impact on a historic building,” said William Burg, president of the Sacramento Old City Association.

In November 1923, the Public Market Building opened with a ten-piece orchestra, speeches and a celebration that attracted 40,000 people. Lizzie Glide of the prominent Glide family asked Morgan, by then a well-known architect, to construct the market to be the best-equipped market building on the West Coast with a refrigeration system only second to the San Francisco’s Crystal Palace Market. Fifty years later, the building became the offices for the Secretary of State. Now, it’s a main entrance to the adjacent Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel.

Through the ownership changes, much of the original touches disappeared over the years. By 1981, the terra cotta and transom windows were painted over, and in 1998, the overhead steel structural trusses and brackets were some of the only original pieces left. The Historic Environment Consultants of Carmichael worked on the building’s 2001 renovation project. During construction, they found the original black granite at the building’s base.

“The way we found it was because the engineers came with hammers and hammered holes to it, so they can see what was behind it," said Donald Cox, a consultant on the 2001 project. “And we noticed there was something behind it, so we started pulling out chunks of black granite.”

The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties requires historic buildings to keep changes to distinctive materials, features, spaces and spatial relationships to a minimum, and the removal of these should be avoided. The black granite was one of the last original materials they were able to save.

“It seems to me that the proposed plans that I listened to tonight do not comply with the secretary’s standards as we’ve been told they do,” said Paula Boghosian, a consultant who also worked on the 2001 project. “Several strong character-defining features are going to be changed. There’s only two exterior walls of this building. One of them is going to be obscured, and the building is only two stories tall.”

The Public Market Building is listed in the Sacramento Register of Historic & Cultural Resources and the California Register of Historical Resources and also eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. A hotel spokeswoman said she did not know the date for the next hearing.

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