The first building constructed in the historic Courthouse complex, and magnificently restored in 2005, the Hall of Records is a monument to sustainable architectural preservation. The historic landmark houses the recording of real estate and vital records (i.e. birth certificates), filings of fictitious business names and marriage services. You can get a marriage license and be married here by a County Clerk. (Divorces are NOT handled here.)

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This panel shows branches of a tree. The center-facing portions of subsequent panels below simulate the appearance of a tree trunk, as though the tree were behind the wooden centerpiece of the door.
The archer whose face and hand are shown in this panel is Calafia, giant warrior queen of "California." The name and character come from a 16th century Spanish novel. Panels to the right and down from here show her elbow drawing back the bow. The center-facing portions of subsequent panels below simulate the appearance of Calafia's full body, as though she were behind the wooden centerpiece of the door. Her foot is three panels down from here.
Three vertical panels on the left door showing Saint Barbara face three panels on the right showing Father Junipero Serra. A conquistador and a friar are shown on panels behind each of them respectively.
The lower left panels show a pre-statehood "Forty-Niner" raising the flag of the Republic of California. Note the Bear (symbol of the Republic) on the right panel. It is in contrast to its counterpart on the opposite door, where the U.S. flag is being raised. Note the wagon train in background on the lowest panels.
The lower right panel shows Lt. Colonel John C. Frémont, who led the U.S. troops during the Mexican-American War, raising the U.S. flag (see stars in top left panel), in contrast to its counterpart on the opposite door. A prospector works at the bottom with a pack burro in the background.

These unique doors contain a total of 30 panels. Albert Yann As shown in the Cast of Characters tour:
executed the panels to capture California history, by hammering plates from the back side in a style called repoussé.

The interior of the original Hall of Records (right) reminded restoration architects of Moorish examples found in Marrakesh, Morocco. Features exemplified in the photo of the 19th century Bahia Palace in Marrakesh (left) provided the inspiration to move service areas to the perimeter, and create the atmosphere of an open courtyard, with palms growing in tiled planters.
(left photo © saiko3p / Shutterstock)

The artfully carved furniture, a unique restoration enhancement, hides vents that transmit air from a geothermal system 400 feet beneath the Hall of Records lawn on the Anacapa side.
Hold your hand to the lower part of the desk and you will feel the air from this system. Other units in the Hall of Records are similarly equiped.
What appears to be a crown on top of the four-part stand-up writing desk, is actually a metal sculpture inspired by the Three Towers of San Marino, which grace the national flag and coat of arms of the Republic of San Marino. The three windows below each tower symbolically represent Saint Barbara's legend, in which she ordered carpenters to construct three windows as a religious tribute.
The eight-pointed configuration of this lantern is an iconic example of Moorish influence. Unlike some other lanterns in the Hall of Records, this has been in the building since the 1929 construction.

Tiles in the main Courthouse stairway inspired the design of these four planters. They were created as part of the Hall of Records restoration to help provide continuity with the rest of the Courthouse complex. Each side has a unique design.

The renovated atrium area shows the results of the Marrakesh inspiration. The open center takes in light from the skylight above. Although the custom-carved furniture and artistic features take one back in time, the area makes full use of modern technology.

Documents were originally transferred between floors via this basket, lowered from the records section. You can see marks on the railing from friction of the basket rope.
The columns in an open-air courtyard (like this example from Marrakesh) were traditionally tiled up to a certain height for weather protection. The multi-tone paint on the columns in the Hall of Records pays homage to that design inspiration.
© art4stock/
The horizontal support beams above the columns appear to be wood, but are actually concrete, with a plaster surface hand-brushed and stained to simulate wood. The hand-brushing technique was found to be labor-intensive in the Hall of Records, so wood-patterned molds were used for the simulation in the rest of the Courthouse complex.
This lantern is a 21st century creation, inspired by its 1920's Courthouse counterparts. It resembles a 16th century ship's lantern, with a crown honoring the ruler. Bud vases trim each corner. The metal flowers, which are also on Courthouse lanterns, were included as a gesture to the restored natural illumination provided by the skylight.

The upper floor houses more office space and the wedding balcony. The balcony is available only to wedding parties by appointment. If you look up, you might see a couple exchanging vows

The shades block strong sunlight. When pulled back, they reveal the full glory of the skylight and the art on the skylight beams.
The decorative three-dimensional arches enclosing alternating diamond patterns are reminiscent of open defensive arches in Andalusian castles called machicolations.
The keyhole shape of the window arches matches the turret door below.

The stenciled artwork on the beams and arches, like all the stenciling in the building, was done by John B. Smeraldi. As shown in the Cast of Characters tour:

The original skylight was covered up in 1966 due to leakage and remained so until the 2005 restoration. During the restoration, the 128 glass panels were replaced and sealed, enabling illumination of the Hall of Records with natural light.

The painting on the storage closet door represents symbols of royalty and nobility. There is a similar door in the vestibule as you exit the building.
The restoration project uncovered this magnificent tile mosaic atop the turret, under decades of dust and debris. It is only visible from the second floor balcony, closed to the public except for weddings.

A whimsical detail is provided by the storage closet, which resembles a castle turret.

As you exit, you see the wood back of the copper-paneled doors. Each panel is covered in one of a pair of simple patterns: the eight-pointed star, and the eight-pointed flower. The eight-pointed star has symbolic meaning in many cultures. In Native American cultures, it symbolizes hope.

Photo Credits - Marie Morrisroe, William Espinosa, Scott Ehrnschwender
and Robert Dickey, except as otherwise noted.

Acknowledgements to County Architect Robert Ooley, FAIA,
Restoration Architect Britton Jewett, AIA and
County Clerk Recorder-Assessor Joseph E. Holland for the awe-inspiring restoration.

We hope you enjoyed your tour experience and we welcome your feedback. Please go to our feedback page.