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Bird’s-eye view of tile damage on Santa Barbara County’s historic courthouse

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Arguably, one of the best views in town is from the clock tower above the historic Santa Barbara County Courthouse.

(Courtesy: Beth Farnsworth/KEYT)

News Channel 3-12 got a reverse shot of that view Friday afternoon.

Robert Ooley, Architect for Santa Barbara County and, Rodney Baker, Project Manager for Docent Council and Vice President of Courthouse Legacy Council, led our camera to the top of the courthouse's red-tiled roof.

The massive structure is about to undergo a major, multi-million dollar renovation.

(Courtesy: Beth Farnsworth/KEYT)

"Here's basically the issue," said Ooley. "You've got chicken wire as anchoring and these anchors on the tiles are gone and the underlay is damaged."

The original tiles date back to the 1920's. Many have been damaged over the years from people walking on them or things dropping, including the occasional "dead bird."

Crews started removing a section of tiles this week. Eventually, the underlayment or weather-proofing will be replaced and the proper stainless steel anchoring systems will be reattached. Ooley said the contractor will utilize most of the original tiles; those that can't be saved will be replicated.

(Courtesy: Beth Farnsworth/KEYT)

"The replacements will be made to match the original, not tile from Home Depot."

"I think it's rather astonishing that they're gonna be replacing all this tile and (across) the whole courthouse," said Baker. "It's mind boggling."

Ooley estimated 20,000 terracotta tiles on the courthouse roof will be lifted and said the work will be done in phases. The first phase will include the tile above the iconic clock tower.

The cost of each phase is roughly $3 million dollars with a portion of the funding coming from President Biden's Rescue Plan. Ooley said those overseeing the restoration are working out the remainder of the funding details.

The overall project is expected to take about five years.

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Beth Farnsworth

Beth Farnsworth is the evening anchor for KEYT News Channel 3. To learn more about Beth, click here

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