Old Sacramento’s the Orleans Renovated to Match Original Architecture

The Orleans, once known as the Gold Rush-era hotel where California’s early state politics took form, once again takes its place as an iconic building in Old Sacramento. monighandesign in Sacramento, Calif., re-created the three-story street-front to match the 1865 original architectural proportions and details.

Contributing to this replica exterior, Kolbe provided the 10-foot-high, wood, double doors that open onto the boardwalk and large windows with true divided lites. The company’s double hung casement windows also were chosen for the two-story addition, which was designed using perspective analysis to carefully conceal the expansion from direct view and preserve the historic façade.

No longer a hotel, the building re-opened in late 2008 as a mixed-use space including 24 lofts with ground-floor retail and a high-end restaurant. Its neighboring buildings – the Union Hotel and the Adams Express – are more than 150-years-old and were essential in calculating the Orleans’ restored scale and style.

“Usually, you’d have lots of historic photos and lithographs available for reference, but the only reliable print we had was a fairly small lithographic that showed the Orleans and the adjacent buildings,” explains monighandesign’s principal, Bruce Monighan, AIA.

He and his team digitally enhanced and enlarged the available image to capture the lithograph’s depiction. “We did it old school and used rulers and calipers to measure the image’s details and compared them to the existing structures. From this, we were able to determine the height of a balcony, the size of a window, the symmetry and proportion of the configurations, and even the thickness of the walls.”

With respect to the area’s heritage, the architectural team managed the extensive approval process involving many local, state and federal agencies. “Frankly, the development team needed more square-footage to make this a leasable space,” says Monighan. “But building up is not historically correct. Addressing this, we set the expansion back 20-feet from the street’s main entrance. We provided perspective renderings to show that you can’t see the two additional floors from this view. Most people have no idea how large of a building it really is.”

Constructed of pinewood with custom, square profiles, the interior trim on Kolbe’s doors and windows were shipped pre-painted with brickmould detached for field installation. The exteriors were clad with durable aluminum, and then finished in a truffle color. Burnett & Sons Millwork in Sacramento, Calif., served as the distributor connecting the design and building team with Kolbe.