MARTINEZ -- The Contra Costa County Historical Society is now open for business at its new location, on Escobar Street just a few blocks from its old Main Street location.

In addition to a number of researchers, recent visitors have included a large number of third-graders from John Swett Elementary School in Martinez.

"Their expressions of delight and awe and curiosity were truly exciting," said Dr. Priscilla A. Couden, the society's executive director.

One youngster wanted to know why the old 19th century leather-bound volumes had bumps on the spine. Others were curious about some wood block stamps that were used for printing pictures in the newspapers in the "olden" days.

After almost 30 years, a move became necessary because the county changed its method of support to a yearly stipend, which the society will use toward paying its rent and utilities.

Moving a collection spanning 162 years, every corner of Contra Costa County and 5,000 square feet of archival materials of the historical society to new quarters was not an easy task. The collection includes more than 13,500 historic photographs, hundreds of copies of county newspapers going back more than a century, bound copies of all Superior Court documents starting in 1850 and much more.

Waters Moving and Storage Company of Martinez, along with volunteers from the historical society, worked under Couden's supervision to move all this quickly and in an organized manner so nothing was lost or damaged.

The moving company's experience with carrying out large commercial moving projects came in very handy, as did the engineering skills of historical society board member John Burgh, who worked with Couden and consultant Kris Carloff to plot on graph paper where everything would go.

California counties are required by law to permanently keep certain records, including those of the Superior Court. The historical society was provided with space by the county for the center to store those mandated records and many other historical records of the county, first in Pleasant Hill, near the present Pleasant Hill Library and then in the former Hilson's Department Store at 610 Main St.

For more information, contact the Contra Costa County Historical Society at www.cocohistory.org, call 925-229-1042 or visit the facility at its new home, 724 Escobar St.

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