California County Courthouses


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Completed 1896. When mining activity around Havilah began to subside, Kern's county seat was moved from the one-time boomtown to Bakersfield. The town's first courthouse was constructed in 1876 but soon proved inadequate for the growing county, and in 1896 it was reconstructed with additions that doubled the size of the original building. When a more modern courthouse was built across the street in 1912, the county sold the old courthouse to the City of Bakersfield for use as its city hall. Both the old and new courthouses were damaged in a 1952 earthquake and demolished. A cement-and-wrought iron fence that enclosed the 1896 courthouse now stands inside the entrance of the Kern County Museum. Courtesy Kern County Museum
Completed 1898. King's County was not officially incorporated until 1893, when it broke away from Tulare and established a county seat in Hanford. For years county offices were spread around the town, with the courts operating out of the Opera House, until supervisors approved plans for a courthouse "in granite stone [with] terra cotta trimmings and the sum of $26,000." The courts and other county offices occupied the Neoclassical Romanesque building until a new government center was constructed in 1977. The building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is now used for offices, retail shops, and restaurants. Courtesy Dave Rantz Custom Photography
Completed 1871. After the first courthouse in Lakeport burned down in 1867, Lake County residents narrowly voted to move the county seat to Lower Lake. Three years later, before the construction of a new courthouse, the county seat was moved back to Lakeport and this Georgian-style courthouse was built on the site of the first. After more modern facilities were completed in 1968, the building was saved from demolition and today serves as the Lake County Museum. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Courtesy California State Library
Completed 1917. The first settlers of what was then known as Honey Lake Valley presumed that they were part of the Nevada Territory, though officials of Plumas County insisted that the valley belonged to California. After tensions on jurisdiction and taxation culminated in a shootout in February 1863, a survey of state boundaries determined that the valley was indeed part of California, and Lassen County was established. The Masonic Lodge and the Magnolia Saloon served as courthouses until a two-story wooden building was constructed in 1867. In 1915, residents approved a bond measure for a new courthouse built of native stone. It remains in use and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Courtesy Department of Special Collections, University of California Library, Davis
Completed 1891. Los Angeles' first building to be built as a courthouse was considered at the time to be one of the West's finest examples of Romanesque architecture. The "Red Sandstone Courthouse" was built at Spring and Temple Streets on what was then known as Poundcake Hill. An outside elevator with windows that was later added to the building became a sightseeing attraction of the city. Damage sustained in the 1933 earthquake made the building unsafe, and it was demolished in 1936. The site is now occupied by the current courthouse. Courtesy Seaver Center for Western History Research, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Completed 1901. After Madera was created from the northern section of Fresno County in 1893, the first superior court was located on the upper floor of a drugstore while plans were made for a courthouse to be built of local granite. Just five years after the completion of the courthouse, a fire on Christmas Eve 1906 destroyed the upper floors and tower, which were quickly rebuilt. The courts and county offices moved out of the building in 1957, and it remained vacant until 1971, when it was renovated as the Madera County Historical Society Museum. The courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Courtesy California State Library
Completed 1873. Marin's first civic center was a converted group of adobe buildings situated in downtown San Rafael. A bond issue for a new courthouse was finally passed in 1872, and construction was begun. The new, Neoclassical courthouse accommodated all of the county offices for nearly a century. By the 1950s, the growth of the county, spurred since 1937 by the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, required the construction of a new complex. The county retained Frank Lloyd Wright to design the Marin County Civic Center, the famed architect's last project. Courtesy California State Library
Completed 1854. Mariposa's landmark remains the state's oldest county courthouse in continuous use. One of the best examples of Greek Revival architecture in the Gold Country, the courthouse still contains many of the original, hand-planed furnishings, and a pot-bellied stove sits in the courtroom. Since there is no jury room, jurors deliberate in the jury box. Among the alterations to the original structure was the addition of the clock tower in 1866. While one newspaper at the time questioned the need "to distinguish the exact time from a mile," the clock, shipped from England around Cape Horn, is today a popular fixture in Mariposa and continues to sound on the quarter-hour. The courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Courtesy Seaver Center for Western History Research, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Completed 1873. After winning out over rival cities for designation as the county seat, Ukiah built its first courthouse, a simple two-story brick building, in 1860. As the county prospered, officials commissioned a much grander building with two-story columns and a dome. Among the court's more dramatic trials was one in 1905 during which a man brought before the court on an insanity charge apparently was not searched and fatally shot the sheriff. The courthouse was demolished in 1950 to make way for a more modern building. Courtesy Callie Coombs, Mendocino County Museum
Completed 1875. Merced's first court hearings took place under a tree on a local ranch that had been designated the county seat after the county separated from Mariposa in 1855. Construction was begun in 1874 on this grand Italianate building designed by Albert A. Bennett, one of the architects of the State Capitol Building in Sacramento. The courthouse is adorned with three statues of Justice and topped by a statue of Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom. It was used as the county courthouse until 1950, when the courts moved to more modern offices. Renovation of the building began in 1975, and the courthouse was rededicated as a museum in 1983. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Courtesy Merced County Courthouse Museum
Completed 1914. The dome of this Neoclassic courthouse, Modoc's third since the county was formed from part of Siskiyou in 1874, can be seen from miles around Alturas. The dome was traditionally painted copper but was repainted gold in 1974, some say to reflect the "Golden State" name while others believe it was the result of a mix-up of paint cans. The basement, which was once used as the jail, no longer houses prisoners but was remodeled and is home to the Public Guardian, the Veterans Service Officer, and other county offices. Courtesy Department of Special Collections, University of California Library, Davis
Completed 1880. After a survey of state boundaries, in 1863 citizens of Mono were alarmed to learn that their county seat, Aurora, lay three miles inside the Territory of Nevada. It was reported that upon hearing the news, the presiding judge immediately closed the court and announced that he would try no further cases there. Voters selected Bridgeport as the new center of government and built a landmark Italianate building that remains in use as one of the state's oldest operating courthouses. The courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Courtesy Eastern California Museum
Completed 1878. The military and social capital of Alta California during Spanish and Mexican rule, the town of Monterey naturally became the county seat when the 27 original counties were formed in 1850. But when it was learned that the railroad was to go through the valley and not along the coast, the government center was moved to Salinas. After the house used as a courthouse burned, this much larger brick Victorian building was commissioned. The courthouse remained in use while the current one was being constructed around it, and then was demolished. Today, a courtyard, lily pond, and commemorative sculpture occupy the site. Courtesy California Historical Society
Completed 1879. The distinctive cupola on Napa's third courthouse, which combined Russian, Gothic, and Victorian styles, withstood the 1906 earthquake, during which a chimney crashed into a judge's chambers. At the time it was constructed, a local newspaper reported that "all the brick used in the construction of the courthouse and jail were made at the old brick yard on the Sonoma Road. About 90,000 were made, which were pronounced by competent judges to be of excellent quality." The courthouse, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is still in use. The cupola was removed after another earthquake in 1964. Courtesy Napa County Historical Society