California County Courthouses

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Completed 1864. The first courthouse on this site in Nevada City was built in 1856, damaged by fire the same year, and then rebuilt. When fire again damaged the courthouse in 1863, a new courthouse was built on the same site. The lobby of the building, which was extensively remodeled in the 1930s and given an Art Deco façade, houses a collection of photographs of the courthouse as well as other exhibits. It remains in use. Courtesy California State Library
Completed 1901. One of Southern California's oldest court buildings, the Old Orange County Courthouse is also one of the state's few surviving Romanesque Revival-style buildings. The courts occupied the building until 1969, when they moved to more modern facilities on Civic Center Drive. Restoration of the old courthouse began in 1983 and was completed in 1992. The building now houses the Orange County History Center as well as county offices and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Courtesy Seaver Center for Western History Research, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Completed 1898. Once facing an uncertain future, this California landmark was restored in the 1980s and now houses the superior courts, jury rooms, judges' chambers, and court offices. A popular feature of the Auburn courthouse since 1908 is the Neff Fountain, a 15-foot-high water fountain that, according to one local historian, provided "a place where people, horses, and dogs could drink." The fountain is now used as a garden centerpiece in front of the courthouse. Courtesy Placer County Historical Society
Completed 1921. The size and cost of this classically inspired courthouse, which replaced a more modest New England-style building, was considered so exorbitant for the county that there was talk of recalling the board of supervisors. Over the years, several escape attempts were made from the jail, which was once located on the fourth floor of the building. One inmate broke his leg when the sheets he had tied together came apart as he lowered himself to the ground. The building remains in official use and is preserved in its near-original state. With an interior paved in Tuolumne marble and accented with pink Tennessee marble, the public spaces are favorite places for weddings and other social functions. Courtesy Department of Special Collections, University of California Library, Davis
Completed 1904. Riverside's original courthouse was rented space on the ground floor of a downtown hotel until a 1902 bond measure for construction of a monumental new courthouse won voter approval. Modeled on the Grand Palais in Paris, the building occupies nearly a full block and reflects Riverside's turn-of-the-century status as one of the state's wealthiest counties. After sustaining minor damage in previous earthquakes, in 1994 the building was vacated following the Northridge quake. Riverside's landmark was restored with funds from court filing fees and rededicated in October 1998. Courtesy Historical Library, First American Title Insurance, Santa Ana
Completed 1910. Sacramento's first courthouse, built in 1851, became the Capitol in 1854 and was destroyed in a fire that same year. After the county outgrew its second courthouse, this three-story granite-and-marble county center was "built to last forever" but was abandoned in 1965 for a more modern facility and demolished in 1970. A new county jail was constructed on the site in 1989. Courtesy California State Library
Completed 1888. San Benito's third courthouse was a lavishly decorated building with an exterior modeled on the Farnese Palace in Rome and elaborate balustrades of polished red cedar within. The Hollister landmark withstood many earthquakes but was structurally damaged in a 1961 quake. The courts were moved into a quickly remodeled library while a new courthouse was constructed. The old courthouse was razed the following year. Courtesy Harry Callum, Hollister
Completed 1898. After supervisors approved a $40,000 tax to construct a new Hall of Records in the late 1880s, south county residents voted to separate from San Bernardino and formed Riverside County in 1893. Undeterred, San Bernardino supervisors approved another tax to finance the construction of this Romanesque Revival building, which was demolished in 1928 after the construction of the current courthouse. The clock in this photo was removed and stored for more than 40 years until it was reinstalled in a new tower a half block from the site of the old courthouse. Courtesy California State Library
Completed 1889. The 42 stained-glass windows from the clerestory of the 19th-century building, which was razed in 1959, are now displayed in county courthouses around San Diego, including 12 in the central atrium of the Hall of Justice. The elaborate windows depict the Great Seals of all the states then in the Union and were recovered from a rented storage area in 1978. Courtesy San Diego Historical Society
Completed 1915. The great earthquake and fire of 1906 demolished both San Francisco's Hall of Justice and City Hall, where the civil courts were located. A new Hall of Justice was completed on Portsmouth Square near Chinatown in 1911, while the civil courts returned to the new City Hall, now part of a grand Civic Center complex, in 1916. The monumental beaux-arts structure was damaged in the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 and closed for retrofitting. The civil courts returned to the newly built Civic Center Courthouse adjacent to City Hall in December 1997. City Hall was completed in late 1998 and reopened to the public in January 1999. The Civic Center is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Courtesy Bancroft Library
Completed 1890. Of all the substantial buildings erected in the late-19th-century boom years in Stockton ("destined to become the Chicago of the West," according to one writer at the time), the courthouse was the most impressive. Among its many marvels was a gas well "providing heat and light without cost to taxpayers" and a statue of Justice atop a dome that rose 172 feet above the street. The building was demolished in 1961 to make room for a new courthouse. Courtesy San Joaquin Registrar of Voters and State Bar of California
Completed 1873. San Luis Obispo officials agreed to construct a new courthouse after the district attorney pronounced the adobe used for county business since 1851 "a marvel of repulsiveness, and the courtroom with its wretched appointment a disgrace to the county." This classic Greek Revival building (shown during a Fourth of July celebration) was welcomed by new residents as a break from the colonial past and became the center of the growing town. The courthouse was demolished in 1940. Courtesy San Luis Obispo Historical Museum and State Bar of California
Completed 1910. The fourth and grandest of San Mateo's courthouses was built on the site of the second and third, which were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake. It was here in Redwood City in 1931 that the colorful jurist George H. Buck decided the Flood Estate case, a battle over the estate of a wealthy financier and philanthropist that gained national attention. The Roman Renaissance building was turned over to the San Mateo County Historical Association in 1997 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Courtesy Redwood City Public Library
Completed 1872. Once the pride of Victorian Santa Barbara, by the 1920s the Greek Revival courthouse was overwhelmed by the growth of the county and out of step with the region's Mission Revival and Spanish Colonial architectural movements. A 1925 earthquake settled the question of what to do with the old courthouse, and by 1929 Santa Barbara had a new Spanish-style courthouse that is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Above the entrance to the current courthouse is the inscription "God Gave Us the Country, the Skill of Man Hath Built the Town." Courtesy Seaver Center for Western History Research, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Completed 1868. During California's first 15 years of statehood, Santa Clara had no fewer than five courthouses, beginning with an adobe juzgado, or Mexican courthouse, and ending with this Roman Corinthian landmark on St. James Park. The building withstood numerous earthquakes and fires, including a disastrous blaze in 1931 that gutted the building. Damage sustained in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake nearly led to its demolition, but after a $12.4 million seismic retrofit and restoration project the building was reopened in 1994 and is still in use today. Courtesy County of Santa Clara