California County Courthouses


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Completed 1896. This much-admired brick, Romanesque Revival courthouse was rebuilt after the Great Earthquake of 1906 and served the county until 1967, when court offices moved to a new location. The building was remodeled and opened in 1972 as the Cooper House, a mix of offices and retail businesses. It was later demolished after sustaining serious damage in the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989. Courtesy University of California, Santa Cruz
Completed 1889. After a new courthouse was built in Redding in 1956, Shasta's third courthouse was used as a county office building until 1963, when it was demolished to make room for a court annex. Locals remember that the tax assessor's office was placed on the upper floor of the building to discourage complaints about assessments. The statue of Justice and the bell from the dome of the old building are displayed on the grounds. Courtesy Department of Special Collections, University of California Library, Davis
Completed 1854. On November 26, 1885, local carpenters erected wooden gallows in a yard adjacent to this courthouse for the execution of a 19-year-old Irish immigrant convicted of murder. The next day, the gallows was dismantled and stored in the attic of the courthouse until 1927, when startled county employees discovered it. Despite complaints that it was "not conducive to happy thoughts," the gallows was reerected adjacent to the courthouse and survived the 1947 fire that destroyed the building. Restored in 1988, the gallows is recognized as a California Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Courtesy Department of Special Collections, University of California Library, Davis
Completed 1857. By order of county supervisors, Siskiyou's courthouse was to be "placed in the center of the public square in Yreka City," a foresight that residents say helped save the structure from town fires. The plaza was also the site, in 1895, of a lynching in which four men accused of murder were taken from the jail and hanged from a rail post placed between two small locust trees. The courthouse, one of the oldest in the state, remains in use and is the centerpiece of Yreka's Historic District. Courtesy Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles
Completed 1911. Solano's first courthouse, in Benicia, was used as the State Capitol in 1853 and 1854 before the Legislature moved to Sacramento. Four years later, the county government left Benicia for Fairfield, where a new courthouse was built in 1860. The building and its additions served the county until 1911, when an overcrowded jail and offices forced construction of a new building. A classical, granite courthouse was built on the same site. In 1970, the county converted a high school into a new Hall of Justice and the courts vacated the old building, which is still in use as county offices. Courtesy California State Library
Completed 1908. After residents voted to move the county seat from Sonoma to Santa Rosa, Sonoma County built two grand courthouses in the center of the town. The first, completed in 1885, was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake. The second, constructed of locally quarried stone and reinforced with steel and concrete, was "built for all time and the earthquake," according to one local historian. But by the mid-1960s the county was forced to declare the building seismically unsafe and it was demolished. After the courts moved to a new county center, the site was rededicated in 1967 as "Old Courthouse Square." Courtesy Keystone-Mast Collection, California Museum of Photography
Completed 1873. The first murder in Stanislaus occurred just months after the county was divided from Tuolumne in 1854 and involved a gun duel during a dispute over an election for county judge. Since then, Stanislaus has had five county seats and eight courthouses, the most enduring of which was the first, in Modesto. This building, which was expanded in 1904, served the county for 85 years until it was demolished in 1958 to make room for the current county offices. Courtesy Baird Stock Photos, Modesto
Completed 1900. This courthouse is the third built on the same site in Yuba City. The first, built in 1858, was destroyed by fire in 1871. The cause of the disaster, according to one news report, was "mice gnawing the heads of matches left in the office." A second and larger courthouse, completed in 1873, was also set fire, this time by "a Cornishman who was in custody awaiting commitment to the Stockton asylum." The current courthouse is an elegant replica of the second, built in the Classical Revival style and largely preserved in its original state. Courtesy Memorial Museum
Completed 1860. Tehama's first courthouse in Red Bluff was a popular meeting place for unions, political parties, baseball teams, and other community groups. On Sundays it was also a popular place of worship after the sheriff struck a compromise and allowed use of the court by Baptists in the morning, Presbyterians in the afternoon, and Methodists in the evening. The tower was added to the building in 1880, one of many improvements to the building and the grounds. The building was demolished in 1920 to make room for a new facility. Courtesy Meriam Library, California State University, Chico, and Ruth Hitchcock
Completed 1857. After an 1860 grand jury reported that "bedbugs had invaded the offices of the sheriff and the clerk, had defiled the records and in several instances had even attacked a judge on the bench," Trinity County supervisors began to consider moving from the old Weaverville courthouse, which was shared with the Masonic Lodge. In 1865, the county purchased this brick building that then housed offices, hotel rooms, and the Apollo Saloon, which boasted the first piano in the county. The courthouse is still in use and serves as a centerpiece of Weaverville's Historic District. Courtesy Meriam Library, California State University, Chico, and the Hal Goodyear Collection
Completed 1876. Tulare's third courthouse, built on the site of the first and second, was considered one of the most beautiful in the state and used as a model for the courthouses in Fresno and Merced Counties. Damage sustained in a 1952 earthquake made the building unsafe, and it was demolished shortly after the courts and county offices found temporary housing in Visalia. The statue of Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom, on top of the dome was saved and today greets visitors to the county's historical museum. Courtesy California State Library
Completed 1899. Sonora legend has it that the perspective of this elegant building was changed to accommodate the wishes of a prominent citizen who lived across the street and wanted his home to face the front and not the side of the new courthouse. The Romanesque building featured several modern conveniences of the turn of the century; one local newspaper reported citizens touring the building "ablaze with electric lights." The courthouse remains in use and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Courtesy California State Library
Completed 1913. The second of Ventura County's courthouses was turned over to the City of San Buenaventura for use as its city hall after construction of a new county center in 1978. This ornate building, which features a series of gargoyle-like monks' faces along the façade and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is dramatically situated on a hill with full views of the city and the Channel Islands. One of the most celebrated defense attorneys who practiced at the courthouse was Erle Stanley Gardner, the creator of the Perry Mason mystery series, who worked here in the 1920s and 1930s. Courtesy Ventura County Historical Society
Completed 1864. Weakened by earthquakes and characterized by "improper ventilation and foul odors," Yolo's first courthouse was condemned in 1911 as "unsanitary and unfit for the transactions of the court." It was replaced in 1917 by an expanded, classically inspired courthouse that is still in use. The building was restored in the 1980s and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. Courtesy Yolo County Archives
Completed 1855. Many of Yuba's early citizens objected to the use of the St. Charles Hotel, "a flimsy frame building with canvas partitions," as the county courthouse. Accordingly, they selected this sturdy design, modeled after the insignia of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as the county's first true courthouse. The building in Marysville served the county for 107 years until 1962, when the courts moved to a more modern facility. The old courthouse was razed the following year. Courtesy Meriam Library, California State University, Chico, and Community Memorial Museum