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Santa Clara County Courthouse


Santa Clara County Courthouse
Old Courthouse, Historic Courthouse, Superior Court


Structure in General

low-rise building
existing [completed]


  • The desire to entice state legislators back to San Jose by providing a building worthy of being a State Capitol was one of the original motivating factors for the construction; the enticement didn't work, and the State Capitol never again resided in San Jose.
  • In 1860, Santa Clara County held a $100 architectural design contest for the courthouse, a contest which was won by Levi I. Goodrich.
  • The building is composed of a six-foot thick, solid brick masonry superstructure and rests on a six-foot deep concrete foundation.
  • The original design and construction of the building included a large dome above the roof that was covered in solid copper.
  • The courthouse survived the 1868, 1906, and 1911 earthquakes largely unscathed.
  • On May 18, 1931, the courthouse suffered a major fire, causing extensive damage including loss of the original dome; the fire was so intense that the dome's copper covering melted and dripped down the front steps of the building.
  • Following the fire from the previous year, the courthouse was restored in 1932; but in place of the dome, a third-floor was added, along with a Spanish-style roof. At this time, the portico was also removed, and the corinthian columns were recessed into the façade.
  • Was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
  • The original frieze above the main entrance was inscribed with the moto "Justitia Dedicata" (Dedicated to Justice), but following the 1931 fire, this was replaced with the words "Santa Clara County Courthouse".

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More Information


161 North 1st Street
161 North 1st Street
San Jose

Technical Data

37.47 ft

Involved Companies

Levi I. Goodrich

Features & Amenities

  • One of the city's famous buildings
  • City landmark
  • National landmark
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