Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Siskiyou County Courthouse 1857

Pictured is the original Siskiyou County Courthouse situated in the center of Courthouse Square, this photo is from the 1880's. It is the two-story brick building located within the white picket fence. The brick Catholic church can be seen at the center of the photo. The smaller brick building to the right of the church with the brick fence, was the jail.
Gold was discovered in the immediate area of Yreka in 1851, and within one year the California legislature created Siskiyou County. Yreka was named as the county seat. For the first few years the county offices and courtroom were in rented buildings and places within the town. Typical of many gold rush towns, Yreka's courtroom was located at a local saloon and place of lodging. It served as a courtroom and offices during the day, and saloon and lodging at night.

By 1856 the county had put money aside for the courthouse to be built. Building commenced and in 1857 a new brick two story courthouse was located in the middle of Yreka's only public square.

In 1871 woman's sufferage came to Yreka! Susan B. Anthony addressed a large audience right from the courthouse steps and gave a passionate speech on behalf of her beliefs. One of the local papers, The Yreka Journal provided an interesting editorial article on this particular event.

This two story courthouse served Yreka from 1857 to 1896 when North and South wings were added to the existing structure along with a cupola. During the same time cornices over the doors and windows were added along with porticos and a new roof. The original courthouse still remains within the walls today, although barely visible.

In 1910 the county added a new and expanded Hall of Records just south and adjacent to the courthouse. This updated courthouse and lovely Hall of Records was a strong source of civic pride for many years. Many of the historic photographs of the courthouse show a lovely scene of the main building, the Hall of Records and a nicely groomed courthouse square with walkways, trees, and decorative landscaping.

During 1953-54 a new major building project was undertaken for courthouse improvements. A much larger, newer, "more moderne" building was built ~ right in the exact front of the old original courthouse! The orginial buildings are still there hidden from view from the larger more international style building. If one walks around the backside of what little remains of courthouse square the original 1896 structure can be seen, and with a little imagination even the original 1851 portion of the building. Today many folks lament about this large edifice right in front of our once lovely and gracious courthouse and wonder "what were they thinking"? Had they only built it on an adjacent empty lot...

It is interesting to note that the once stately Hall of Records was physically built into this new structure, photos from the construction shows the walls going up around the existing Hall.
The Siskiyou County Courthouse is one of the oldest in the state and has existed without any fire damage from the beginning to today. These wonderful buildings are a strong link to our past and should continue to be revered for the activities and history which they have been priviledged to "see".
Copyright: Claudia East, 2008

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