E. Carlson, 1999

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161 N. 1st St., "white accent on chocolate brown."

In 1860, architect Levi I. Goodrich won $100 from Santa Clara County for his design of The Santa Clara County Courthouse. Yes, Santa Clara County had a contest to acquire an architectural design on the cheap. The end result was a fine classic design utilizing Corinthian columns and a world-class dome.

The cornerstone was laid in 1866, and the dedication ceremony took place on Jan. 1, 1868. It was hoped that the ornate structure, with its imposing dome, would lure the California State Legislature back to San Jose - it did not.

The courthouses six-foot solid brick masonry superstructure, resting on a six-foot deep concrete foundation withstood the shaking of earthquakes in 1868, 1906, and 1911. Alas and alack, the thick walls were no protection from fire. On May 18, 1931, a fire quickly spread through the courthouse, causing extensive damage including the loss of the dome.

The courthouse was restored in 1932 sans dome, but with the addition of a third floor and Spanish tile roof. At this time the portico was removed, and the columns recessed into the facade. Architects William Curtis and E.M. Binder were contracted for the job.

In 1973 the courthouse was modernized with air conditioning, and new restrooms. John C. Worlsley and Associates, architects, managed the project.

From the steps of the Courthouse, the panorama of 1st St. and St. James Park will fill your eyes with wonder.

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