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Our Courthouse's History
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Our Courthouse's History


The Modoc County Courthouse is the hub of county government and provides a great deal of aesthetic value to the county. It is a land mark that can be seen from any highway or trail coming into Alturas. The beauty and grandeur of this impressive building is worthy as a monument for future generations. The planners of construction in 1914 had wonderful foresight in building such a superior quality structure. The timeless architecture and the striking copper painted dome provides a government seat that any county would be proud of.

A Brief History of Modoc Courthouses

There have been a total of three county courthouses since the county was created from a section of Siskiyou County on February 17, 1874. The first county courthouse was actually a "community building" that served the public in a variety of ways. Not only court sessions were held in this building but public meetings, church services, and dances as well. It was a long building with a low ceiling that got hot in the summer and cold in the winter.

The first real county courthouse was constructed in 1883-1884 and stood at the site where the Veteran's Memorial Building is located today (Main and Water Streets). The cost of this first courthouse was a total of $3,244 and T.B. Reese was the superintendent of construction. The building served as the courthouse for nearly 40 years before the present courthouse was built. The building was torn down in its later years for salvage lumber.

Then, in 1914, the majestic building that still stands today was designed by Frederick J. DeLonchamps. The building costs totaled nearly $90,000 with W.N. Concannon being awarded the general building contract. The DeLonchamps' plan alone cost a whopping $5,040. DeLonchamps also designed courthouses in Yolo, and Riverside counties in California and Washoe County in Nevada. However, the Modoc County Courthouse is the only building designed by Delonchamps that is still being used.

Below is a blueprint sketch made by Frederick J. DeLonchamps. This was the first view of what the courthouse would look like before being built in 1914. Click the image to see the larger image. Below is a picture of the Modoc County Courthouse still standing today. The building is still used nearly every day of the year and is fully functional. Click the image to see the larger image.

Design and Structure

The Courthouse was built and designed in Neo Classic Style. It is exemplified by Greek and Roman influence, symmetrical arrangement, building of monumental proportions, and finished with a polished "stone" surface. It is built of reinforced concrete, stuccoed and scored to imitate stone masonry. The style is similar to the Beaux Art style, but lacks the variety of stonework, and a large exuberance of detail such as curly cues, gingerbread, and fancy windows. The interior is finely decorated with marble and brass. The building's many windows provide adequate light that gives the interior a warm and welcoming feeling. Click on the thumbnails below to see enlarged versions of court exterior and interior.

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