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Modoc County Courthouse

Historic Site or District
The Modoc County Courthouse as it looks today. – Lorissa Soriano

ADA Accessibility Notes

There is limited ADA accessibility at this historic building.

The Modoc County Courthouse is one of the oldest and most beautiful buildings still standing and used in Modoc today. It is also one of the last free standing courthouses in the state of California. Modoc County has had three courthouses since its inception in 1874, and all of them have been located in Alturas. The first was actually a "community building". Not only were court sessions held in this building, but public meetings, church services and dances as well.

In 1883-84 the first courthouse was built at the site where the Veteran's Memorial building is located today on Main and Water Street. J.A Kerr was awarded the contract to build this courthouse at the cost of $3,244.00. T.B. Reese was the superintendent of the construction. According to Joe Layton a long time resident of Alturas, A.M. Miller "an old Dutchman", tore down this courthouse for salvage lumber.

Then in 1914, the majestic building and courthouse that stands today was constructed. The building costs totaled nearly $90,000. with W.M.Concanon being awarded the general building contract. The architectural design by Frederick J. DeLonchamps was a whopping $5,040. 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. DeLonchamps also designed courthouses in Yolo, and Riverside counties in California and Washoe County in Nevada.

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 inviting feeling. The stain glass window at the very peak of the building is not only beautiful stained glass, but functional and serves as a ventilator and actually opens and closes.The seats in the superior court room are the original seats. They even have hat hangers located under the seats for the cowboys to hang their hats.

It houses the County offices of Auditor/Clerk, Treasurer/Tax Collector, Assessor, District Attorney, IT, Elections, Clerk to the Board, and a courtroom still used by the Modoc Superior Court.

Many controversial cases were tried here. One of the most famous cases that took place was the Lookout Lynching. The Lookout Lynching was one of the most publicized cases ever tried in the west, when five men were hung from a bridge in the spring of 1901. More than 25 men from the Lookout area were charged with the murder of the five men. In November 1901, one man was chosen to be indicted by the Modoc County Grand Jury as a test case. His trial lasted more than 90 days, and brought much unfavorable publicity to Modoc County. A "not guilty" verdict was rendered, after some extenuating circumstances were pointed out. All other indictments were dismissed after the one trial.

The Modoc County Courthouse is the hub of county government and provides a great deal of aesthetic value to the county. It is a landmark that can be seen from any highway or trail coming into Alturas. The timeless architecture and the striking copper painted dome provides a government seat that any county would be proud of.

The site of the Modoc County Courthouse includes the Modoc County Sheriff's office as well as the current Modoc Superior Court. In the past, the jail was housed in the bottom levels of the Modoc County Courthouse. The inmates were used to feed wood into the boiler system in the basement to heat the courthouse.

Pet Friendly Notes

No pets please.

Time Period Represented

1900s Neo Classic style


8:30am to 5pm Monday thru Friday

Seasons Open

Open daily


Free to browse

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