The Mariposa County Courthouse is the oldest county courthouse in continuous use west of the Rockies. Constructed in 1854, it is one of the finest remaining examples of nineteenth century Greek revival architecture in the Mother Lode.
With the great influx of miners during the early days of the Gold Rush, the need for a county center and courthouse became readily apparent. Up to this time county business was conducted by a Court of Sessions in rented buildings, usually those of the County Clerk. On July 21 of 1854, the Court of Sessions awarded a contract to P. V. Fox and A. F. Shriver in the amount of $9,000 to build a courthouse by the end of the year. The lumber needed for construction was whip-sawed from a fine stand of white pine located less than one mile from the building site. It was then hand-planed, including the tongue-in-groove, at the job site. No nails were used in the supporting structure as the main structural points were held together with pine pegs and are strengthened by mortise and tenon joints. In January of 1855, the two-story, fifty by forty foot courthouse was accepted and court was in session. The courtroom, located on the second floor, still contains many of its original furnishings. A close examination of the benches will disclose the marks left from the carpenter’s plane, even after 140 years of friction from the backsides of spectators and witnesses alike.
The years have seen many changes, additions, and deletions to the original structure, the most famous being the addition of the clock tower and clock in 1866. Shipped from the East around Cape Horn—at a cost of $1,130.35—the bell alone weighs 267 pounds and is inscribed with the following: “Naylor Vickers & Co., 1861-Sheffield.” The four-faced clock is wound by cranking two weighted cables onto separate drums and is still hand cranked today. Listen for the bell as it bongs on the quarter hour. The Courthouse is located on Bullion Street between Ninth and Tenth.

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