Mariposa County Courthouse (No. 670 California Historical Landmark)

The Mariposa County Courthouse is the oldest courthouse in California and the oldest one west of the Rocky Mountains that is still being used. Since 1851, when Mariposa was a vibrant trading center for miners, the courthouse was the place where landmark mining laws were tried, and consequently, set legal precedent for federal mining law.

The four walls enclosing the historic courtroom on the second floor vibrated with the sounds of Colonel John Fremont trying his case for ownership of the Mexican land grant Rancho las Mariposas and win. Attorneys argued cases of murder, divorce, robbery, mining rights, fraud and property disputes. Mariposa’s historic courthouse served nearly one-fifth of all California residents, since the county at that time also encompassed the current counties of Merced, Mono, San Benito, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare, Inyo, Kern and parts of Ventura.

The Greek Revival style courthouse was constructed in 1854, using lumber from nearby forests. The building is constructed by using the interlocking mortise and tenon construction method and held in place with wooden pegs. The original chairs and benches are still being used inside the simply decorated courtroom on the second floor. Modern conveniences, such as electric lights, computers and climate control systems are hidden from view. The tower clock still in work order has three weights that need to be reset every three days to keep it running.

The courthouse is located at 10th and Bullion streets in the city of Mariposa.

Information about Mariposa County Courthouse Historic District is also located at Mariposa County Courthouse.

Mariposa County

The wonders of the Yosemite Valley’s granite cliffs lie in eastern Mariposa County. The small settlements in the western foothills of the country sprang up during the Gold Rush. The people in these early mining towns made many decisions affecting statewide mining law.

Read more


Latitude: 37.489039 Longitude: -119.96788 Elevation: 2020 ft

About this Establishment

California Historical Landmarks Program

Historical Landmarks are sites, buildings, features, or events that are of statewide significance and have anthropological, cultural, military, political, architectural, economic, scientific or technical, religious, experimental, or other value. Historical Landmarks are eligible for registration if they meet at least one of the following criteria:

1) Is the first, last, only, or most significant of its type in the state or within a large geographic region

2) Is associated with an individual or group having a profound influence on the history of California

3) Is a prototype of, or an outstanding example of, a period, style, architectural movement or construction or is one of the more notable works or the best surviving work in a region of a pioneer architect, designer or master builder

California’s Landmark Program began in the late 1800s with the formation of the Landmarks Club and the California Historical Landmarks League. In 1931, the program became official when legislation charged the Department of Natural Resources—and later the California State Chamber of Commerce—with registering and marking buildings of historical interest or landmarks.

In 1948, Governor Earl Warren created the California Historical Landmarks Advisory Committee to increase the integrity and credibility of the program. Finally, this committee was changed to the California Historical Resources Commission in 1974. Information about registered landmarks numbered 770 onward is kept in the California Register of Historical Resources authoritative guide. Landmarks numbered 669 and below were registered prior to establishing specific standards, and may be added to the California Register when criteria for evaluating the properties are adopted.

Share your experience. Please leave a comment below if you've visited this historical landmark.

Time Period Represented


Leave a Comment