You are here
Cobre Valley Center for the Arts
In February 1881, the new Gila County was created from parts of Maricopa and Pinal. Eight years later, a portion of Yavapai County was added. Globe was chosen as the county seat, with its first offices located in leased adobe buildings on the northeast corner of Broad and Oak streets. The county purchased these buildings in 1882, eventually razing them to make room for a two-story courthouse and jail in 1888, a square stone building with a hipped roof. It was functional, if not elegant, but not designed to be easily expanded if community needs changed. Within a few years there was talk of adding a third floor, but county debts dampened the discussion.
The economic status of the county improved substantially as the nineteenth century drew to a close. A railroad line connecting to the transcontinental Southern Pacific was completed to Globe in 1898; perhaps more importantly, the new methods of smelting low-grade copper ore caused the expansion of local mining operations. The county and the community grew so rapidly in the next few years that a new courthouse, rather than a remodeled one, was needed.
In 1905 the county issued $40,000 worth of bonds toward the design and construction of a new courthouse. W. R. Norton of Phoenix was retained as the architect and, as had been done twenty-three years earlier, the old courthouse was demolished to make way for its successor. The dacite stones were salvaged for use in the new building.
The second Gila County Courthouse, built in 1906–1907, is a massive, three-story structure, approximately eighty by eighty feet. It is a classical composition whose dominant expression is derived from the style of the Italian Renaissance. The building is symmetrical with engaged columns flanking the entry and rising to an ornate frieze and cornice on the southwest elevation. The courthouse has additional classical details, rendered in pressed metal, in the window heads on the principal story and along the roofline cornice, particularly at the corners. The central portion of the building is four stories in height, flanked by three-storied wings, and constructed of coursed cut stone. The truncated hipped roof formerly had a crenellated trim. Segmented pediments accentuate the front door and the windows of the main level. Four round windows with three keyhole clerestory windows above punctuate the facade over the entryway. Two recesses on the southeast side reach to the middle of the third floor, culminating in balconies. Brick is used for interior bearing walls, while the floors and roof are of wood frame construction.
The sixteen-cell jail, justice court, and sheriff’s office were located on the lower floor. On the main floor, reached by an external, pyramidal stairway, were offices for the board of supervisors, school superintendent, probate judge, treasurer, recorder, and assessor. A grand staircase with copper-clad railings nearly filled a central atrium. Second-story balconies looked down on the stairway, and light came from a skylight high above. The law library, courtroom, and judge’s chambers, as well as offices for the court clerk and district attorney and a law library, were on the upper floor.
When the building was completed in November 1907, it was considered both attractive and spacious. But as Gila County continued to grow (the population increased from fewer than five thousand in 1900 to more than 25,000 in 1920), other modifications and additions became necessary. In 1910, a steam heating plant was installed and a freestanding jail building completed at the rear. Additional remodeling projects were initiated in 1912 and 1916. The alterations included combining the offices of the Clerk, Assessor, and Board of Supervisors by removing a partition wall; enclosing part of the hallway on the main floor for use by the Assessor; and enlarging the vaults on the south end used by both clerks, necessitating infilling several windows on that side with matching dacite blocks. On the upper floors, the Clerk of the Court took over space assigned for use by jurors.
Roof improvements and alterations to the upper floors were begun in late 1918. The present configuration of the main interior stairway was probably finished as part of that work. In 1919 the attic was converted into a fourth floor to make space for two jury rooms. Evidence of these changes was most noticeable on the southwest facade where the cornice was reduced and the frieze replaced by a set of windows.
For more than seventy-five years, the business of Gila County was carried out in the 1907 courthouse. To the developing community of Globe, its size and design sophistication reflected the town’s transition from a rough-and-tumble mining camp to a permanent community with aspirations of taste and refinement. Construction of the courthouse catalyzed the realization of many other new buildings. By the time the Second Gila County Courthouse was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, it was already becoming overcrowded and outdated. A new courthouse complex at the east end of town was completed in 1978. In 1984, the vacant courthouse became the Cobre Valley Center for the Arts. A long-range rehabilitation project was initiated at that time and continues to the present.
Haak, Wilbur. Globe’s Historic Buildings. Globe, AZ: Gila County Historical Museum, c. 2000.
Wilson, Marjorie, for Arizona State Parks Board, “Gila County Courthouse” Gila County, Arizona. National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form, 1975. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.
If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.
SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.