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Storey County Courthouse

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1877, Kenitzer and Raun. Southwest corner of S. B and Union sts.
  • Storey County Courthouse
  • Storey County Courthouse

The Storey County Courthouse is the focal point of B Street. It was the most expensive county building erected in Nevada during its first sixty years, not to be outdone until Reno constructed the Washoe County Courthouse between 1909 and 1911. Testifying to the wealth of the Comstock, the Storey County facilities seemed to promise that its mines would continue to prosper. After the original courthouse burned down in the Great Fire of 1875, the county commissioners asked Kenitzer and Raun of San Francisco to provide design options. The architects furnished three designs, two with Gothic Revival details to be executed in stone or brick and iron. The commissioners selected the third and most expensive of the proposals: a two-story Italianate stone structure with a fine brick facade and iron details. Though the exact reasons for their choice are unclear, the desire to display a prosperous appearance was certainly a major factor. Those with inside information knew that no new ore deposits had been discovered, indicating that a bust was imminent, so a new, monumental courthouse would help convince investors to keep funneling more money into the region.

The two-story building, still the county courthouse, provides office space for all the major agencies of local government. The interior retains much of the original fabric, including paneled doors, ornate gaslight fixtures, now converted to electricity, and gracious 18-foot-high ceilings on the first floor. Local judges still hear cases in the courtroom, which has been preserved in almost pristine condition with grained oak wainscot, marble fireplaces, and walnut furnishings and bar. The county used the double-tier jail until its closing in the 1980s because it did not meet federal standards.

One of the principal curiosities of the Storey County Courthouse is the 7-foot zinc statue of Justice that stands in a recess above the main doorway. The only such freestanding statue to adorn the outside of a Nevada courthouse, it is also unusual because the figure lacks the customary blindfold, a depiction that is supposedly a testament to the wild nature of frontier justice. However, the statue has many counterparts elsewhere, and the choice of whether or not to blindfold Justice was simply a matter of taste.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Julie Nicoletta
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Citation

Julie Nicoletta, "Storey County Courthouse", [, Nevada], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/NV-01-NW050.

Print Source

Buildings of Nevada, Julie Nicoletta. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000, 90-92.

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