A nod to history & longevity: Yavapai County Courthouse turns 100

A lot can happen in 100 years: Wars, elections, inventions, tragedies, celebrations; all played out, updated and often repeated.

A lot can also be forgotten or mis-remembered.

During the building’s 100-year anniversary celebration on Saturday, Oct. 15, hundreds streamed in throughout the day to participate in the self-guided tour.

Yavapai County officials wanted to showcase some of that history and set some records straight on Saturday, Oct. 15, by opening up the Yavapai County Courthouse to the public and providing detailed historical content to visitors in celebration of its 100-year anniversary.

Though the courthouse wasn’t fully in use until 1918, construction began on the building in October 1916.

Saturday was the first time in recent history that no one had to pass through a metal detector or have their possessions X-rayed in order to enter the building.

“We want people to feel welcomed,” said one greeter who was passing out brochures containing an historical timeline of the courthouse as the public streamed in to attend the free event.

Shelly Bacon, Yavapai County Superior Court public information officer, said it was quite an effort getting everything ready for the centennial celebration.

“It took about a year to organize,” Bacon said.

They had to design the brochure, select a good number of historical photos from Sharlot Hall Museum’s website, have each photo blown-up and reprinted, and then install the photos throughout the courthouse with accompanying descriptions.

“The goal is to have something for the public to come in and actually see,” Bacon said. “We also want to educate the public about the history of the courthouse because there is a lot of misinformation out there.”

One such bit of information that has been twisted over the years is that the Great Fire of 1900 in Prescott burned down the courthouse.

“The courthouse never burned down,” Bacon said. “There was a fire in the previous courthouse, but it was a small fire and they were concerned that it could burn down, so they destroyed it and built this new one.”

 When the courthouse was rebuilt in 1916, the county made sure to make it as fireproof as possible.

“They tried to do away with as much wood as possible,” said Ken Van Keuren, Yavapai County Facilities and Capital Improvements director.

That meant using mostly concrete and metal. There are even doorways and railings inside the building that are painted to look like wood to give it the historic look, but are in fact metal.

“Ain’t that crazy,” Van Keuren said.

Crazy, yes. Justifiable, absolutely.

“This thing is solid,” Keuren said. “It could last easily another 100 years. It’s just as good as it ever was.”

 Photo by Max Efrein

Art Montgomery is a junior grand warden with the Grand Lodge of Arizona Free and Accepted Masons.

On Saturday, Oct. 15, it was his job to ensure the Yavapai County Courthouse’s cornerstone is plumb. He used a plumb bob to check it during a rededication ceremony of the building’s initial construction.

He was checking the work done 100 years ago, when the society laid the cornerstone.

A Masonic cornerstone ceremony is elaborate, in which the stone is symbolically squared, leveled, and made plumb assuring that it is set correctly.

Then it is proclaimed “well formed, true and trusty."




                                                                     © Michelle Young 2012