222 E. Weber - First San Joaquin County Court House

The First San Joaquin County Court House was completed late in 1853, and occupied jointly by the city and the county officials. The city occupied the south and the county the north half of the building.

Poverty makes no distinction between the individual and the corporation poor, and as the young county had no money or revenue they were compelled to rent rooms. These rooms were in what was then known as the McNish Building, a large two-story wooden structure on the northwest corner of Hunter and Channel streets. It was occupied by the county officials, the court of sessions, lawyers' offices, sleeping and jail. The prison was in the basement. The expense to the county was heavy, $7,900 a year, this including $290 a month for two watchmen to guard the jail. The grand jury in their December, 1851, report to Judge Stakes said, "the rent money, if applied to the erection of an edifice (court house and jail) would give to the county suitable buildings and relieve the county of one of its heaviest expenses."

"The county at the time was heavily in debt, $45,000," said the judge, "and the county securities were almost valueless." We must keep in mind that the court of sessions managed the entire business of the county, and the county was enabled to considerably decrease the debt during the following two years, says the Times, "for the court is disposed to economize in every particular in order that public buildings soon may be erected." The press was strongly partisan and the editor continuing, says, "Albeit Judge Stakes is a Whig, we must do him the justice to say he has exhibited a sincere desire to place the county financially on a stable basis."

Necessity is oft times the mother of action, and the court losing no time, in the spring of 1853, a bill was introduced into the legislature and passed granting them permission to erect a court house and jail. The city council also took action, and in May both agreed to the plans and specification and bids were called for, for a court house and jail. The call was signed by Judge A. G. Stakes for the county, and B. E. Owens, P. E. Jordan, two merchants of the city, and W. W. Stevenson, a pastor of the Christian Church, for the city of Stockton. The contract to erect the court house was signed early in July, the work was rushed along, and in August the foundation was ready for the laying of the cornerstone.

This honor was offered to the San Joaquin Lodge of Masons; they refused to accept it because F. E. Corcoran, the architect of the building and a member of the lodge, had not been appointed as constructing supervisor. The invitation was then offered and accepted by the two Odd Fellow lodges, Charity No. 6 and Stockton No. 11. The laying of the cornerstone, August 6, 1853, was a very crude affair. The Odd Fellows, assembling at their Center Street hall at 9 o'clock in the morning, marched to the site of the new building. The articles to be placed in the cornerstone were placed in a glass jar and sealed, the cap of the stone was then cemented in place by Deputy Grand Master Edward W. Colt; an address was delivered by Judge Stakes and an oration by George Ryer, a favorite actor then playing an engagement in the city. This was the only cornerstone laid by the Odd Fellows save their own building in 1867. The Masons cornered all of the subsequent honors.

The first San Joaquin County Courthouse. The first courthouse built in 1853 was a Roman Doric building and cost $84,000. It was used by both city and county and also used as a general community hall. Even fairs were held there until the agricultural hall was built on San Joaquin Street.

By the 1880s the deterioration and overcrowding of the old building brought recognition of the need for a new courthouse. In 1887 the building was demolished and work was begun on a larger three story granite building on the same site. This building of Neoclassic style cost $260,000. it was completed on December 3, 1890. The second courthouse was demolished in 1961