Pima County Courthouse
Backstory and Context
The 32-foot-wide tile-clad dome towers 100 feet at the tip of the cupola, which includes a copper lantern. Several other copper light fixtures hang from the open-air hallways running around the ground floor courtyard. The building – which cost roughly $300,000 and was paid for with county bonds – replaced an older courthouse, which was demolished after the “new” one was finished in December 1929. Since then, it has housed a variety of county offices.
The building previously housed the Pima County Superior Court (1930-1977) and later, the Pima County Consolidated Justice Court (1977-2015), which handled lower-level state criminal matters and small claims cases.
When ground was excavated for this building, the southwest corner and part of the wall of the original Tucson Presidio was discovered. A section of the wall is on display on the second floor of the building. A stone marker in the courtyard also gives the location of the ancient Presidio.
History of previous Pima County Courthouses
Arizona became a Territory of the United States in 1863 and over the next several months counties were organized. Tucson, the seat of Pima County, became the capital of the Arizona Territory in 1867 and remained so for ten years. From 1866 to 1868, Pima County business was conducted in some buildings rented from Solomon Warner. Increased population and activity made it clear that Pima County needed a permanent courthouse.
In 1880, the Southern Pacific Railroad came to Tucson. It had a significant impact on population growth and business in the community. As a result, a larger courthouse was needed and additional land was purchased from stable owner and Sheriff Robert Leatherwood. On this site a second, larger courthouse was built in 1881.
County Commissioners W.W. Williams, James Toole, and William S. Oury contracted with John Harlow to build the new courthouse located at the corner of Church and Pennington Streets. The courthouse was a Victorian style, two-story brick structure with a grey stone foundation. The cruciform building had two side wings topped by gable attics and a tower with a cupola surmounting the center. Called "the pride and joy of the Territory," this courthouse was used through the rest of the Territorial era. Arizona became a state February 14, 1912. The courthouse was demolished in 1927 when it no longer met the needs of the community.(3)