1st Courthouse (1877-1953)

The 1st Courthouse
1501 Washington Avenue

Jefferson County Courthouse - 19th Century Photo courtesy Golden Historical Collection, Richard A. Ronzio Collection

Jefferson County Courthouse – 19th Century Photo courtesy Golden Historical Collection, Richard A. Ronzio Collection

At the southeast corner of 15th and Washington long stood the place that has served as Jefferson County’s longest home. The cornerstone of the government’s long-awaited first real home, that it actually built and owned, was laid on St. John’s Day, June 23, 1877. The ceremony was participated in by all classes of Jeffco citizens and socities, and the Masons, Odd Fellows, Patrons, Good Templars, Firemen, and Golden’s governing council united for this unprecedented event. Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Masonic order in Colorado, Harper M. Orahood, and the Masons led the ceremonies in grand ancient and impressive fashion, the first of 4 Jeffco courthouses the order would have the honor of christening.

Design work for this ornate building began back in 1873, when John T. LeCavalier was hired to design this place. However, the project eventually lost its original architect when he died in a blizzard in 1875. In 1877 when Courthouse thoughts surfaced again Denver architect W.H.J. Nicholls, the same as designed the Hall of Chemistry at the Colorado School of Mines later in 1880. Robert Millikin, who would become a County Commissioner in 1878, was the contractor who built the Courthouse edifice, at a cost of $30,000. In its original layout it featured courtrooms on its main floor, County offices in the upper floor while the basement served as the county jail. During the late 1870s this building survived an earthquake that caused its walls to sway and completely terrified the locked-up prisoners below.

Inside this building had elaborate courtrooms trimmed in oak with spindled column railings. Many prominent Jefferson County judges served here, including Alexander D. Jameson, Charles McCall, Allison H. DeFrance, Chester Calvin Carpenter, and others. Here also served Jefferson County’s first female elected official, Ella Deaver, who was elected County Treasurer on April 3, 1894.

Upon the completion of Jeffco’s 2nd Courthouse in 1953 this building was put to new uses, including what was then known as the Jefferson County Museum. In 1958 the County abandoned the building and its property to the City of Golden, and the museum continued there until 1961. Eventually the building was sold to Joe Lewis, who promptly destroyed it a year later after concluding the building was not fit for reuse. The property is now home to offices and condos.

by Richard Gardner – Gardner History & Preservation

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