Old Orange County Courthouse in Santa Ana CA: A Historic Landmark

The Old Orange County Courthouse, located in the heart of Santa Ana, California, is a monumental structure that stands as a testament to the rich history of the region. Built in 1901, the courthouse served as the administrative center of Orange County until 1968, when a new courthouse was built to accommodate the growing population. Since then, the Old Courthouse has been preserved as a historic landmark and continues to attract visitors from all over the world.

History of Old Orange County Courthouse

The Old Orange County Courthouse is a fine example of Beaux-Arts architecture, a style that was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Designed by James E. Flanders, the building features a classical façade with a portico supported by six Corinthian columns. The interior of the courthouse is equally impressive, with a grand central rotunda that rises to a height of 112 feet. The rotunda is adorned with marble columns, ornate plasterwork, and a stained-glass dome that floods the space with natural light.

Over the years, the courthouse has witnessed many historic events. In 1927, the trial of Leo Frank was held here, which attracted national attention. Frank was accused of murdering 13-year-old Mary Phagan, and his trial was marred by anti-Semitic sentiment. Although he was initially found guilty and sentenced to death, his conviction was later overturned, and he was lynched by a mob before he could be retried.

The courthouse also played a pivotal role in the landmark case of Mendez v. Westminster School District, which challenged segregation in California schools. In 1947, Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez, who were of Mexican descent, filed a lawsuit against the Westminster School District after their children were denied admission to a \"whites only\" school. The case eventually made its way to the courthouse, where Judge Paul McCormick ruled in favor of the Mendez family, setting a precedent for desegregation in California.

Visiting the Old Orange County Courthouse

Today, the Old Orange County Courthouse is open to the public and offers guided tours that provide a glimpse into the courthouse's rich history. Visitors can explore the grand hallways, admire the intricate woodwork and stained glass, and learn about the famous trials that took place here. The courthouse also hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including concerts, art exhibits, and holiday celebrations.

According to Jessica Johnson, a historian and tour guide at the Old Courthouse, \"The building is a treasure trove of history and art, and we're committed to preserving it for future generations. Our tours offer a unique opportunity to step back in time and experience the grandeur of the early 20th century.\"


The Old Orange County Courthouse is a vast building with multiple wings and levels. The building is approximately 100,000 square feet and features 18 courtrooms. It has been designated as a National Historic Landmark, a California State Historic Landmark, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The courthouse is also home to a museum, which houses a collection of artifacts and exhibits that showcase the history of Orange County. The museum is open to the public and offers a fascinating look at the region's past.


The Old Orange County Courthouse is a must-see attraction for anyone interested in history, architecture, or art. Its grandiose design, rich history, and pivotal role in important cases make it a true gem of Orange County. Whether you're a local or a visitor, be sure to take a tour and explore this magnificent landmark.

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