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Courthouse Centennial Festivities Planned for September 16th

Lassen County’s Courthouse in the mid 1930’s from an Eastman Studios postcard.

One of the biggest events of the fall is being planned for Saturday, September 16th, as the community comes together to celebrate the Lassen County Courthouse’s Centennial with a day of festivities centered around Susanville’s historic courthouse square on South Lassen Street.

The celebration will begin at 11:00a.m. at Peter Lassen’s Monument located on Wingfield Road, presented by the Free Masons Lassen-Janesville Lodge #149. The monument to our county’s namesake was set in stone 100 years ago, at the same time the historic courthouse was dedicated.

Beginning at noon until 3:30p.m., free guided tours of the historic courthouse will be presented every 20 minutes by the Lassen County Historical Society. A Lassen County Jail historic display will be presented by the Lassen County Sheriff and the Explorers group in front of the old jail, and a historic timeline will be showcased in front of the courthouse.

A free historic cemetery tour, presented by local Historian Tim Purdy, will take place from 1:30p.m. to 2:30p.m. (only one cemetery tour will be given). Those planning to take the cemetery tour should show up at least 5 minutes early at the front cemetery entrance.

Food and drinks will be available thru out the day on the courthouse square. All tours are free to the public.

To conclude the day’s celebration, the Susanville Symphony will present the third annual “Concert on the Green” beginning at 5:00p.m. Tickets can be purchased for the symphony by calling 310-8111 or at Margie’s Book Nook and Axia Home Loans.

A Little Bit of Courthouse History

Lassen County’s First Courthouse

The first Courthouse was a two-story wooden frame structure built in 1867. By 1900 there was a movement for a new courthouse, though there was opposition especially in the outlying areas because of concerns about an increase on tax bills. The issue would be stalled for over a decade.

In 1913 the Lassen Advocate noted: “If there is not something done with that old ramshackle court house pretty soon it will collapse. Last Tuesday forenoon while Judge Burroughs was sitting as his desk in his chambers a large chunk of plaster fell from the ceiling narrowly missing him. If the people of Lassen County put up with that structure much longer there will be a decided falling off in the number of men who want public office—the personal risk is too great. The board of supervisors was wise when it moved its quarters into the jail.”

On June 2nd, 1915 Lassen County voters would approve a $125,000 bond measure to construct a new courthouse. It was a very heated issue, ironically for all the commotion on topic, only one-third of the registered voters went to polls, and the bond measure was approved.

George C. Sellon was hired as the architect. He ultimately designed ten courthouses in California—The Lassen County Courthouse is one of only seven that remain. A San Francisco contractor, James L. McLaughlin, was awarded the bid to construct it. It would take nearly two years to construct the native stone courthouse.

Lassen County Courthouse and Jail in 1923

While the courthouse was under construction Jules Alexander, a successful Susanville banker and merchant began a campaign to raise funds to construct a new monument for Peter Lassen, the original one placed in 1862 had deteriorated over the years. It was Alexander’s desire to seek small donations thereby allowing everyone an opportunity to be part of the cause.

He enlisted the aid of Lassen County Superintendent of Schools, Fred Brunhouse, who sent out letters to all the schools urging children to donate a few cents as part of a civics lesson. The school children responded with each school district sending in varied amounts from 35 cents (Fort Sage) to nearly five dollars (Lassen High School). In the end the school children of Lassen County raised over $500. Those funds represented one-third of the cost for the new monument.

A contemporary sketch of Peter Lassen’s first monument made of native stone.

It was Alexander’s goal to have it in place by September 1st, 1917, when California Governor William D. Stephens would visit Susanville, but unfortunately the monument would not be ready. However, later in September the second annual meeting of the Northern California Counties Association was to be held in Susanville during which the new Lassen County Courthouse would be dedicated.

On September 20th, 1917 the new Peter Lassen Monument was dedicated and on the next day the dedication ceremony for the new Lassen County Courthouse took place.

Learn more about the history of the courthouse and other historic fact by attending the celebration. The centennial event is being presented by the County of Lassen, the Lassen County Chamber of Commerce and the Lassen County Historical Society in cooperation with the Susanville Symphony.

For additional information about the celebration contact the Lassen County Chamber of Commerce at 530-257-4323.

A group of campers from Mountain Meadows ranch at Peter Lassen’s monument in 1960.
Jeremy Couso
Jeremy Couso
SusanvilleStuff.com Publisher/Editor
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