First San Diego Courthouse Museum in Old Town.

Likeness of Agoston Haraszthy, first Sheriff of the County of San Diego. He was elected in 1850 and served one term. He was a pioneer when it came to growing grapes and became known as the Father of California Wine.
Likeness of Agoston Haraszthy, first Sheriff of the County of San Diego. He was elected in 1850 and served one term. He was a pioneer when it came to growing grapes and became known as the Father of California Wine.

Visitors to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park can get a taste of the city’s early history when they step into the First San Diego Courthouse Museum.

One of many free attractions that can be found around Old Town’s central Plaza de Las Armas, the First San Diego Courthouse Museum is a recreation of our city’s first fired-brick structure, built in 1847 by members of the Mormon Battalion.

From 1847 to 1850 the original building served as the office of el Alcalde (Mexican mayor) of San Diego. Beginning in 1850 it contained the office of San Diego Mayor and City Clerk, and was used for meetings of the San Diego Common Council. The building was also used as a city and county courthouse and First District Court beginning in 1850.

Other uses for the building would include a meeting place for Masonic Lodge No. 35, headquarters of the U.S. Boundary Commission, office of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, and a place of worship for San Diego’s first Protestant church.

Come with me inside the museum. Let’s have a peek at a few very small rooms and their fascinating exhibits.

Photo of the modest brick First San Diego Courthouse Museum in Old Town, a recreation of the city's first courthouse.
Photo of the modest brick First San Diego Courthouse Museum in Old Town, a recreation of San Diego’s first courthouse and city hall.
In 1847, the Mormon Battalion built the first fired-brick structure in San Diego. For a couple decades it would serve as courthouse.
In 1847, the Mormon Battalion built the first fired-brick structure in San Diego. For over two decades it would serve as courthouse.
Visitor to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park enters a fascinating recreation of the city's first courthouse and city hall.
Visitor to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park enters a fascinating recreation of the city’s first courthouse and city hall.
The portrait is of Oliver S. Witherby, He was appointed First District Judge in 1850. He served for 3 years. He is considered the Father of San Diego Jurisprudence.
The portrait is of Oliver S. Witherby, He was appointed First District Judge in 1850. He served for 3 years. He is considered the Father of San Diego Jurisprudence.
A time capsule lies in a corner of the first San Diego courthouse. It is scheduled to be opened in 2050.
A time capsule lies under this cornerstone of the first San Diego courthouse. It is scheduled to be opened in 2050.
A display case in San Diego's first courthouse contains artifacts from the 19th century, including old pipe bowls and an antique lawyer's briefcase.
A display case in San Diego’s first courthouse contains artifacts from the 19th century, including old pipe bowls and an antique lawyer’s briefcase.
In 1872 a fire destroyed the San Diego courthouse. The fire burned a large part of Old Town's business section.
In 1872 a fire destroyed the San Diego courthouse. The fire burned a large part of Old Town’s business section.
Sign explains the first California courts. The district court convened here, and acted as the highest court in the state.
Sign explains the first California courts. The district court convened here, and acted as the highest court in the state.
This room in the small building was the mayor's office. Portraits of some early San Diego mayors are on the wall. Joshua H. Bean was San Diego's first mayor, elected in 1850.
This room in the small building was the mayor’s office. Portraits of some early San Diego mayors are on the wall. Joshua H. Bean was San Diego’s first mayor, elected in 1850.
A peek into the adjacent sheriff's office. I see rifles, handcuffs and keys to the outdoor jail cell.
A peek into the adjacent sheriff’s office. I see rifles, handcuffs and keys to the outdoor jail cell.
This iron jail cell was the size and construction of the original courthouse jail from 1850.
This iron jail cell was the size and construction of the original courthouse jail from 1850.
Break the law, and you might end up in here!
Break the law, and you might end up in here!
the San Diego Courthouse and City Hall museum in Old Town is open free to the public every day.
A small museum depicting the first San Diego Courthouse and City Hall in Old Town is open free to the public every day.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

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Richard Schulte

Downtown San Diego has been my home for many years. My online activities reflect my love for writing, blogging, walking and photography.

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