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Historic Photos of the Redwood City Courthouse

History of the Redwood City Courthouse
The land and people of Redwood City have been involved in the progress of San Mateo County since its inception in 1856. In that year, Assemblyman Horace Hawes, owner of the property where Sequoia High School is now located, introduced a bill before the State Legislature to consolidate the boundaries of the City and County of San Francisco. Called The Consolidation Act, the legislation set apart all of the rural areas of San Francisco County into a new unit to be known as "San Mateo County".

One of the terms of the act called for residents of the new county to hold an election of officers and to select a county seat. The first election was declared invalid after it was proved that a group of organized crime leaders tried to get themselves elected using fraudulent votes. They also wanted Belmont to be the county seat. But under the guidance of an honest Redwood City citizen named Benjamin Fox who had won the position of county judge, a second election was held in April of 1857. This time Redwood City was declared the legal seat of government. Fox held his position as a judge for four years, and was a powerful voice for law and order in the new county.

Simon Mezes, the man who had founded Redwood City, donated an entire city block of land for the construction of a courthouse. The property (between what is now Broadway, Hamilton, Marshall, and Middlefield) was located midway between the embarcadero and the County Road (now El Camino Real). Four different buildings have since occupied the block: Courthouse No. 1 was finished in 1858, Courthouse No. 2 in 1882, Courthouse No. 3 in 1905, and Courthouse No. 4 in 1910.

Through the years, county government has played a major part in the lives and activities of the people of Redwood City. Until the first courthouse was built, county officials conducted business in the upper story of a warehouse on Main Street owned by Redwood City merchant John Diller.

The County's first sheriff, John Ackerson, was a resident of Redwood City, as were two of his successors - Thomas Lathrop and John Edgar. Benjamin Lathrop, San Mateo County's first county clerk, recorder, and auditor, built a large house which is still standing across the street from the Hall of Justice and Records.

The Eikerenkotter Family was also closely connected with the political history of the County. During the late 1800's, five Eikerenkotter brothers held county offices. And Judge George Buck, famous for his length of service on the county superior court bench, lived at 1231 Jefferson Avenue from 1875 until his death in 1938.

The county has provided many other types of jobs for Redwood City residents, especially in the area of construction. A WPA project in 1939 employed many men in the building of two additions to the courthouse. And in 1958, an 8-story building called the Hall of Records and Justice was built on the site of the California Square, a plaza which had been designed and donated to the county by Simon Mezes.


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Photos provided by the Local History Collection at the Redwood City Public Library.
Copyright © 1997-1998. Redwood City Public Library. All rights reserved.
Exhibit date: January 1998.