The History of the Tombstone Courthouse

Cochise County was created by a vote of the citizens in 1881 with Tombstone serving as its county seat.  The fire of 1881 destroyed the first courthouse in Tombstone. 

When the new Mining Exchange Building was completed, Tombstone officials chose the first floor as the new Courtroom as they were looking for something as fire resistant as adobe.   The Earp/Holliday hearing about the gunfight as held there on Fremont Street in late 1881.   However plans were underway to build a new permanent Courthouse.  A kiln was built and Chinese brink makers were brought to Tombstone.  The cornerstone as laid on August 11, 1882 with great ceremony.   “Offerings were deposited in a cavity beneath the cornerstone: coins, cigars, specimens of ore, poems and essays.”  The imposing building was completed in 1883. 

1927
1940

The two-story courthouse, designed in the Victorian style, was constructed of red brick in 1882. The courthouse, a splendid example of territorial architecture, continued to serve as a county facility until 1931 when the county seat was moved to Bisbee.

The City of Tombstone leased the courthouse building until the County transferred it to the City on January 5, 1942.

The City leased the building to the Tombstone Restoration Commission.  In 1952, the Tombstone Restoration Commission began fundraising efforts to restore and repair the old Courthouse.  By 1957, the first floor was finished and necessary repairs done on the second floor and the Restoration Commission moved their museum in with some rooms designated for community use.  In 1958 the Restoration Commission began efforts to turn the Courthouse into a state supported and funded museum for completion of the second floor and to ensure the building would be cared for and maintained. 

1960
2014

Mrs. Edna Landin, President of the Tombstone Restoration Commission, brought the proposal of making the Tombstone Courthouse a State Park to the attention of the State Parks Board shortly after the legislation passed creating Arizona State Parks. In April of 1958, Mrs. Landin and several members of the Tombstone Restoration Commission attended a meeting of the Parks Board in Tubac to advise the Board that the City of Tombstone would donate the property, if the Parks Board accepted it as a State Park.

The State Parks Board tentatively accepted the Tombstone Courthouse as a State Park pending acceptable agreement between the City of Tombstone, the Tombstone Restoration Commission, and the Parks Board. During the process of transferring the property, it was learned that the City of Tombstone did not own the land under the Courthouse as that land had originally been leased to the County for 99 years. The agreement was finalized and the City transferred the courthouse, its contents and the remainder of the 99-year lease on the property to the Board on August 1, 1959. Because of the restoration and rehabilitation work done by the Tombstone Restoration Commission, Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park was ready to open to the public and was Arizona’s first operational State Park. Dell Lamb was the first Park Manager.

The Tombstone Restoration Commission transferred ownership of a lot across the street and east of the Courthouse to the Park Board on April 4, 1960. This lot has been continually been used for visitor parking. The old Law Offices located across the street and north of the Courthouse were acquired by State Parks on January 12, 1973. State Parks negotiated a lease for the property under the Courthouse from the mining company in 1981. The Agency continued to lease the property until it was purchased on January 25, 1994. The last parcel acquired for the Park was the Ed Schieffelin Monument site located 3 miles north and west of the City. This property was donated to State Parks on December 31, 2003.

2014a
courtroom

In 2010, the Tombstone Courthouse was one of 13 state parks slated for closure after the State Park Board's decision January 15, 2010 to sweep $8.6 million from the parks' budgets.

On Thursday February 5, 2010 the Mayor of Tombstone, representatives from the Arizona State Parks, Tombstone Chamber of Commerce and the Tombstone Restoration Commission met to discuss the future of the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park which was slated to close in March of 2010.

At the February 9, 2010 Tombstone Council Meeting, the Council approved the Mayor to sign an intergovernmental agreement between the Arizona State Parks Board and the City of Tombstone regarding the lease of the Tombstone Courthouse State Park.

During the March 26, 2010 Special Council meeting, the Council approved and authorized the Mayor to sign a Professional Services Agreement with the Tombstone Chamber of Commerce to assume the operational responsibility of the Tombstone Courthouse State Park.