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Email Author: Ellen Hopkins
Story Posted: 2/9/2005 07:16 pm

What’s In a Courthouse?

Many couples looking for a quick wedding choose a simple courthouse ceremony. Buy your license, collar a judge, the deed is done. In Reno/Tahoe, there are a number of courthouses from which to choose, and their histories impart a unique flavor to this tried-and-true tradition.

In Virginia City, the Storey County Courthouse has served the community since 1877. The original county courthouse burned to the ground during the Great Fire of 1875. Its replacement, built during the heyday of Comstock silver mining, cost $117,000, a huge sum in that day. The building exterior has elaborate ironwork and is painted in bright contrasting colors. Inside, a statue of Justice does not wear a blindfold - perhaps a comment on the times, when guns settled disputes and juries often could be bought.

The Storey County Courthouse exists, in restored grandeur, at 12 South B St., two doors south of Piper’s Opera House. It still serves in its official capacity and is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

In Reno, the Washoe County Courthouse was built in 1912, from a design by famed Nevada architect Frederick J. DeLongchamps, who also designed the old downtown post office and other Nevada courthouses. The style is "neo-classical," with ornate pillars, terrazzo tiled floors and marble halls.

As Reno was once the marriage and divorce capital of the United States, many celebrities have said their "I do’s" and their "I don’t anymores" in this courthouse, which has issued more marriage licenses than any other courthouse of its size in this country. A scene from The Misfits was filmed here, so you’ll be walking down the same stairs Marilyn Monroe once graced.

For most purposes, the Washoe County Courthouse is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, but the marriage license bureau is open daily from 8 a.m. to midnight. Find it at 200 S. Virginia St. in Reno.

DeLongchamps also built the Pershing County Courthouse, probably the last existing round courthouse in the United States. Built in 1919 and designed as a replica of the Pantheon, this courthouse is 90 miles from Reno. But many couples happily make the drive because of its location in Lovelock. How romantic is that?

Located at 400 Main St., the Pershing County Courthouse is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call ahead to arrange for your ceremony. (775) 273-2753.

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Pershing County Courthouse - Jean DixonReno Gazette-Journal

Jean Dixon / Reno Gazette-Journal