This magnificent Spanish-Moorish "palace" was built in 1929 and is surrounded by lawns and a sunken tropical garden that plays host to many functions throughout the year. Hardly a Sunday afternoon goes by that a festival, concert or get together of some sort isn't taking advantage of the beauty of this setting. Even if there is not an event going on, the Sunken Gardens is a very popular park for people who live or work downtown.
The architecture of this building is quite beautiful and all the details are well thought out. Hand-painted ceilings, wrought iron chandeliers, giant murals, imported tiles give this relatively new building an ancient feel. Believe it or not, this building is a fully functional courthouse where lawyers and judges actually handle judicial business!
Of course, no trip to the courthouse would be complete without an ascent to the tower, which offers 360 degree views of the city, mountains, ocean and on a clear day the Channel Islands. You will probably recognize the famous arches from numerous television and print shots. The courthouse tower closes early, however, so make sure to get there by 3:30 or 4 p.m. at the latest. There is an elevator that will take you right to the top.
An information booth is located in the lobby near the main archway. The booth is open 8:30am to 4:30pm weekdays and 10am to 4:30pm on weekends. Free docent tours are conducted daily at 2pm. Additional tours are conducted at 10:30am on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.
Designed in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, construction started in 1926 during the period when this style was popular. It took just short of three years to build; being finished in 1929; it was dedicated during Fiesta that year.
In 1982 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places; later in the same year the site and building were designated city landmark. In March 2004 it became a State Historic Landmark and in May 2005 it became a National Historic Landmark. With its clay tiled roof, white stucco walls and many different window shapes and balconies, it could be a castle in Andalusia, Spain. While it may look like a castle or a cathedral, again, it is a fully functional California Superior Courthouse.
Wandering through the interior, you will see a variety of arches, decorative tiles, wrought iron gates and window grilles and other Spanish-Moorish elements. In all, the project cost $1.3 million, or about $25 million in today's dollars.
From the 101 take the Garden Street exit and turn away from the ocean. When you come to Anapamu Street, turn left until you come to Anacapa, where you turn left again. There is a parking lot to your right where there is usually parking.