When County Administrative Officer Richard Egan asked if I wanted to take a tour of the historic courthouse to take pictures supplementing my story on the coming remodel, I lunged at the chance.
Yes, I wanted to try to be a better reporter that provides readers with visual accompaniments to help tell the story. But I also just really, really wanted to see the inside of the more than 100-year old structure proudly standing on South Lassen Street.
When I first moved to Susanville six years ago, I would sometimes ride my bike or walk down to the courthouse square with a blanket and a book — perched on the green lawn, staring at the old jail and the courthouse.
Sure, I’d gone inside of it before. I’ve spent evenings in the Lassen county clerk/ recorders office on election nights. I drop off my ballots in person rather than mailing just so I could walk inside the impressive entry, and I even joined one of the tours a few years ago when the courthouse celebrated it’s centennial anniversary.
But a chance to go beyond what mere non-employees get to see was enticing.
My love for old buildings probably stems from my grammy and mom’s love for antiques. Growing up I would be surrounded by antique furniture and trinkets found in stores and at yard sales — and each piece had a history of who it once belonged to.
The first apartment I called home in Susanville boasted antique fixtures — a clawfoot tub, tiny, cute sink and built in furniture. I loved imagining who lived there before me. Oddly enough, one of my guilty pleasures is watching Youtube videos of “urban explorers” entering abandoned historic properties.
So when I got the chance to see inside the building, I naturally jumped at that chance.
Was it haunted? Were there secret crawlspaces between offices?
I had to know.
While I didn’t see any ghosts, I was able to check out the original vault in the treasurer/ tax collectors office, which boasts an incredibly heavy interior vault to hold money.
There were also chicken wire and wood “cages” used by the departments in the basement, which Egan said held “100 years of hoarding.”
Probably my favorite part of the tour, however, was getting to finally see inside the old jailhouse I had spent numerous summer days admiring.
The dilapidated building is beautiful in its own decaying way. The offices are covered in moss and peeling paint, the cells lost their iron bars long ago due to welding students and the ceiling on the second floor make for an unsafe passage for those entering.
There was some effort to restore the interior building in the 1990s, when the exterior was renovated, but it wasn’t. And there may not be enough funding with the most recent chunk of funds from the state to touch the jail, but the preservation of these buildings are most certainly worthwhile.
The $8.45 million provided through the California Natural Resources Agency may not go too far in what it’s able to accomplish, but anything helps, and future old building-admirers should get the chance to see these structures for years to come!