AKA: County of Santa Cruz, Court House #5, Downtown, Santa Cruz, CA; Cooper House, Downtown, Santa Cruz, CA

Structure Type: built works - public buildings - courthouses

Designers: Beck, Thomas, Building Contractor (firm); Comstock, Nelson A., Architect (firm); Walden, Max, Developer (firm); Thomas Beck (building contractor); Nelson Alanson Comstock (architect)

Dates: constructed 1894-1896, demolished 1989

3 stories

110 Cooper Street
Downtown, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

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The courthouse was located on the southeast corner of Pacific Avenue and Cooper Street.


This courthouse served Santa Cruz County from 1896 until 1967. During the early 1970s, a developer rehabilitated the historic landmark into the Cooper House, a mixed-use retail and office building that operated from 1972 until 1989. The Cooper House was badly damaged in the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 10/17/1989, and was hastily, some say prematurely, demolished.

Building History

The architect Nelson A. Comstock (b. 1851) designed the Santa Cruz County Courthouse #5. He developed a difficult working relationship with Thomas Beck (1829-1910), the construction supervisor, who indicated to Santa Cruz County Supervisors that the Comstock was cutting corners during the construction process. The Sidewalk Companion to Santa Cruz Architecture stated of the tempestuous relations between the two men: "During construction of the building there was running feud between architect N.A. Comstock and construction supervisor Thomas Beck. Beck complained to the Supervisors about Comstock's haphazard execution of the specification for the building. Brick piers appeared where brick piers had not been called for, underweight steel beams buckled, and substitutions and deletions were made without notice to the Supervisors. Eventually Comstock was fired, and it was found he had been embezzling from the county. Beck took Comstock's place and Edward Van Cleeck became construciton supervisor." (See John Leighton Chase, Judith Steen, Daniel Platt Gregory, Sidewalk Companion to Santa Cruz Architecture,[Santa Cruz, CA: Museum of Art and History, 2005], p. 176.)

The building was remodeled several times over the years, while the court system continued to use the facility between 1896 and 1967. By 1967, Santa Cruz's Downtown retail core began experiencing serious decline, with 22 storefronts being vacant at the time.


The Santa Cruz County Courthouse #2 was damaged in the San Francisco Earthquake of 04/18/1906, and required significant renovation to reopen in 1908. The original building had a tall, four-story bell tower that stood directly above the main entrance on Cooper Street. After the 1906 Earthquake, this tower was shortened by a story.

The building was remodeled in 1949, at which time this tower was removed altogether.

When the County Court moved to another building in 1967, possible plans for the building included demolition. A local developer, Max Walden (1924-2007), bought and remodeled it in the early 1970s when it became a collection of retail shops and offices known as "Cooper House." Cooper House opened in 1972.

It sustained some damage during 1989's Loma Prieta Earthquake.


The Cooper House was razed shortly after the Loma Prieta Earthquake, as it was viewed as a public hazard. Demolition began on or about 10/26/1989. According to Kent Pollock's article on Max Walden in the magazine Santa Cruz Style, the Cooper House did not sustain significant damage during the Loma Prieta Quake of 1989: "Although building contractor Michael Bates had recently completed an earthquake retrofit and the building sustained very little damage, hundreds watch as the beloved Cooper House fell victim to the wrecking ball. Spectators gasped as the ball struck three times before doing any damage." (See Kent Pollock, "Walden; or, Life in the Cooper House," Santa Cruz Style, vol. 4, no.3, Fall 2015, p. 63.)

Developer Jay Paul erected the New Cooper House on the site in 1999.

PCAD id: 17602