Six Quirky & Surprising Facts about the Santa Barbara Courthouse

Six Quirky and Surprising Facts about the Santa Barbara Courthouse 

Here are a few things nobody tells you about the Santa Barbara Courthouse that I think are surprising and interesting.

Santa Barbara Courthouse by the Numbers

Fun Fact 1: The National Historical Landmark Designation

The Santa Barbara Courthouse is not  only a State Historical Landmark but also has a National Historic Landmark designation.  Only 3% of the US Historic Places receive that designation and there are only 2,500 of them int the country. 

Fun Fact 2:  What It Cost to Build and Maintain the County Courthouse

The Courthouse Cost $1,368,000 to build in 1929, which is over $21 million in today’s dollars, and the current renovation that will go on until 2029 (partly because they do not use power tools due to the noise) will cost at least $10 million.

Fun Fact 3: Santa Barbara Courthouse Wedding Locations You Can Reserve

There are six main wedding ceremony locations you can reserve at the county courthouse but the Clock Tower isn’t one of them. But you can take pictures there as you can see here.  The best outdoor locations right now due to the scaffolding and construction are the Palm Terrace and Sunken Gardens to have a better backdrop. Or the Mural Room if you can afford the extra expense. See this page for more details. 

Fun Fact 4: The Number of Weddings and Elopements Going through Santa Barbara Courthouse

On Feb 29, 2024, the leap year, the courthouse conducted 22 ceremonies. If you annualize that kind of volume and normalize it to say 15 weddings per day, that works out to roughly 3900 civil weekday ceremonies and approximately that many conducted privately on the weekends. 

(Not) Fun Fact 5: No Bathrooms in the Santa Barbara County Hall of Records

This might be a great thing to add to the $10 million dollar courthouse renovation list. Strange because folks often come driving in from a long ways off and are also sometimes nervous and/or caffeinated prior to filling out the paperwork for the license. There is no bathroom, you have to go across the street to the Santa Barbara County building or use the restroom bathroom on the corner. 

Fun Fact 6: The Courthouse is partially geothermal and heated by steam from a pipe system

“Beneath the lawn on the North-Western corner of the Courthouse lies a geothermal field.  Constructed in 2003, the geothermal field provides a sustainable source of energy, powering the building’s heating and cooling systems. The lawn was drilled with 32 holes, 5 and 1/4 inches in diameter, 18 feet apart bored to a depth of 400 feet where the earth has a constant temperature of 69 to 70 degrees. Circulating water in pipes is heated or cooled to that constant temperature.  While unseen, this geothermal field is vital to the Courthouse’s operation, showcasing innovation and environmental responsibility within a historical landmark.”–Wikipedia article on the courthouse.

Oh, and our Courthouse is also one of the most photographed places in all of California, and did I mention how long the docent training program takes? The list goes on and on!

Doug Ellis


Using Format