Love is blind. But justice is not. At least that’s the case in Virginia City, Nev. From her perch over the front door of the Storey County Courthouse, a statuesque goddess holds scales aloft in her left hand and a sword in her right. But she is without the customary blindfold, her head tilted downward as if looking at all who pass beneath.
Opened in 1877, the High Victorian Italianate style structure replaced the previous courthouse, destroyed in the great fire of 1875 which left most of the county seat in ruins. Unaware that the area’s boom years of silver and gold mining were about to end, local leaders opted for the most expensive building design offered by the architect, making theirs the costliest courthouse in Nevada for decades to come. Typically, the transient population of Nevada in the 19th century had little interest in investing in monumental buildings. Still in use today, the state’s oldest, continuously operating courthouse has proven to be money well spent.
The Storey County Courthouse has been in continuous use for 143 years.
Local lore has it that the Storey County Courthouse has one of a very few Lady Justice statues without a blindfold in the country. But historical information shows that Virginia City’s figure, with her eyes unshielded, was not as rare as might be assumed. Coming all the way from Williamsburg, N.Y., Storey County’s statue was ordered from the Seelig Fine Arts Foundation, which offered versions with a blindfold and without. She is made of zinc (not silver or gold — the precious metals that made Virginia City famous), and was purchased at a cost of $236, which included shipping.
Lady Justice may or may not be blind, but in Virginia City, she is not deaf. Juries do their work in a room adjacent to the court, separated by a thin wall. Judges have been known to clear the courtroom in order to keep their deliberations private.