Carson City has served simultaneously as the county seat of Ormsby County, and the state capital. The county was established in 1861, and named after Major William M. Ormsby, who is known for his prominent role in the Pyramid Lake War. In 1862, commissioners purchased the Great Basin Hotel from Abraham Curry for $42,500 to use as the county courthouse. Despite criticism from locals about its lack of monumental appearance, the courthouse remained in use for almost sixty years.
In 1920, officials accepted courthouse designs from Frederick DeLongchamps, who was then serving as the Nevada State Architect. The county hired C. G. Sellman of Reno to build the structure. Completed in 1922, the two-story building contains a courtroom, sheriff's office, and four jail cells on the second floor. Offices for the justice of the peace, county recorder, and other officials occupy the first floor.
Designed in a Neoclassical style, the exterior consists of large limestone blocks quarried from the Carson City prison site by state inmates. Four grand Tuscan-order columns support a large pediment with a triangular gable. The hipped roof is covered with standing seam tin. Officials reused DeLongchamps' courthouse design for the State Heroes Memorial Building, erected to the south. The two identical buildings provide a subdued Neoclassical counterbalance to the state capitol, which remains the dominant architectural statement in the area.
In 1999, the administrative offices moved from the old Ormsby County courthouse into a new law enforcement center, several blocks to the east. The state purchased the former courthouse in 1999 and now uses the structure for the offices of the Nevada Attorney General.