Hawthorne has the only courthouse in Nevada to serve two counties. The state legislature created Mineral County in 1911, and designated Hawthorne as its county seat, but the courthouse first served as Esmeralda County's seat of government until 1907, after which the county moved its offices to Goldfield.
In 1883, Esmeralda County officials granted a building contract for $29,125 to George W. Babcock, and selected A. C. Glenn to supervise the construction of Hawthorne's courthouse. D. R. Munro replaced Glenn as supervisor during the process. Discrepancies between authorized plans and the project in process created a local controversy. Changes to the contract increased the cost to $33,976.
The two-story Italianate building was fitted with buttressed sidewalls, slightly arched window and door openings, and a bracketed cornice along the roofline. Central gables cap the four elevations in the courthouse. An entry porch in a five-sided semi-circular shape with wooden columns, and a balustrade in a pentagram design, add an unusual accent to the courthouse.
Alterations to the building through the National Emergency Recovery Act of the 1930s include an addition of a concrete vault, and the removal of the roof's cupola, which officials deemed too heavy for the structure.
The courthouse remained in use until 1969, when county officials authorized the construction of a more spacious structure. With plans designed by Lockard and Casazza of Reno, the county granted a $331,629 building contract to A. S. Johnson Construction Company. Work on the 9,000 square-foot complex was completed the following year.
Unlike the former monumental structure, the brick courthouse is functional in design. Instead of utilizing a traditional central hallway design, the single-story structure's formal entrance is flanked by four columns providing access to a corner of the building.