The Central Otago Town of Alexandra was founded after gold was discovered between Clyde and Cromwell in 1862. That discovery led to thousands of miners travelling to the district along the Old Dunstan Road from the Strath Taieri; the same route - Clarks Junction to Alexandra - can still be followed today by 4WD.
The old Courthouse in Alexandra's Centennial Avenue is one of the town's oldest stone buildings and had an important role in the life and administration of the Central Otago goldfields. Opened on 16th June 1879, it housed both the Warden's and Magistrate's Courts.
The Warden's Court dealt with the registration and enforcement of miners’ rights. Disputes often arose over claim jumping, forgeries, water races, roading and between partners of a joint claim. Granting business licences to traders operating within the goldfields was another role. The Magistrate's Court dealt with more general legal matters.
The courthouse today
The courthouse was just that for almost a century, until 1972 when the court moved to a new building. After that it housed other government departments, was a temporary library, Plunket rooms and information centre.
The Alexandra Courthouse is now a Category 2 Historic Building and a DOC reserve, managed by the department. As part of that responsibility, in early 2006 a major maintenance project completely repainted the exterior and the chimneys were renovated.
Although the Alexandra Courthouse is now over 125 years old it is still being used daily, leased out as a cafe and restaurant, though fully protected as an historic place.