This historic two-story stuccoed adobe structure was built in 1873 – 1874 by L. G. Murphy & Company. Known as the “Big House/Store” for 6 years, it was destined to become the center of both political and business affairs in Lincoln County. Over its’ long history, it has contained a general store, Masonic meeting room, bar, billiard room, sheriff’s office, jail, living quarters, courthouse, city and county offices, school, and was the scene of Billy the Kid’s daring escape when deputies Olinger and Bell died at his hands.
“The House of Murphy” went bankrupt and the county bought the building in 1880. In 1881 the building became the Lincoln County Courthouse and served as such until 1913 when the new courthouse at Carrizozo was completed. The old courthouse was then used as a school for a number of years. In 1938 the State purchased the abandoned structure and began extensive restoration. The Courthouse began its’ new life as a museum in July of 1939.
During the 1940s the Courthouse was maintained by the Museum of New Mexico and the Lincoln County Historical Society. It is now the primary museum of the New Mexico Historic Site Complex in Lincoln.
The walls of this 7,923 sq. ft., two-story building, are two adobe bricks thick on the bottom floor and one brick thick on the upper story. Work is needed to restore the original windows, door and shutters. The building also has some large cracks on the interior walls – some caused by the size and weight of the building. Other cracks can be attributed to the speed and weight of the commercial trucks traveling through the village, which vibrates the building causing internal movement in the bricks.
This building is listed both on the National Historic Register and the New Mexico Register of Cultural Properties.