City Directories and History: The Lancaster County Courthouse, of probable Robert Mills design and displaying superb craftsmanship, has been in constant use as a courthouse since its ca. 1828 completion. The contractor was Willis W. Alsobrook. This two-story handmade brick building of English bond features Flemish bond framing the windows. A Venetian window is behind the judge’s seat, and chimney placement, doors, and windows set within recessed arches are in the English Palladian manner. The entablature with cornice modillions, the portico
pediment and the stucco over brick modified Tuscan columns are of the Roman Revival, or Classical Revival, tradition. Other features include the double flight of steps with arched opening below, iron handrails and banisters, and semi-circular and semi-elliptical fanlights. The first floor walls are solid brick 24 inches thick, the second floor walls are 18 inches thick. A series of double barrel brick vaults supports the second floor and forms the ceiling of the first. The floors were brick but covered with wood in 1892. A ground floor room still retains an original fireplace. The Courthouse square contains an historical marker and Confederate and World War II memorials. As a National Historic Landmark, the Lancaster County Courthouse is considered to “possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating and interpreting the heritage of the United States.” Listed in the National Register February 24, 1971; Designated a National Historic Landmark November 7, 1973. [Courtesy of the SC Dept. of Archives and History]
A log house (1795-1800) and a frame building (18001828) served as courthouses before the present structure, which was financed with a legislative appropriation of $10,000 made on December 17, 1825. The contractor, Willis W. Alsobrook, complained that the money was insufficient, and the legislature was obliged to add an additional $3,050 for alterations “to the advantage of the Public Building but to the great prejudice of the contractor. .. . ”
This attractive building was designed by Robert Mills, America’s first native-born, professionally trained architect. He was the state engineer and architect in Charleston when the courthouse was built. Mills later served under President Jackson as architect of public buildings in Washington, where he designed the Treasury Building, Patent Office, the old Post Office, and the Washington Monument.
This courthouse has been in constant use since it was built (1825-1828), with only three remodelings necessary. Each remodeling remained true to the original architectural unity of design. The building has also survived an 1859 fire, Sherman’s troops, and settlement cracks that caused tie-rods to be installed in 1885. The last preservation effort was in 1979 when air conditioning, an elevator, and a new stair-case were installed at a cost of about ten times the price of the entire original building. Postcard courtesy of Steve Ghent / Courtesy of the Lancaster County Pictorial History by Bishop and Pettus, 1984
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IMAGE GALLERY via photographer Bill Segars – 2007
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