City Directories and History: Enjoy viewing a collection of images of the courthouse which has been shared with R&R for your enjoyment.
Architect T.C. Veal drew the plans for the building (1838) which was then constructed by local Laurens contractor Dr. John Wells Simpson, who constructed the handsome central section of the building between 1837-1838, the wings were added some twenty years later and there have been several subsequent renovations and updates to the facility. The building retains many of its original architectural features which began as a Greek Revival style but has evolved over the years.
The Laurens County Courthouse represents an excellent example of Greek revival architecture in rural South Carolina. Designed by architect Thomas C. Veal and built by Dr. John Wells Simpson, both residents of Laurens, the central portion of the courthouse was constructed in 1837-1838. The massiveness and the decorative elements attest to the affluence of pre-Civil War South Carolina. Laurens County is one of several counties carved out of the Old Ninety-Six District of South Carolina by an act of the General Assembly in 1785. The Courthouse stands on a portion of the four-acre tract that was deeded to the county in 1792 and was the site of two earlier courthouses between 1792 and 1838. Primary construction materials were stone (granite ashlar) and brick. This courthouse contains the office of Miss Jeannie V. Culbertson, the first woman to be publicly elected to a government position in the state. The original projecting porticoes in the front and rear have four Corinthian columns and two simple pilasters supporting entablatures consisting of boxed cornices, modillions, dentils, and simple medallions upon the frieze. The initial construction involved a simple cruciform plan with a low gabled roof. The original plan called for wings, which were added in 1858. In 1911 further additions were made to the wings, the windows remodeled, and the Palladian stairways added. At this time the low elliptical dome was constructed. Listed in the National Register June 19, 1972. [Courtesy of the SC Dept. of Archives and History]
Architects Anthony Ten Eyck Brown, Luther D. Proffitt and Martin Luther Hampton supervised the 1911 updates to the courthouse.
Laurens, the oldest and largest town in the county, was selected as the court town and county seat when Laurens County was created by an act of the state legislature in 1785. The area had formerly been a part o: the Ninety Six District which had been established in 1769 and had included, in addition to Laurens, the present counties of Edgefield, Saluda, McCormick, Abbeville, Greenwood, Newberry, Union, Spartanburg, and parts of Aiken and Cherokee. At the time of its designation as a county it was necessary to choose a name for the area. The first name suggestec was Downes District in honor of Major Jonathar Downes, a colonial officer and prominent member o the community who had headed a group of citizens commissioned to survey the territory. Downes however, declined the honor. According to the legislative journal of the South Carolina House of Representatives for 1785, the name Hereford Count} was used in the first reading of the bill to name the county. Presumably, this was the choice of some of the inhabitants who remembered the borough seat ol Herefordshire in their native England. By the time the bill passed, however, the name had been changed to Laurens County in honor of Henry Laurens, one of the most prominent South Carolinians of the Revolutionary period. Following a term as president of the Continental Congress Laurens had been appointed minister plenipotentiary from the United States to Holland. Captured by the English while enroute to Holland, he was held in the Tower of London until he was exchanged for Lord Cornwallis following the latter’s capture by American forces in 1781. Laurens proceeded from England to France where he joined Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and John Jay in negotiating the peace treaty with England that acknowledged the independence of the thirteen colonies. (Information from: Names in South Carolina by C.H. Neuffer, Published by the S.C. Dept. of English, USC)
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