History and images have been compiled from various sources including, among others, the 1987 National Register of Historic Places, Stack & Beasley's 1902 Sketches of Monroe and Union County, Union County Public Library (Patricia Poland, Genealogy & Local History Librarian), the Heritage Room Photo Collection, North Carolina Map Collection, Rootsweb - An Ancestry.com Community and Ancestry.com family histories.

Union County Courthouse - National Register of Historic Places


1913 Postcard
Preservation North Carolina photo

Statement of Significance

Union County was formed on December 19, 1842, from parts of Anson and Mecklenburg Counties. Five county commissioners were named in an act passed by the General Assembly in January 26, 1843. The new commissioners were directed to select a site for the county seat to be named after former President James Monroe and there to erect a courthouse. The town of Monroe was to be situated no more than two miles from the center of the new county. As they were unable to purchase the site first chosen, High Hill, the commissioners then selected the present site of Monroe. The first courthouse was erected on the public square located in the center of town. It served the community for forty years.

On February 16, 1885, the General Assembly authorized the county commissioners to sell the old courthouse at the same time they authorized bonds to be sold for the new courthouse. On March 4, 1885, the Union County Board of Commissioners appointed W.H. Fitzgerald and C.N. Simpson "to correspond with architects and builders for plans and specifications” for a new courthouse. They were to ascertain the probable cost and to examine other courthouse designs in the state for suitability. The committee was also to look into the printing of bonds to finance the building. When the board of commissioners met on September 7, 1885, it was announced that the contract had been awarded to J.T. Hart* for the sum of $20,500. The courthouse, constructed in 1886, is unusual in that it is surmounted by a cross. The placement of the cross was attended by some opposition from those who thought this secular use of a cross was sacrilegious. The north and south wings were added in 1922.

Perhaps the most noteworthy event that took place at the courthouse was the visit of Marshal Ferdinand Foch, who was commander-in-chief of the allied armies during the final months of the First World War. Marshal Foch spoke from a platform on the east lawn of the courthouse on December 9, 1921, and decorated the colors of the 5th and 17th Field Artillery Regiments from Fort Bragg with the fourragere of the Croix de Guerre for conspicuous bravery with the American Expeditionary Forces.

The Union County Courthouse, a fine example of Victorian civic architecture, is especially notable for the skillful integration of the later addition with the original construction. Particularly striking is its elaborate cupola which is a prominent landmark.

Physical Appearance

The Union County Courthouse is a large two-story brick structure 'With a low hip roof surmounted by a large cupola. The original section, built in 1886, consisted of a five-bay main block with a two-bay wing on each side. In 1922 the building was increased by the construction of two additional three-bay wings. All of the architectural detail of the original section was faithfully reproduced in the wings, to such an extent that on the exterior there is no indication that the whole building was not constructed at one time.

The main block is somewhat taller than the wings. The front and rear facades are identical, having projecting three-bay pedimented central pavilions. Each pavilion feature s a one-story arcaded wooden porch with a mansard roof surmounded by an intricate iron cresting. Above the porches are three tall arched windows with decorative stone archivolts and key stones. The walls of the main block on either side of the pavilion have arched windows with stone impost blocks and key stones on the second floor, and segmental heads with decorative brick and stone surrounds on the first. This latter treatment is repeated throughout the rest of the fenestration. The wings are topped by a solid balustrade above a heavy bracket cornice like that of the main block.

The large cupola, rectangular in plan, is perhaps the most interesting feature of the building. Resting on a low molded base the first stage features pairs of small, almost square windows with segmental heads. Above this is the main section with each face treated as a tabernacle with rusticated corners, fluted pilasters and a round-arched louvered vent. The tall sloping roof of the cupola has convex sides and a "dormer" containing a clock on each face. At the top of the cupola is a large cross.

The first floor of the interior has an axial hall with stairs rising to the floors above at the north and south ends. These feature massive newel posts, turned balusters, and molded rails. All of the offices on this floor are simply finished with plastered walls and vertically sheathed wainscot.

In the second floor of the center section of the building is the courtroom, a very large and impressive space. There are five arched windows down each side. The wall bays are divided by pilasters which support a full entablature of which the frieze is ornamented with garlands and cartouches. The room contains the usual courtroom furniture and appointments.”

Survey and Planning Unit Staff, John B. Well III, Supervisor
State Department of Archives and History
April 26, 1971


*NOTE:
NCSU Libraries, North Carolina Architects & Builders
Catherine W. Bishir (A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina)
The Union County Courthouse built 1887-88 was designed by Thomas J. Holt.
C.C. Hook and his son Walter were the architects for the 1922 additions; George M. Tucker, contractor.


Photos posted above were not part of the National Register nomination. They are from The Heritage Room, North Carolina Postcard Collection, UNC Collection and Preservation North Carolina. I wanted to sprinkle them through the post, but blogger is balking.

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