The Three Courthouses of Cumberland County, TN

The 1st Courthouse:

The first courthouse in Cumberland County was nothing more than an old log cabin. It sat across from where the current courthouse is located. It was built in 1856 but the growing town needed a bigger building. 

“The cornerstone was laid by members of the local Mason lodge in the fall of 1884, but bad weather delayed construction until the summer of 1885.” (Cumberland County Tennessee, Dickinson, p. 27)

 “At Crossville, the county town, which was formerly a most dilapidated and wretched place, with a few stores, some rickety log houses, and a few that seemed more habitable, with its street full of porkers and a courthouse of old logs, scarcely fit for a stable, we found great changes. A new stone court house was just completed.” (Crossville Times, 1886) 

The 2nd & 3rd Courthouse:

“The New Court House: Long after the  most substantial buildings, composing the town of Crossville, have fallen into decay, been torn down and new ones erected in their site, there will remain in the new court house a monument to the handiwork of the present decade, that the coming generations can point to with pride. 

Not only is the structure an eulogy on the enterprise of our citizens, but the fact that its entire material was obtained within the borders of the county is a fact that will cause great wonderment among people who imagine that their locality alone is blessed with almost everything within the reach of nature. 

Two years ago this fall, Mr. D. G. Brown, under whose able supervision the building was erected, went to J. F. Bowman, a prominent architect of Knoxville, had the plans drawn, gave out the contract on his return, and thus the project was commenced. 

The contract for the mason work was given to Messrs. McGuire & Bennet, contractors and builders, whose reputation as artists was fully verified in the exemplary completion of their part of the work. 

W. J. Andrews, a building contractor of no less repute than the above named firm, secured the wood-work contract, and that also has been completed to the satisfaction of all concerned. 

The mason work was done at a cost of $3,000, sand-stone being used, and all secured within a mile an half of the building site, some of it being quarried within one hundred yard of the scene of operation– while the materials for the woodwork, it is unnecessary to add, were easily procured near at hand being composed of popular, pine and oak. 

The house measures 40 x 56 feet, is two stories in height, the walls being twenty-five feet from the water table on the first floor. It has nine rooms, including court room, jury room, offices for the county officials, and a commodious cloak room. The court room, on the first floor measures about 37 x 38 feet, off of which is the petit jury room, 16 x 18 feet. The second floor is partitioned off into receptacles for the county servants, namely: sheriff, county clerk, circuit clerk, trustee, register, and clerk and master, while one of the rooms is reserved for the grand jury to hold their deliberations in. 

The walls and ceilings are all the finest hard finish, and the artist can well be proud of this feature.

While there are some minor alterations yet to be done to make the court house a complete building, it now stands almost in its entirety and ready for occupancy, and the next county court, which convenes on the first Monday in December, will occupy it. 

The whole cost of the building can be put at about $5,200, and many visitors among whom were competent judges of that class of work, being asked to speculate as to its cost, placed it, in their estimation, in all cases over $10,000 while some went as high as $15,000. It only goes to show that with the materials available in this county a building can be erected at about one-half the ordinary cost.” (The Crossville Times, 1886-1887)

“One unusual feature about the new courthouse was space on the first floor to be leased to businessmen. The first two tenants were the C.C. Way real estate and insurance office, and W.A. Hamby, attorney.” (Cumberland County Tennessee, W. Calvin Dickinson, p. 27)

“…on February 15, 1905 the second courthouse burned up so completely that only the stone walls and the vault in the Register’s Office escaped. All the county records kept in the other offices were destroyed, a loss we feel deeply as we try to piece together the early history of the county. The insurance amounted to $6,000 and the company paid $5,945. No time was wasted in getting to work on a new court house. The sandstone walls of the old one were still standing but more space was needed, and so the new one was located in the half-square on the opposite side of Main Street. The county court authorized a new building to cost ‘not more than$23,000.’ It was completed within a few months and was larger and more ambitious than the second had been, for instead of our own beautiful sandstone, Indian limestone was used. The cornerstone was laid on July 23, 1905, with the Masons in charge.” (Cumberland County’s First Hundred Years, Helen Bullard & Joseph Marshall Krechniak, p. 113)

In 1908…“The old courthouse, which had burned three years before, was restructured as a school building.” (Dickinson, p. 44)

*pictures are from the Crossville Times original articles as well as The Way It Was written by Bryan Stanley

*information is cited in above text

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