A Brief Sketch of the Courthouse


On March 10, 1888, the Ohio Senate passed a resolution to allow the commissioners of Williams County to either "repair, enlarge and improve the present (old) courthouse, or to erect a new courthouse at the county seat of (Williams) county." The commissioners decided to tear down the old courthouse and erect a new building on the same spot.

On May 1, 1888, the first bonds to finance the construction of this new courthouse were sold. Within a month, the county officers were settled into their new "temporary" quarters in the old Mykrantz Academy at the southwest corner of Lynn and Mulberry streets, where the Andres O'Neil and Lowe Insurance Agency building is today located. By the first of July, the old courthouse was completely cleared away so that construction could begin on the new building.

Building the New Courthouse

The architect for the present seat of justice was EO. Fallis of Toledo. The building's architectural style is that of modified French Baroque, influenced by Romanesque Revival. The general contractor was the firm of Malone Brothers and Earhart, also of Toledo.

The first foundation stone for the courthouse was laid at 1:40 p.m., October 1, 1888, and the first brick was laid at 1:27 p.m. October 22, 1888. The cornerstone at the northeast corner of the building was laid on April 30, 1889, the 100th anniversary of the inauguration of George Washington as the first president of the United States.

It had been rumored for may years that quicksand lay beneath the soil of the court park. However, during the excavation no quicksand appeared; instead, workmen encountered clay that the local newspaper reported as being "so hard as to almost defy a pick."

Public Opinion

A disagreement arose over which color of brick mortar to be used, red or white. This was settled by building sample walls using each color mortar and inviting the public to choose between the two. Which color was decided upon?
During the construction of the 160 foot high mammoth building, only minor injuries and accidents occurred. This is quite a feat considering the building was constructed by hand using rope, tackle and pulleys, with up to 70 men working on the building at once.

Cost & Materials

The building cost roughly $185,000, including the furniture purchased from Conant Brothers of Toledo. Most of the brick came from Chicago and the Berea and Amherst stone was dressed on the courthouse site by stonecutters brought in from Scotland. These stonecutters awed the local people by working on narrow scaffolds 125 feet in the air, carving the stone work on the tower. The marble for the floors, stairs and wainscoting came from Georgia. The roof was originally of slate supported by steel beams. The pillars are made of granite.

The material for the courthouse was brought in by railroad and hauled to court park by horses. One team of horses weighing 2400 pounds pulled a stone that weighted 12,700 pounds. The windows are made of quality American plate glass with a specifically designed curve to allow more light into the offices.

The tower is 26 feet square with the walls being 3 feet thick. It required 35,500 brick to build each four-foot segment of the massive tower. The original clock was a Seth Thomas, which cost $999 and was purchased through Theo. Kampf, a Bryan jeweler. The clocks were replaced and renovated in 1976, as a bi-centennial project, at a cost of $12,000. The bell from the old courthouse was placed in the new courthouse tower for a short time. The present bell, weighing 3000 pounds, was hung in January, 1891.

New Rooms

The courthouse officials first began using their rooms in July 1891. The Auditor, Probate Judge, Treasurer, Clerk of Courts and Recorder still occupy the original offices assigned to them.

Heating Plant

At a cost of $1,500 a heating plant was constructed on North Lynn Street at the present location of the General Telephone Co. building and a tunnel built from that site to the courthouse. Coal-fired boilers provided steam heat that was supplemented by 15 grate fireplaces made at Marshall, Michigan (now bricked in) and installed throughout the courthouse at a cost of $1,150. In 1901, a coal-fired heating system was installed in the basement of the courthouse and use of the heating plant and tunnel discontinued. Little, if anything, remains of the heating tunnel today. The coal-fired system was later replaced by the gas heating system still in use.

National Registry of Historic Places

In 1957, half of the fourth floor was renovated for use, and in 1961 the elevator was installed. The courtroom vaguely resembles the original as finished in 1891. Since that time the courtroom has experienced several major renovations, including having the ceiling lowered to its present height. In 1973, the Williams County courthouse was entered into the National Registry of Historic Places.

(Prepared by Richard L. Cooley and Kevin Maynard)