The courthouse faces a modest plot of grass, too small to be called a courthouse square but large enough for the customary Confederate monument. The initial portion of the courthouse, a classical building with strong Beaux-Arts influence, has one-bay parapeted wings on the front balanced by similar wings attached to the rear. The hipped roof, crowned by a cupola with an open belfry, extends to form a projecting three-bay portico with full-height Ionic columns. Now painted white and cream, the courthouse originally had vivid red brick walls with contrasting white portico, entablature, spandrel panels, and quoins. The design of the courthouse is credited to H. H. Huggins of Roanoke. The courthouse has been the scene of many bootlegging trials, a mountain tradition as potent here as anywhere in the country.
Behind the courthouse is the Franklin County Jail (1938, Smithey and Boynton), a Moderne building of stuccoed concrete block with a streamlined entrance. Although the style was rarely used for penal institutions, this jail exudes the appropriate qualities of strength and punitiveness.