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Franklin County Courthouse

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1874, Edward C. Ryer. 17 Church St., City of St. Albans
  • (Photograph by Curtis B. Johnson, C. B. Johnson Photography)

Overlooking Taylor Park in the midst of a row of distinguished public buildings is a courthouse unlike any other in Vermont. It is also unlike any other known work of its architect, Edward C. Ryer of Burlington, who designed a stone Second Empire courthouse for Chittenden County three years before (burned 1982). Most Vermont courthouses are gable front. This building is broadside, more in the format of Ammi B. Young's much earlier federal courthouses in Windsor (WS40) and Rutland (RU37), if also more exuberantly picturesque. Its facade is articulated into advancing end bays with third-story towers, receding intermediate bays, and an advancing pedimented central pavilion. Its vocabulary is primarily Renaissance Revival—a rusticated ground floor, tall pilastered principal floor with round-and segmental and belfries with pediments, pilasters, and round arches. The courthouse shared these motifs with two other Renaissance Revival buildings along the park: the Congregational Church (1862; burned 1891), and St. Albans Academy (1861, now the Historical Society Museum). The courthouse's hipped roof, stringcourse, prominent cornice, and central pediment resonate with those on the academy. The kinship was even closer when the courthouse also shared a polychromy of window frames and orders. This may suggest the inclination of Ryer and his clients to create a coordinated complex along the park, especially since the town's most prominent financial and political figure, John Gregory Smith, had already played a direct role in the construction of the church and the academy. The courthouse also shows the influence of Smith's Second Empire projects of the mid-1860s, including his house (demolished) and his railroad headquarters (1867; Lake Street at Federal Street). The courthouse towers are capped by stocky mansards and originally were linked by an eaves balustrade and a parapet that arced above the central pediment. Although the architect was not from Franklin County, this courthouse is very much a reflection of post–Civil War St. Albans.

Writing Credits

Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson


What's Nearby


Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson, "Franklin County Courthouse", [St. Albans, Vermont], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Vermont

Buildings of Vermont, Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2013, 211-211.

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