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Monongalia County Courthouse

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1891, James P. Bailey. 1890s, J. C. Fulton & Sons. 243 High St. (west side of High St., north of Chancery Row)
  • (West Virginia Collection within the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

Recessed from the street and fronting the remaining portion of the Public Square, this Romanesque Revival building occupies the site designated for Monongalia County's courthouse late in the eighteenth century. The immediate predecessor, a classical revival building dating from 1846–1848, was in disrepair by the 1870s but was allowed to remain until it was declared unsafe for public meetings in the 1880s. When citizens defeated a bond issue to provide funds for a new building, county officials began its demolition clandestinely during the night.

Above a sandstone foundation, the hardpressed red brick structure presents a confused facade to the square. A tall belfry–clock tower, capped by a steep pyramidal roof, dominates the composition but does not contain the entrance, as might be expected. Instead, the entrance is between the tower base and a rounded stair tower to the north. Limestone trim and belt courses provide decorative punctuation marks, but the building, designed by a Pittsburgh architect, and added to within ten years of its dedication in 1891, lacks real architectural distinction.

Inside, within the rounded bay of the main stairway, the courthouse contains a unique piece of folk art: a 9-foot-tall, white-painted wooden statue of Patrick Henry, governor of Virginia when the county was formed. Ebenezer Mathers carved it, almost entirely from a single log, in 1851. The patriot is shown standing, cloaked in a flowing judicial robe and holding a scroll in his left hand. Considering that the statue stood for thirty-nine years on top of the earlier courthouse before being brought inside and that no one seems to know how it was held in place, it is excellent condition. As far as is known, it is in the oldest statue in the state.

Writing Credits

S. Allen Chambers Jr.


What's Nearby


S. Allen Chambers Jr., "Monongalia County Courthouse", [Morgantown, West Virginia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

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