You are here

Wood County Courthouse

-A A +A
1899–1901, L. W. Thomas. Court Square (on axis with 3rd St., between Juliana and Market sts.)
  • (West Virginia Collection within the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)
  • Wood County Courthouse (State Historic Preservation Office, West Virginia Division of Culture and History)

Wood County's fifth courthouse (the third on this site) owes an enormous architectural debt to a better-known structure farther upstream on the Ohio: H. H. Richardson's 1880s Allegheny County Courthouse in Pittsburgh. Though far smaller than its model, this building, designed by an architect from Canton, Ohio, imitates it in overall composition and massing. Like those of the Allegheny County Courthouse, the walls are laid in regular quarry-faced ashlar courses, broad bands alternating with narrow ones. All the sandstone used in the building was quarried from nearby Quincy Street Hill. The tower, now shorn of its original steeply tapered roof, rises from the center of the facade above the main entrance. Two carved figureheads, which emerge from keystones above side entrances to support rounded, two-story oriels, provide unexpected visual delights. The female on the southwest elevation appears more like a Victorian damsel discovered in her negligee than any goddess of antiquity but obviously relishes her supporting role. Her mustachioed, bearded counterpart on the northeast elevation takes his task more seriously, bearing the weight of the world (or at least of the oriel) on his shoulders.

The cornerstone-laying ceremony in 1899 climaxed Wood County's centennial celebration. Readers of the centennial's Historical Souvenir were assured that the courthouse would “be of absolute fireproof construction, nothing but iron and steel going into the frame work, while the floors will be of terra cotta.” To withstand foot traffic in public spaces, wooden floors were laid over the terra-cotta base. Two courtrooms, one for the circuit court, the other for the criminal court, are on the second floor.

In 1975, when the building was threatened by urban renewal, a survey team from Ohio State University, supervised by the Historic American Buildings Survey, documented the courthouse. Thanks to members of the West Augusta Historical Society, who went to court to save it from urban renewal's planned demolition, the building still stands and still functions in the capacity its centennial creators envisioned.

Writing Credits

S. Allen Chambers Jr.


What's Nearby


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

If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.

SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.

, ,