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Home North Carolina Davidson County City of Lexington Historical Markers Old Davidson County Courthouse

Old Davidson County Courthouse

Main Street at Center Steet, Lexington, NC, USA

Latitude & Longitude: 35° 49' 26.49", -80° 15' 11.7288"
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"Completed 1858. Interior was burned, 1865, rebuilt ca. 1867. Fine example of Classical Revival style."
     Davidson County was formed in 1822 after a division of Rowan County was judged to be necessary for the proper carriage of justice throughout the region. After disputes over the situation of a county seat, Lexington was given the honor and county officials then sought to build a courthouse and jail. The first courthouse, completed in 1825, was a two-story building designed by architect William Nichols. In 1856, county officials decided a new, larger building was necessary for the safekeeping of court records. Situated on the edge of the town’s public square, the new courthouse was constructed of local materials and completed in 1858.

     During the 1850’s citizens throughout North Carolina sought to construct awe-inspiring and architecturally stylish courthouses in their county seats. Most of the courthouses follow themes inspired by the recently completed State Capitol building in Raleigh. Completed by two builders from Raleigh, George Dudley and William Ashley, the Davidson County Courthouse remains a landmark in Lexington. Of an ornate style with Corinthian columns, arched windows and decorative cornice, the building was called a “Temple of Justice” by a contemporary who felt that it served as an example for other counties to emulate. It is still considered to be one of the finest examples of antebellum courthouses in the state.

     The courthouse suffered damage during the Civil War. In 1865, the interior of the building burned under suspicious circumstances. Locals attributed the fire to occupying Union forces and later sought funds from the federal government to re-build after the war. Although the building burned, only its interior elements suffered and some records were salvaged by a local citizen. After the reorganization of the local government in 1868, county officials salvaged the courthouse, completing repairs to the interior, cupola, and foundation using funds donated or borrowed from local citizens. The repairs did not alter the original courthouse’s appeal, re-using all available elements that escaped the fire including the exterior walls, columns and some foundation members. The renewed building served Davidson County as its courthouse with slight remodeling in 1918 until a larger facility was completed in 1958.

M. Jewell Sink and Mary Green Matthews, Pathfinders Past and Present: A History of Davidson County North Carolina (1972)
Catherine Bishir, North Carolina Architecture (1990)
Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina (2003)
Paul Baker Touart, Building the Backcountry: An Architectural History of Davidson County (1987)
Davidson County website: http://www.davidsoncountync.com
Related Themes: C.S.A., Confederate States of America, Confederacy
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Old Davidson County Courthouse North Carolina