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Litchfield  County Courthouses

Litchfield Courthouse
 Published 1887
Litchfield Green and Courthouse (right)
Postmarked 1907
Litchfield Main Street (court with clock tower)
Postmarked 1907
Litchfield Courthouse - 1867 (on right)
Postmarked 1907
West Street, Litchfield
 Published pre-March 1907
Litchfield Courthouse
Copyright 1910
Litchfield  County Courthouses
Copyright 1910
West Street, Litchfield c.1910
Copyright 1910
West Street, Litchfield
Published 1910

Litchfield Courthouse
Copyright 1916

Time was when Litchfield natives wondered if they ever would build a courthouse that could avoid destruction by fire. The first Litchfield Courthouse was built in 1752 and stood almost in the middle of what was then called Meeting House Street. It was a plain building, looking more like a meetinghouse than a place where justice was served. It wasn’t long before the town fathers decided that this little courthouse was not adequate in scope or size to serve the legal needs of the county.
 

William Spratt, an English architect who had moved to the area, designed the second courthouse, which was finished in 1797 at a cost of $5,000. The building stood watch over the Public Square directly in front of and about 150 feet from the site of the current Litchfield Judicial District Courthouse. It was a small, but attractive white building with a red roof, four evenly placed Ionic columns and a cupola—which was, at the time, an unusual architectural flourish for a government building. Local granite was used for the foundation and underpinnings as well as separate foundations for the four columns that fronted the courthouse. 

As was the custom in those days, a large percentage of the courthouse, inside and out, was constructed of wood. Two fireplaces with Ionic pilasters and pediments, which were replaced by Franklin Stoves in less than 20 years, heated the large courtroom. On June 10, 1886, the courthouse was destroyed by fire along with many of the storefronts nearby. 

Immediately following the fire, the town of Litchfield, fearing that without a building it would lose county court business to another town, began construction on another courthouse. It was completed in August 1888. It was a wooden structure similar to the old courthouse and was located on the same site now occupied by the present one. On the morning of August 8, 1888, the courthouse burned to the ground before any court business had been transacted. 

Once again reluctant to lose county court business, the town of Litchfield formed a committee and hired noted Waterbury architect Robert Wakeman Hill to build a new, more durable courthouse. It was a granite block structure with a Seth Thomas clock tower on West Street and today still stands as a beacon to the Litchfield Town Green. It was finished in 1889 and presented to the county on March 11, 1890. 

The courthouse, built of Roxbury granite in the Romanesque Revival style owes its curious styling to the 1913-14 remodeling in the Colonial Revival mode. The Courthouse renovation was prompted by a need for more space and to satisfy town residents, making the courthouse—which was the most prominent building in the Village center—more aptly reflect the colonial character of the town. The alterations were limited to the exterior leaving the interior much like it was with its marbleized Eastlake mantels and large courtroom on the second level. 

This courthouse is still in use today, serving as the Litchfield Judicial District Courthouse, and is the third oldest of Connecticut’s courthouses.


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Veterans Celebration, pre-1913
Veterans Celebration, pre-1913
West Street, Litchfield, c. 1920's
Published 1920s

 

   

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