Sunday, September 7, 2008

Minutes of the Davidson County Court concerning the Court House

An edited version of this report was published here - http://www.civicscope.org/nashville-tn/CourthousesofDavidsonCounty



First Courthouse, 1785

The building of the first Courthouse was authorized by the Davidson County Court at the October Term 1783. “The Court then proceeded to fix on a place for Building of a Courthouse & Prison, and agree that in the present situation of the Settlement that it be at Nashborough and Built at the Expense of the Publick. And that the size of the Courthouse be eighteen feet square in the body with a Leanto Shade of twelve feet on the one side of the length of the House. And that the house be furnished with the necessary benches, Barr, Table &c fit for the Reception of the Court.”

“Davidson County. Nashborough Apr. 5, 1784. The court met at the house where Jonathan Drake lately lived.

“Davidson County Courthouse in Nashville July 8th 1785 Court met according to Adjournment.”

“State of North Carolina Davidson County Courthouse in Nashville, Jan. 1, 1787.”

“ North Carolina. Davidson County Courthouse in Nashville, July 1789”

“Courthouse Nashville, Oct. 14, 1791.”

“Court met at the house of Mr. Gunn in Nashville, Jan. 14, 1792.“

“Davidson County Courthouse in Nashville. April 10, 1792”

In April of 1792 the court “ordered that David Hay repair the Court house by Making Two Doors well fixed and Hung with three window shutters well hung; and the house Well chinked. And the seats and the Clerks Box and Table repaired and the house sweeped washed & cleaned.”

“Court met at the house of James Robertson in Nashville tenanted by Mr. Maze. April 12, 1792”

“Courthouse in Nashville, July 9, 1792,”

“Courthouse in Nashville, Oct 16th 1793”

“Court Met Oct 17, 1794 at the Courthouse.”

“Davidson County Jan 14, 1795. Court met at the house of Mr. Maxwell in Nashville.”

“Court met April 16, 1795 at the Courthouse.”

“Jan. 13, 1796, Nashville. Court adjourned to the house of James Maxwell where they met immediately. “

During the First General Assembly of the State of Tennessee an act passed April 22, 1796 “for the relief of such persons as have or may suffer by the loss of the records of the court of equity,” the preamble states that “Whereas the office of the clerk and master of the court of equity for the district of Mero, was lately destroyed by fire and the book records and papers thereof were lost, whereby many persons are or may be injured, etc.” Source for above - Nashville Banner March 12, 1936

“Court met at the Courthouse, July 11, 1796.”

“Courthouse, Nashville, Apr 11, 1797”

“Davidson County Courthouse, Oct. 12, 1797.”

“July 10, 1798, Court met at the Courthouse in Nashville.”

“Oct. 12, 1798, Court met at the house of William Lewis in Nashville.”

“Jan, 14, 1799, Court met at the Courthouse in Nashville.”

“July 8, 1799, Courthouse in Nashville.”

“Jan. 13, 1800, Courthouse in the town of Nashville.”

“Oct. 13, 1800, Courthouse in the town of Nashville.”

“Apr. 13, 1801, Courthouse in the town of Nashville.”

“Oct. 12, 1801, Courthouse in Nashville.”

“Apr. 12, 1802, Courthouse in the town of Nashville.”

“July 12, 1802 Court met according to adjournment at Courthouse, Nashville.”


Second Courthouse, 1802

“(Oct. 14, 1802) Court appointed Joel Lewis John Anderson and Joseph Coleman Esqrs commissioners to contract with some suitable person for one year to take charge of the Courthouse by seeing that the same be kept clean, Doors and Windows Opened & Shut and Necessary Repairs done on the most Reasonable Terms for which they shall be paid out of any money in our County Treasury not otherwise Appropriated; Nine Justices concurring and sd Commissioners to Direct person thus Imployed (in Rescess of the Courts), to say when the doors may be Opened.”

Davidson County Court, Oct 15, 1802, page 367, “Court adjourns for five minutes, to meet in the new Courthouse. Court met according to adjournment in the New Courthouse where was present…”

Davidson County Court, April Term 1804, “The Court also then appointed Joseph Coleman and Thomas Deaderick Esquires Commissioners to contract with some suitable person to purchase a Bell to be hung in the Courthouse in Nashville, the cost of Which Bell When Delivered at the Courthouse Aforesaid is not to Exceed Two hundred Dollars.”

Davidson County Court, October Session, 1804, “Ordered that the County Trustee pay to Deadrick and Tatum the Sum of One hundred and Twenty Two Dollars out of the first monies that may come into his hands belonging to the publick and others was Appropriated ____ for monies by them Expended in purchasing and hanging of the Bell in the Courthouse in Nashville.”

Davidson County Court, July Session 1806, “When Joseph Coleman and Thomas Deadrick is appointed commissioners to Let to the lowest bidder the Painting of the Roof and Steps of the Courthouse in the town of Nashville provided that doing of the same Do not Exceed the sum of Two hundred Dollars.”

Davidson County Court, April Session 1809, “Ordered that the courthouse be Open and free for Publick Worship to be held therein by any Denomination of Christians having _______.”

Davidson County Court, July Session 1811, “Ordered that the Sheriff procure the windows of the Courthouse to be Repaired and Secured by Springs or Otherwise on the lowest Terms that any person can be had to do the same.”

Davidson County Court, January Session 1821, “Same Court present when it is ordered that the Sheriff of this county let out to the lowest bidder the repairing of the steps and floor of the courthouse the putting of one lock on the doors below and two on the doors above stairs and furnishing a rope to ring the bell with and having so done report to the present or ensuing court when appropriations will be made.”

Davidson County Court, October Session 1822, “Same court present when it is ordered that the Sheriff of this county proceed immediately after the rise of this court to have the windows of the court house glazed, the opening at the head of the Stairs closed, leaving a door there to which he shall have a shutter made and to have the two stoves places one on each side of the house behind the bar with pipes extending so as to render the house comfortable for the different courts that are to set here during the winter. And that the order of the work or furnish materials for the same shall be a sufficient voucher to the County Trustee to pay them the amount said Sheriff may direct out of any county money in his hands not otherwise appropriated.”

Davidson County Court, October Session 1822, “When it is resolved that our representative be requested at the next session of the Legislature of this State to have a law passed authorizing a Tax to be laid on the citizens of Davidson County to raise a sum not exceeding five thousand dollars to make an addition and other improvements to the Courthouse in said County, and that Robert Weakley, Robert C. Foster, William B. Lewis and Joseph T. Elliston be appointed commissioners to have this order carried into effect as it regards the improvement to said Courthouse as soon as practicable and to superintend the same.”

Davidson County Court, January Session 1823, “When it is resolved by the court that the Representatives from the County to the next General Assembly be requested to procure the passage of a law authorizing the County Court of the county to raise a sum of money by Taxes in three annual installments sufficient to build a new courthouse for said county. And it ordered that the order and resolution heretofore entered into on this subject be recinded.”

Davidson County Court, October Session 1825, “When the Court appoints Joseph W. Horton, Joseph T. Elliston, Elihu S. Hall and Joseph Norvell Esquires, commissioners to determine whether it is expedient upon the whole in order to the comfortable accommodations of the courts that are to set in Nashville this winter, to have the old courthouse repaired or another house procured. If they decide in favor of repairing they are to employ someone to repair by putting in new glass and closing all openings. If they decide in favor of renting another house, they are to rent and in either case the Sheriff is to draw for the expenses on the county Trustee who is to pay such drafts.”

Davidson County Court, January Session 1826, “…lay such a tax on the several species of Taxable property and polls in this county as will raise the sum of five thousand dollars per year for three successive years making the sum of fifteen thousand dollars to be appropriated to the purpose and use of building a Courthouse in this county”

Davidson County Court, October Session 1827, “Ordered that the Sheriff of this county have the Courthouse repaired by having the Sash and Glass put in, Locks or bolts put on the doors and the stoves set up and fixed for use for which appropriation will be made at next court out of the Taxes of 1827. And the court also direct said Sheriff to keep the said Courthouse locked up when no court is in Session.”

Davidson County Court, April Session 1829, “When it is ordered that the commissioners appointed to superintend the building of the New courthouse be and they are hereby authorized to sell and have removed the old courthouse after giving ten days notice of the time and place of selling the same.”


Third Courthouse, 1829


“The principle room (in the new Market House) likewise will be convenient for other public purposes, and is now occupied by the Supreme Court of Tennessee, which holds it’s present session there, in consequence of the dilapidated state of the old court house and the unfinished condition of the new one.”

“We hope soon to see the old market house demolished, and we trust the old court house will soon – very soon—follow. The latter building is really unfit for use. The last term of the Circuit Court was held in the Corporation Hall of the new Market House, and we presume that an apartment in the new Court House may be so far completed before the next term of the county court, as to admit of it’s being held there. The square may be graduated and rendered as level as practicable. The part which lies between the continuation of Market Street and that of Water Street will constitute a very handsome Courthouse yard, with broad and convenient streets on every side of it.” Nashville Banner and Nashville Whig, January 24, 1829.

October Session 1829, “Same Court present when Charles Biddle esquire who was heretofore appointed by this court as their agent to settle and adjust at his discretion the account of Davidson County against the General Government for the rent of their Courthouse for the United States courts to sit in, Made report that he had settled said account and had procured for this County the sum of $7881.89 cents for the rent of the courthouse from the 2nd April 1798 to the 31st December 1825 and that said sum is now deposited to the credit of the County in the Branch Bank of the United States at Nashville.”

October Session 1831, “Same Court present when the court unanimously appropriated the two large rooms in the third story of the Courthouse now occupied by the Senate and House of Representatives of the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee for the exclusive use of the Legislature so long as they may think proper to continue their Sessions in Nashville.”

The Courthouse burned between 2 and 3 o’clock, Sunday morning, April 13, 1856. Tennessean 10/13/1935

In the county court minutes is written, “Monday Morning April 14, 1836 Court met pursuant to adjournment at the State House in Nashville (the Court House having been burned down)…”



Fourth Courthouse, 1857


On May 10, 1856, the court met in the Market House. “…the County Court will build a Courthouse on or near the center of the Public Square in Nashville, and in such building provide a suitable room for the meeting of the city council, with its offices, and a public room or hall of sufficient size for all public meetings of the city and council, if the Mayor and Alderman will remove their Market House from the Public Square and incur the expense of enclosing a sufficient area around the Court House, planting it in trees, grass & c., and leaving the grounds at all times free and open for proper use and enjoyment by the people of the county and city.”

Davidson Co. Court Jan. 5, 1857, “When it was ordered by the court that Frank Strickland be employed at a salary of one thousand dollars per annum as architect of the court house.”

Architect W. Francis Strickland, son of William Strickland designer of the Tennessee State Capitol, was commissioned to build a new courthouse on the site of the burned Courthouse. The Greek design chosen by Strickland was very similar to the Capitol building which he had completed after the death of his father. It had a basement and three stories above ground. This Courthouse was to be 118 feet by 72 feet in size.

The building was remodeled in 1910 with an additional story added to the Courthouse.




In 1935 this building was demolished to make room for a new Courthouse. A temporary Courthouse was located in the L. Jonas Building, at 8th Ave. No. and Commerce Street. According to a newspaper article Feb., 3, 1937 there was a fire in the building and though no official records were burned some were water damaged.



Fifth Courthouse, 1937

The present Courthouse was completed in 1937. The architects, Emmons H. Woolwine of Nashville and Frederic C. Hirons of New York won an architectural competition in 1935 with their Art Deco design. The cornerstone of the building was laid Aug. 10, 1936, and the building was dedicated on Dec. 8, 1937. The general contractor was the J. A. Jones construction Company. The building is 8 stories high and measures 260 feet by 96 feet.
In October 2006 the newly renovated courthouse and a new public square park were dedicated by Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell
Copyright © 2008, Debie Cox.

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