The Fourth County Courthouse’s cornerstone was laid in 1904. The building opened to the public on the first day of 1907. The grand scale and intricate stonework typify this Beaux Arts building, a style popular for public buildings at the turn of the century. Also common is the projecting central portico, which faces Columbus Circle. Syracuse architects Archimedes Russell and Melvin King further dramatized the entry with a large copper dome and grand staircase. The main lobby, also called the atrium, has marble columns and marble floors. It is finished in dull gold and blues with an ornamental plaster work and beveled glass. Four murals by William Dodge depict incidents in the lives of Minnehaha, Hiawatha, Pere LeMoyne and Asa Danforth. Three symbols of law and justice on murals at the head of the main marble staircase are the work of Gustave Gutgemon.
Along with featuring Beaux Arts style architecture, marble staircases, and historic murals, the fourth Onondaga County courthouse also offers some historic artifacts. The chair that former president Teddy Roosevelt sat in during his libel trial is still here.
Teddy Roosevelt at his libel trial
Roosevelt declared that an alliance between crooked business and crooked politics made a rotten NYS government in 1915.
Teddy Roosevelt on the witness stand during his trial
As a result of Roosevelt’s statement, William Barnes, the powerful NY Republican Chairman, sued Roosevelt for libel. That famous trial played out in Room 300.
The Barnes-Roosevelt trial at the Onondaga County Court House
Other prominent artifacts are nine Civil War flags preserved outside the County Clerk’s office on the second floor. Tightly furled onto their staffs for many years, the cherished mementoes of that watershed conflict are now allowed to rest in their large, metal cabinet just off the clerk’s office.
The Regimental Banner of the 185th NY Volunteer Regiment
The Regimental Banner of the 149th Regiment
In a separate display case is the original flagstaff repaired by Sgt. William Lilly of the 149th Regiment at the Battle of Gettysburg.
The repaired 149th Regiment flagstaff from the Battle of Gettysburg
Sergeant Kiggins with the repaired flagstaff from the 149th Regiment
The flags offer so many tales of bravery and heroism, and are symbolic of the high price America’s citizens paid to rid this country of racial slavery and preserve the country’s democratic experiment.