Photo: Jasper County Courthouse, March, 2014. Courtesy of photographer, Daniel Comer, Carthage, MO. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
Jasper County Courthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2010, The Gombach Group.
Jasper County Courthouse, located at the center of the one-acre public square in downtown Carthage, Missouri, is a monumentally proportioned example of county courthouse architecture in Missouri. The Jasper County Courthouse is a three-story Romanesque Revival-style building, with a high basement and an attic. Corner pavilions, towers (including a dominant, central clock tower), and dormers add complexity to the basic mass.
The north and south facades of the courthouse are 133'8" long. The east and west facades are 106'8" long. The lantern is 176' from the ground.
The Jasper County Courthouse is constructed of rectangular, rock-faced blocks of native Carthage "marble" (limestone), the joints and seams neatly pointed with Portland cement bead. The deep cornices, clock tower lantern, guttering, and downspouts are copper. Aluminum window casings are on all facades above the first story level. The original wood casings remaining on the basement and first story levels are to be replaced by the aluminum type.
Windows. Even though there are no definite bay divisions, the fenestration pattern is regular; all windows being evenly spaced across each facade and directly over each other.
The basement windows are rectangular with one-over-one light, double-hung sashes. These windows are more deeply recessed at the bottom than at the top due to the battered wall treatment at this level. There are no decorative sills or lintels. All window openings on the south facade, east of the entrance towers, are boarded up.
The tall, first story windows are rectangular-shaped with one-over-one light, double-hung sashes. These windows are deeply recessed at the sill level only, due to the continuation of the battered wall treatment through the first story level. The omission of decorative sills and lintels is continued on this story.
The second story windows are of two types: 1) rectangular windows with three vertical lights and 2) broad-arched, double-width windows. The paired broad-arched windows are on the north and south facades between the corner pavilions and semi-circular entrance towers, one pair to each section of wall, for a total of four pairs of windows. These windows are divided at the impost line into two sections, the lower section being rectangular with two-over-two light, double-hung sashes. The upper portion is semi-circular with four, radiating, pie-shaped lights. Voussoirs, emphasized by a hood molding, are the only trim. The rectangular, three-light type of window is employed elsewhere on the second story.
These windows have no trim.
The third story windows are also of two types. The central window over the east and west entrances is similar to the broad-arched windows of the second story, being similarly sectioned, but with six lights, three sets of one-over-one light windows, in the lower section. The upper portion is identical in elements employed. The remaining windows, similar to the second story windows, are round-arched with three vertical lights and a single-light, semi-circular transom. Interconnected voussoirs and hood molding form an arcade-like pattern. The three central windows, between the entrance towers on the north and south facades, vary slightly from these windows by having no semi-circular transoms.
The attic openings are rectangular in shape and are boarded up.
Doorway and doors. The main entrances are centered on the north and south facades. Each two-storied porch-entrance has a broad-arched opening with an arcade above it, supported by a projecting sill. The arch, which is of the Syrian type, has voussoirs, emphasized by a hood molding. A hood molding similarly trims the voussoirs of the arcade. Two panels with rosette carvings ornament the spandrels of the primary arch. The upper edge of the porch-entrance is finished with a simple molding of smooth-cut stone. The exterior corners are emphasized by cylinder-like features which are terminated at the bottom by pendants.
Tall, semi-circular towers flank the north and south porch-entrances, forming the side walls. Above the cornice, these towers are topped by circular, arcaded sections, cornices, and conical roofs. The windows match, in style and elements employed, the other windows on their respective stories. The arcaded section is similar to the arcaded panel of the porch, but the hood molding is omitted.
The doorways are on the first story level. They have recently been remodeled in plate glass with aluminum frames, following the original design of double doors, with one, large pane of glass per door, flanked by rectangular sidelights with one pane of glass and topped by a fanlight, also with one pane of glass.
Other entrances are centered on the east and west facades. These entrances are also round-arched, but are tall and slender in proportion, being two stories high. Decorative features include voussoirs and a hood molding. The doorways are identical to those on the main facades.
Each first story entrance is approached by a broad, short flight of stone steps flanked by smooth-surfaced, solid stone railings.
Basement entrances are located on each facade of the courthouse: two on the outer walls of the southeast and northwest entrance towers; a third on the east facade, north of the entrance stairs and joining the corner pavilion on the south; and a fourth, leading into the Collector's Office, on the west facade, directly north of the west entrance stairs. The first three entrances appear to have been altered or added after completion of the building.
A centrally-located, three-stage clock tower rises above the roof of the Jasper County Courthouse. The base is square and has a series of three, arched openings, filled with louvers, centered on each side. Voussoirs form the arches. A modillioned cornice tops the base. An octagonal drum rises above this base. On the four sides of the drum cutting across the corners of the base, parapet-like walls with arched openings, at 90 degrees to each other, have been added. On the remaining four sides, which correspond with the four walls of the base, the triple-arch pattern of the base is repeated and clock faces have been added over them. A second, bracketed cornice tops this section. Rising above the drum, and supported by it, is the octagonally faceted dome. A small lantern completes the clock tower.
Projecting pavilions topped with square towers are placed at each corner of the courthouse. As with the entrance towers, these pavilions also display the existing window pattern with respect to the design used on each story. The towers have rectangular windows (presently boarded up), cornices, and pyramidal roofs, all above the main cornice.
A medium-pitched hip roof covers the Jasper County Courthouse. The decorative dormers and gables have gable roofs. Other roof features are described elsewhere.
A single, tall, square chimney is on the south side of the courthouse, in the southeast corner. It is incorporated into the southeast corner pavilion tower's west wall at the bottom and rises as a separate feature from the midpoint to the top. A projected molding is the only trim.
Decorative features include: 1) the cornices; 2) the dormers on the south and north facades; 3) the gables on the east and west facades; 4) the variations in the texture and course width of the stone blocks; and 5) the hood molding (already described).
A two-style, dark green cornice is continued across all the facades of the Jasper County Courthouse, including the towers and pavilions. Detailing results from the modillions, on the main wall sections between the towers, and discs, found on the projecting towers and pavilions. The modillions are continued on the secondary cornice of the corner pavilion towers and on the clock tower, between the base and drum. Brackets are on the clock tower's secondary cornice between the drum and the dome.
Stone dormers are found on the north and south facades. Single, small, pointed wall dormers are located between the entrance and the corner pavilion towers. A larger wall dormer, of the same style, is centered between the entrance towers. All openings in these dormers are boarded up.
On the east and west facades the center portion of the wall, containing the entranceways, is projected slightly forward from the main wall surface. This wall area is topped by a simple gable. Shallow, rectangular niches flank the entrances at the door level.
A change in the texture of the stone and the course width occurs at the division between the first and second stories. Below this point the texture is highly rock-faced and the courses are wide. Above the first story the texture, which is still rock-faced, becomes less pronounced and the course width decreases to one half of the width of the lower courses. A smooth, stone molding marks the division where this change occurs.
Center halls, one running in a north-south direction and the other in an east-west direction, intersect each other in the center of the courthouse. Offices and facilities opening off these halls are: the University of Missouri Extension Office (northeast corner); one of the Collector's offices (northwest corner); the Ladies Rest Center, or Lounge, (southwest corner); and a vault and furnace room (southeast corner). The basement also serves as a civil defense shelter.
The walls are of natural exposed stone, the only exception being in the offices where the walls are painted.
The floor is concrete.
Two wide hallways, one running east-west and the other north-south, intersect each other in the center of the courthouse. Museum display cases containing memorabilia from the Spanish American War, the Civil War, and World War I, as well as Indian artifacts and a mineral collection, line the east side of the north hall and the west side of the south hall. An extra display case is located on the north wall of the east hall, immediately to the east of the intersection of the hallways.
Various offices and courts open off the hallways: the County Clerk, the County Surveyor (City Engineer), the Probate Court and related offices, the County Court, the Treasurer, the Auditor, the Collector, the Emergency Employment Act office, and a private office of the Magistrate Judge. All doorways into these offices and courts are located at the ends of the hallways, just inside the main entrances into the courthouse.
The walls of the corridors are painted plaster (green in color) with a dark wood dado. The floor is covered with brown linoleum tiles.
Two, U-plan stairways are located in the north-south hallway, one on the east side of the south hall and the other on the west side of the north hall. These stairs are of cast iron and wood. The underside of each stairway is covered by a black iron plate embossed with medallions painted beige.
A cage-like elevator (probably original) is located in the south hall on the east side directly in front of the stairs.
The Probate Court and related offices are the only remodeled rooms on the first floor, these recent alterations having been speeded up by the needs of the Probate Court. Paneled, partition walls have been added, dividing the existing space into smaller offices and a separate, private "court room" area. The remaining original walls are painted a cream color. Surviving original woodwork includes carved spindles trimming the vertical edges of the window openings. A multi-colored tweed carpet covers the floor.
The second floor is still in its original condition, but with remodeling planned for the near future.
A wide north-south hallway intersects a narrow east-west hallway in the center of the Jasper County Courthouse. Due to a lack of space, a temporary, rectangular-plan, box-like office for the City Collector has been placed in the north end of the north-south hall, along the east side, and the Assessor's Office has been expanded across the width of the same hall, but at the south end.
The plastered walls of the corridors are painted light green with a dark wood dado. The plastered ceiling is white. The floor covering is wood except for the west end of the east-west hall where there is grey-beige carpeting.
The four city offices, located in the courthouse because the city of Carthage donated half the funds for the construction of the building, are in the northwest corner. The main entrance into these offices is through the Municipal Court and City Council Room. Other offices are to the east of this room with the exception of the Mayor's Office, which is in the northwest corner of the room itself.
The Municipal Court and City Council Room retains much of its original furnishings (including the Mayor's bench, the councilmen's desks, and the theatre-type seats for the spectators). The large, ceiling fans are also still intact. The wall treatment in this room includes a dark wood base board and an 18-inch painted plaster (blue-green in color) dado topped by a dark wood molding. The remaining wall is divided by a wood molding 1-1/2 feet from the ceiling. The lower portion of this section is painted green, while the upper section is painted beige. Brown linoleum tiles cover the floor. Lighting is through large windows on the north and west sides of the room and by suspended, ceiling lights.
Other offices and courts on this floor are: the County Superintendent of Schools, a private office of the Magistrate Judge, the Sheriff, the Eastern District Magistrate Court, the Veteran Service Office, the Recorder of Deeds, and the Magistrate Clerk.
This floor is currently  being extensively remodeled. Partition walls are being used to redistribute the available space in order to better meet the needs of the county. New lighting fixtures are being installed, necessitating lower, false ceilings. When the renovation is completed, several offices, now located on the second floor, are to be relocated on this floor.
A central hallway (retained in its original location) runs in a north-south direction. To the east of the hall are the two circuit courtrooms. The law library, the Court Clerk's offices, and the future Magistrate Courtroom are on the west side of the hall.
Painted cream-colored plaster walls occur throughout the entire floor. The ceiling is white acoustical tiles. Cream-colorecl linoleum tiles cover the floor in the hallway and the future Magistrate Courtroom, while green carpeting is in the courtrooms, the law library, and the Clerk's offices. The wooden hallway dado has been painted to match the walls. An oversized, paneled dado has been used on the north entrance tower rooms' curved, exterior walls.
The circuit courtrooms have been completely remodeled, the only remaining original fixtures being the judge's bench and the railing dividing the spectators from the judge.
A closet, located midway along the west side of the hall, houses the spiral, iron stairs that lead up to the attic.
The unfinished attic provides space for the central tower supports and the weights from the old clock. A ladder leads to the clock tower.
The exterior of the Jasper County Courthouse is maintained virtually in its original condition. The only changes have been the replacement of the slate roof in the early 1950's with a heavy duty, asphalt composition shingle roof, the addition of louvers on the clock tower lantern openings, the painting of the lantern white, and the installation of aluminum window casings and door frames (1972). In the last several years, the courthouse has also been tuck-pointed, sand blasted, and painted.
At the present time , the interior is being extensively remodeled for greater comfort and convenience. The third floor renovations are practically complete, the lower floors to be done later. These interior alterations are dependent on need and the amount of money available through the Safe Streets Act (which provides money for law and order).
The museum displays in the corridors on the first floor will be retained, and possibly enlarged, after remodeling.
The Jasper County Courthouse, facing north, is situated in the center of the public square. The main downtown business district of Carthage surrounds the block on all four sides, with many of these buildings having modern shop fronts on the ground level, while the upper floors retain much of their original third quarter, nineteenth century character.
A wide sidewalk runs along the curb of the block. Four other wide walks lead up to the four courthouse entrances from this curb walk. These entrance walks are connected with each other by a narrow walkway which joins the entrance walks at the base of the entrance stairs.
A driveway, running in an east-west direction alongside the south facade of the courthouse, extends from the east curb of the square to the south basement entrance.
A stone marker with an inscription commemorating the Battle of Carthage (July 5, 1861) is located on the northwest corner of the courthouse square lawn.
Parking meters are spaced along the curb on all sides of the square.
Jasper County Courthouse (1894-95), Carthage, Missouri, is significant as a fine example of the Romanesque Revival style of architecture, a style that dominated courthouse construction in Missouri between 1888 and 1908. This style incorporated many elements borrowed from the architecture of Henry Hobson Richardson who had revived Romanesque architecture in the 1870's and 1880's. The courthouse is also noteworthy for political reasons; Annie W. Baxter, the first woman to be elected to the governmental post of County Clerk, held this office in Jasper County during the construction of the 1895 courthouse. In addition, the building has served as the site of jurisprudence in Jasper County for the past seventy-seven years.
Of the thirteen surviving courthouses built in this style in Missouri, Jasper County's is the most vigorous, "full-blown," and well-preserved example of the style. This courthouse is the only example that closely echoes the ideals of Richardson, one of the three great American-born architects who did more than any other architect to change the American concept of Romanesque to make it Richardsonian.
Richardson's architecture was the fulfillment of a vision of a bold and vigorous architectural style which would express the virility of a young nation and capture the spirit of several robust architectural periods in European history. He combined, in varying proportions in a bold and original way, the massive, round-arched Romanesque of Auvergne and Aquitaine; the steep-roofed and turreted transitional Early French Renaissance of the Loire Valley; and the deeply-incised decorative stonework of Byzantium. Richardson built with vigor and, at times, with grandeur; he built with imagination and with an excellence in proportion and directness and strength at a time when the revivals and resuscitations of the Romantic Movement had lost their direction and earlier conviction and were floundering about.
History of Jasper County's Courthouses
The first Jasper County court met March 8, 1841, at the home of George Hornback. At this meeting, commissioners were appointed to locate a permanent county seat with the stipulation that the "location be as near the center of the inhabitable part of the county as practicable, without a survey, due regard being had to the situation."
On March 28, 1842, the county court christened the county seat "Carthage" and on April 10, 1842, the court instructed the superintendent of public buildings to contract for a courthouse in the new county seat.
The first courthouse was a one-story, one-room, frame structure, costing $398.50, not including the large stone fireplace at the north end of the room. A door was opposite the fireplace, facing south. The building was situated on the north side of the public square, the center area being saved for a more substantial building.
By the close of the 1840's, the business transacted by the county had grown to such proportions that the one-room courthouse would not accommodate the county offices. On July 29, 1849, an architect was employed to draw up plans for a new courthouse which was built in 1851. This new structure was a two-story, brick and stone building, costing $4,000. The lower story was used for the Circuit Court and other offices and the upper story was set apart for county and jail purposes.
This courthouse served as a hospital for wounded soldiers during the Battle of Carthage (July 5, 1861). In 1863, the building, along with nearly every other building in Carthage, was burned by the departing Confederates to prevent its being used by Union forces. During the "reconstruction" period in Carthage, the brick and stone ruins of the courthouse structure were removed and the public square was used as a city park until 1894 when ground breaking for the present courthouse was undertaken.
Between the burning of the courthouse in 1863 and the completion of the present Jasper County Courthouse in 1895, the county officials occupied offices in various buildings around Carthage. Immediately after the war, the county built a two-story, frame building on the west side of the square, which was used until 1872, when it purchased at $5,000, the old Baptist Church and the lot on which it was situated, just west of the county jail. In July, 1887, this building was destroyed by fire and the county court was forced to move into rented quarters in the old Methodist Church, at the corner of 4th and Howard streets. The county government remained in these quarters until early 1893, when they moved into the remodeled Burlingame and Chaffee Opera House.
During this period of constant shifting of county offices, public spirited men, realizing the necessity of having a public building at the county seat for the county offices and courts and for the safekeeping of the county records, began agitating for the submission of a proposal to the voters to provide funds for such a structure. Such an election was ordered for March 27, 1883. Bitter opposition on the part of Joplin citizens developed toward the proposal and, as a result, much ill feeling was engendered between Joplin and Carthage and the idea of having a courthouse at the county seat alone was abandoned. In October, 1887, a second proposal was submitted to the voters providing for a courthouse in Joplin and Carthage. This was also defeated. A third proposal was submitted in 1891, calling again for courthouses in both locations. This time the measure passed, but was contested by Webb City citizens. The Supreme Court of Missouri decided that the election was illegal by not having been held under the provisions of the Australian law. A fourth election was held in May, 1893, with practically the same proposal being submitted. The proposal was passed, paving the way for the construction of the present courthouse.
Annie W. Baxter
The first woman to be elected to the governmental post of County Clerk in the United States was Annie W. Baxter. She held that position in Jasper County, Missouri. She had been elected to the office in the fall of 1890, receiving 500 more votes than her opponent. Her administration (1890-94), at the time, was without parallel; in the State Department in Jefferson City her official reports were exhibited as models. Not withstanding the growth of the office, Mrs. Baxter succeeded in conducting it at less expense than any of her predecessors and, at the same time, made the office yield the county treasury more than twice as much revenue as ever before in the same length of time.
The architect for the Jasper County Courthouse was M. A. Orlopp, Jr. of New Orleans. He lived for a time in Little Rock, Arkansas; Dallas, Texas; and New Orleans, Louisiana. Before designing the courthouse, Orlopp designed the New Orleans Criminal Courts Building and, in partnership with Kusener, courthouses in Dallas County, Dallas, Texas (1890-92) and Pulaski County, Little Rock, Arkansas (1887).
Comparison with other Missouri County Courthouses
Jasper County Courthouse is one of thirteen surviving courthouses designed in the Romanesque Revival style which dominated courthouse construction in Missouri for twenty years. Other counties with courthouses in this style, in chronological order, are: Barton County, 1888-89; Henry County, 1892-93; Johnson County, 1896; Cole County, 1896-97; Worth County, 1897-98; Adair County, 1897-99; Andrew County, 1898-1900; Lawrence County, 1900-01; Bates County, 1901; Carroll County, 1901-04; Polk County, 1906-07; and Vernon County, 1906-08. Jasper County Courthouse (1894-95) was the third courthouse built in this style. (Schuyler County, 1895, also had a courthouse in this style, but it has been torn down and replaced by a 1960-61 structure).
All the surviving courthouses share five basic characteristics: 1) a rectangular plan; 2) four, square towers or pavilions, crowned with pyramidal roofs; 3) facades emphasized at the center with a pedimented or gabled feature; 4) round-arched portals (either low and broad or tall and narrow), which further accentuate the central section of the facades; and 5) a fenestration pattern composed of a combination of round-arched and straight-topped openings. Several other Romanesque features are: 1) round or polygonal turrets; 2) stepped gable wall dormers; 3) rock-faced stone walls; and 4) a large, central tower rising from the roof. These last four characteristics are found in varying combinations, in varying groups of courthouses.
Surveying the thirteen surviving courthouses as a group, the Jasper County Courthouse is the largest, most vigorous, "full-blown" example of the style due to the incorporation of eight of the above mentioned characteristics in its design. This courthouse stands out from the others because of the manner in which these characteristics have been combined and employed making the building an outstanding, monumental, Midwestern expression of Richardson's ideals for a new architectural style for a vital, young nation.
The survey of Missouri's sites of historical and architectural significance is based on the selection of sites as they relate to theme studies in Missouri history as outlined in Missouri's "Comprehensive Statewide Preliminary Historic Preservation Plan." The Jasper County Courthouse is therefore being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places as an example of the thematic study of civic architecture because 1) it is a fine example of the Romanesque style of courthouse architecture in Missouri and 2) the first woman, Annie W. Baxter, to be elected to the governmental post of County Clerk in the United States held that position in Jasper County during the construction of the courthouse.
Carthage [Missouri] Evening Press, October 8, 1895, p.1.
Carthage [Missouri] Press, August 23, 1894, pp.4-5, 7, 9.
Forbes, J. D. "Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson and Abbott, Architects; An Introduction," Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. XVII, No.3, Fall, 1958, pp.19-31.
Information collected by graduate students in a Missouri Courthouse Seminar Course under the supervision of Dr. Osmund Overby, University of Missouri-Columbia, Spring, 1972.
Jasper County Courthouse Site Data Form 170A-1 (State Historical Survey and Planning Office) prepared by Mr. Marvin VanGilder, President, Jasper County Historical Society, and Historian, Carthage Press.
Livingston, Joel T. A History of Jasper County, Missouri and Its People. Vol. I. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1912, pp.15-21.
Personal interview with Miss Rachael Thornton, Chamber of Commerce; Marvin VanGilder, Carthage Press; Representative Robert E. Young, 136th District; and Charles Goll, County Clerk for Jasper County, on July 15, 1972.
Robertson, Mrs. Bruce (comp.). Carthage Souvenir Book: 1842-1967. Carthage, Missouri: Chamber of Commerce, 1967.
Whiffen, Marcus. American Architecture Since 1780: A Guide to the Styles. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The M.I.T. Press, 1969, pp.133-140.
Other Pertinent Sources
Carthage [Missouri] Press, October 10, 1895, p.8.
Carthage [Missouri] Press, March 2, 1971, p.2.
Conard, Howard L. (ed.). Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri. Vol. I. St. Louis: The Southern History Company, 1901, p.509.
Hitchcock, Henry-Russell. Architecture of H. H. Richardson and His Times. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1936, p.259.
________. Richardson As A Victorian Architect. (Published text of a lecture from a seminar given at Harvard, Spring, 1965).
History of Jasper County, Missouri. Des Moines, Iowa: Mills and Company, 1883, p.182.
Inventory of the County Archives of Missouri: No. 73, Jasper County (Carthage). St. Louis: Historical Records Survey Program, January, 1940, pp.11-14, 100, 104-107.
Missouri: A Guide to the "Show Me" State. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, Inc., 1941, p.506.(WPA project).
Official Programme of the Laying of Corner Stone of Jasper County Court House at Carthage, Missouri, August 21 , 1894.
Schrantz, Ward L. (comp.). Jasper County, Missouri in the Civil Mar. Carthage, Missouri: The Carthage Press, 1923, p.158.
Schuyler, Montgomery. "The Romanesque Revival in America," American Architecture and Other Writings. Vol. I. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1951, pp.200-225, 272.
Shoemaker, Floyd C. (ed.). Missouri Historical Review. Vol. XXXVI. Columbia, Missouri: State Historical Society of Missouri, No.2, January, 1942, pp.260-61. (From a speech delivered by Hon. John H. Flanigan of Carthage before the Jasper County Bar Association, March 1, 1941).
Van Trump, James D. "The Romanesque Revival in Pittsburgh," Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. XVI, No.3, October, 1957, pp.22-27.
† M. Patrica Holmes, Chief Architectural Historian, Missouri State Park Board, Jefferson County Courthouse, Missouri, nomination document, 1973, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.