Hinds County Courthouse
The Hinds County Courthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2011, The Gombach Group.
The Hinds County Courthouse is located at 407 East Pascagoula Street between South Congress Street and South President Street in Jackson, Mississippi. The Hinds County Courthouse and jail is a five-story and basement, 90' by 196', nine-bay by seven-bay, H-shaped plan, Art Deco style structure with its principle facade facing north. The Hinds County Courthouse functions are housed in the basement and on the first three floors. The jail is located on the fourth and fifth floors. A modern jail facility has been added to the south.
The first floor of the courthouse includes a central double-loaded longitudinally oriented lobby intersected by a central transverse, double-loaded corridor. Variation of this arrangement occur in the basement and on the second and third floors. The functional arrangements on all these floors have been modified over the years. Major functions presently occur in the three bays at each end of the corridor; the Tax Collector and Tax Assessor on the first floor and the Chancery, County, and Circuit Courts on the second and third floors. The jail functions are located above the nine central bays and consist of cells and support functions arranged around a transverse, double-loaded corridor.
Significant exterior features of the front facade include: The six central bays composed of fluted pilaster-panels and bronze window-and-spandrel panels decorated with fretwork and rosettes and stepped back frieze and parapet elements above punctuated by monumental sculptural elements; and the three projecting end bays with plain window surrounds and banded, stepped-back friezes and parapets. Ornament at the frieze and parapet includes typical Art Deco motifs such as fretwork bands, stepped pyramid profiles, stylized eagles, and facet and chevron patterns. The other three facades are simpler, dominated by the Art Deco preference for large, prismatic masses.
The exterior wall material is limestone above a granite basement. Interior walls in the lobbies are faced with "crab orchard quartzite" supplied by the F. Graham Williams Co. of Atlanta, Georgia. Interior marble was supplied by the Columbus Marble Works.
The main entry consists of bronze doors and surrounding cast bronze ornamentation including such motifs as: eagles, torches, faces and axes, sunbursts, and the Hinds County Seal.
The interior walls consist of stone, load-bearing terra cotta tile, and brick masonry, with a floor structure composed of plate girders, resection purlins, and a one-way concrete slab.
Materials in the basement are less expensive than those on the three floors above: Terrazzo, some stone, plaster, etc. There are few significant details on this level.
On the first floor of the Hinds County Courthouse the flooring materials are marble and travertine. At the intersection of the lobby and transverse corridor there is a geometric pattern composed of star and circle motifs. Also on this floor are: marble wainscots and door surrounds; travertine stair treads, risers, and handrail; marble-faced columns with polychrome capital panels; Art Deco rosettes at hanging light fixtures; an overlapping circle motif at beam soffits; and plaster ceilings. The quartzite walls have been painted. Door hardware is bronze throughout.
The offices of the Tax Collector, Tax Assessor, and Circuit Clerk are notable for bronze partitions and feature Doric pilasters. The ceiling has been lowered to eight feet in these areas. Flooring includes travertine and wood parquet. Other features are: plaster crown moldings, wooden door surrounds and base moldings, wood-paneled wainscots, and wood doors often having burled oak on walnut veneer.
On the second floor of the Hinds County Courthouse, floors are terrazzo. Otherwise in the lobby and corridor the materials are similar to those on the first floor, although the marble wainscot color changes. The stair handrail changes to oak and the stair has iron balusters decorated with fretwork. Somewhat peculiar pilaster consoles occur where beam ends enter walls.
The three courtroom spaces on this floor have lowered ceilings. Otherwise they are largely unchanged. Floors are wood parquet. The walls have a tall wood wainscot and paneled doors and a paneled backdrop at the judges' platforms. Wood ornament and sculpture which punctuates this platform shows patriotic motifs and reflects Adamesque tendencies. These tendencies are in sharp contrast to the heavy pilaster-borne eagles above the windows and to the Art Deco motifs employed in the lighting fixtures.
Great care was taken throughout the building to conceal radiator units and fans. Piping runs between wythes of hollow tile in the walls, and supplies radiators which were also recessed into these walls. The radiators are screened by bronze grills in a double-cross pattern. Return air grills are typically fitted into wood-paneled walls. Many original electrical panel boxes also still remain. Elevators are also still intact These elevators include wood-paneled interiors decorated with the seal of the State of Mississippi, original light fixtures, and original brass hardware.
The most notable interior artwork in the Hinds County Courthouse includes: the fine Art Deco style frontispiece at the Circuit Court Room which employs twin eagles and a sunrose motif; the carved wood scales of justice in the Circuit Court Room; a carved wooden eagle with wings spread behind the judge's platform in the County Court Room; and the plaster frieze reliefs, painted to resemble bronze, in the first floor lobby. These panels (with scenes repeated) include depictions of the Jackson skyline, a steamboat and wharf, dirigible and airplane, and Indians and settlers, among others.
Also of note is the central, hanging light fixture in the first floor lobby which employs such motifs as dragons, leaves, and acroterions. This fixture is suspended from a fine plaster ceiling rosette articulated with Art Deco facets and chevrons.
The Hinds County Courthouse in Jackson, Mississippi, is an excellent example of Art Deco style art and architecture. It is the seat of government of Hinds County and its location can be related to the original Thomas Jefferson inspired plan for Jackson. At the time of construction it was considered to be a model facility.
The Art Deco style takes its name from the Paris Exhibition of 1925 (L'Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes). The forms of the architecture, art, and household objects shown at this exhibition took their characteristics from the Art Nouveau, cubism, American Indian art, German Expressionism, and the German Bauhaus as well as lingering Neo-Classicism (Bevis Hillier, Art Deco [London: Studio Vista/Dutton, 1968], p.13, and Kenneth Frampton, Modern Architecture [London: Thames and Hudson, 1985], p.220). This style in architecture was typically symmetrical and rectilinear and responded to the "demands of the machine and of new materials...."
The Hinds County Courthouse is a massive symmetrical rectangular block with fluted pilaster-like panels, an incised fretwork cornice, and otherwise plain, prismatic surfaces. This prismatic quality extends to the front (north) facade sculpture which is dominated by Classical and American Indian motifs, and even to the jail parapet which is stepped back in a ziggurat-like fashion. These Art Deco characteristics are further discussed in the "Description" section above.
Sculpted figures, include giant likenesses of "Moses, the giver of the Law" and "Socrates, the interpreter of the law," both carved by Fred M. Torrey, of Midway Studios in Chicago ("New Courthouse Designed to Meet Requirements of County for Many Years," Jackson [Miss..] Clarion-Ledger, December 14, 1930, p.1). The designer of the frieze reliefs in the first floor lobby is unknown as is the designer of the bronze entry frontispiece.
The original plan for Jackson was a checkerboard of platted and unplatted squares, the inspiration for which can be traced to Mississippi Territorial Governor, W.C.C. Claiborne and to Thomas Jefferson. (For the enabling legislation see Anderson Hutchinson, Hutchinson's Mississippi Code, pp.98-111. For a discussion of the early plan see John Reps, The Making of Urban America, pp.314-323. Also see the Vandorn Map of 1822; the James Smith Map of 1845; and the Henry C. Daniel Map of 1875]. This plan included a courthouse site north of the Old Capitol site. However, no courthouse was ever built here.
The first county seat for Hinds County was Clinton (1828). Raymond became the county seat in 1829. In 1870 the county was divided into two judicial districts with county seats in both Raymond and Jackson. The first courthouse in Jackson was located in the existing City Hall building which stands in the block to the north of the present courthouse (Mrs. Dunbar Rowland, History of Hinds County, Mississippi, 1821-1922 [Jackson: Jones Printing Co., 1922, pp.868-70; W.V. Watkins, "Hinds History is Explained," Jackson [Miss.] Daily News, December 16, 1930, p.5]).
The present Hinds County Courthouse was designed by Claude H. Lindsley, an architect who resided on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi but who practiced throughout the state. Construction was commenced on January 21, 1930 and the building was dedicated on December 16, 1930. The project was expected to cost three-quarters of a million dollars, but by the time of completion the building was described as the "Million-dollar courthouse." Newspaper reports ("New Courthouse Designed to meet Requirements of County for Many Years," Jackson [Miss.] Clarions-Ledger, December 14, 1930, p.1) describe the structure as being in the "Modern Greek Style retaining those features of the old Greek temples thereby giving it that modern feeling of progress in accordance with the general trend of the new American architecture which is fastly developing in all public work" ("New Courthouse..., December 14, 1930, p.1).
At the building's dedication, Charles A. Boston of New York, President of the American Bar Association, spoke on the "Majesty of the Law." This law, he said, was "symbolized in this structure which induces the measure of peace for the settlement of disputes between man and man in a well-ordered community and the administration of the criminal law in civil society ("Boston Speech Main Feature of Dedication," Jackson [Miss.] Daily News, December 14, 1930, p.1).
The jail facilities, which today appear so bleak, were considered to be exceptional at the time. In an article entitled '"Hinds Prisoners Enter New Jail at 4 P.M. Today "(Jackson [Miss.] Daily News, December 18, 1930, pp.1 and 12), the following comments were made: "the prisoners will find their new quarters more sanitary, modern, and comfortable in the new structure but their chances of escape will have been almost eliminated..." and "jailers' quarters in the new jail are nothing short of sumptuous — a complete apartment being available with every modern convenience."
Frampton, Kenneth. Modern Architecture. London: Thames and Hudson, 1985.
Hillier, Bevis. Art Deco. London: Studio Vista/Dutton, 1968.
Hutchinson, Anderson. Hutchinson's Mississippi Code, 1798-1848. Jackson, Mississippi: Published for the Compiler by Price and Fall, State Printers, 1898.
McCain, William D. The Story of Jackson. Jackson, Mississippi: J.F. Hyer Publishing Co., 1953.
Reps, John. The Making of Urban America. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1965.
Rowland, Mrs. Dunbar. History of Hinds County, Mississippi, 1821-1922. Jackson: Jones Printing Co., 1922.
Maps of Jackson to be found in the Mississippi Department of Archives and History Library --
Vandorn Map of 1822
James Smith Map of 1845
Henry C. Daniel Map of 1875
Jackson Daily News --
"Boston Speech Main Feature of Dedication," Jackson (Miss.) Daily News, December 14, 1930.
"Hinds History is Explained" by W.V. Watkins, Jackson (Miss.) Daily News, December 16, 1930.
"Hinds Prisoners Enter New Jail at 4 P.M. Today,"Jackson (Miss.) Daily News, December 18, 1930.
Jackson Clarion-Ledger — "New Courthouse Designed to Meet Requirements of County for Many Years," Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger, December 14, 1930.
† Michael Fazio, Architect, Hunds County Courthouse, Hinds County, Jackson, MS, nomination document, 1986, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.