Cabarrus County Courthouse
The Cabarrus County Courthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2012, The Gombach Group.
The Cabarrus County Courthouse, built 1875-1876, is an impressive and highly individualized example of Victorian governmental architecture, combining in unusual and effective fashion the Classic Revival, Italianate, and Second Empire styles. It is one of two buildings in North Carolina known to have been designed by architect G.S.H. Appleget — the other being the elegant Second Empire town house built for financier Jonathan M. Heck of Raleigh (1869). The distinctive character of the two buildings testifies to the individuality and virtuosity of this as yet nearly-unknown architect.
Newspaper reports in the local Sun and Register, plus the minutes of the County Commissioners meetings provide an unusually complete account of the construction of the Cabarrus County Courthouse and reflect vividly the flavor of post-Civil War Concord. "Court house Burnt February 15th 1875," recorded the minutes, and the county commissioners voted to "return their thanks to the citizens of Concord both white and colored for assisting the county officers in saving the county records and papers from the fire..." By June 11, G.S.H. Appleget was employed to execute drawings for a "court house jail;" he was to be allowed "5 per cent." On August 2, 1875, J.L. Fisher, treasurer of the county commissioners, was ordered to pay Appleget $100 in part payment for his design for jail and courthouse. On the 21st of the same month, H.C. McAllister, James McDonald, and W.A. Patterson were appointed to be "a building committee for the jail and court house now in course of erection." F.W. Ahrens was the contractor for building the jail and courthouse, and Michael Maffitt was the brick contractor or mason.
By February of 1876, both of the local newspapers were heralding the approaching completion of the new Cabarrus County Courthouse and there was even talk of getting up a collection to place a clock in the steeple (tower). Both newspapers applauded the appearance of the building.
March 11, 1876, Register: "Fifty years ago to the day, the old court house building, which is occupied by Mr. Hill, was sold for $50 — it brought $51 Monday." It was reported in the Sun on April 25, 1876, that the finishing touches given by Esq. McAllister to the ceiling in the courtroom were "perfectly beautiful," though reservations followed. "Several little designs in the plaster paris representing — well, we can't say what, — relieves the eye upon entering the hall from the monotonous appearance of such large rooms." The same article continued that the clock had arrived and would be installed soon and noted that "the iron railing on the very top of the tower is exquisitely wrought and completes that part to a fraction." The Register of Tuesday, May 9, 1876 reported, "The new bell for the courthouse was brought up town yesterday. It weighs 994 pounds. It will wake up Mt. Pleasant and Harrisburg." The Tuesday, May 16th, 1876 Sun: "The town clock and court house bell are now in position and the correct time of day or night to be had only for the looking up." On the 23rd of the same month a small note announced that "the first court house this county ever had was torn away last week... This cleans up the entire front of the new courthouse lot."
A kinder description of the ornamental plaster work appeared in the Sun on June 27, 1876: "An ingenious device in Plaster of Paris, representing the old original '13', with the stars and bars, ornaments the ceiling of the lobby in our new courthouse. The whole is in the shape of a circle, in the middle of which, is a figure representing the general government. Any one desiring to know more about it, can step into the court house where they will find Capt. McAllister ready to explain it, and discuss the merits in the case. They will also see a thousand little things that will instruct and interest them."
On July 3, 1876, court convened in the new courthouse for the first time with Judge David Schenck presiding and "[Zebulon B.] Vance and [Walter Leak] Steele to deliver addresses in the evening." One of the local editors could not resist a bit of fun at the expense of the new Cabarrus County Courthouse, even though there seemed to be general satisfaction with the appearance of the building, for in the Sun of Tuesday, July 4, 1876, came this comment: "As a rule shams should be exposed. The two sham windows in the court house are an exception, however, and should be hidden from public scrutiny. As it is they look as though the architect had originally intended them for windows and afterwards changed his mind and filled them up." On July 25, 1876, it was noted that "The new court house and jail cost the county $30,000, including all the expenses."
In May, 1973, Historic Cabarrus, Inc. was formed in an attempt to save this building from demolition. A new courthouse has been built. The earlier building has been confirmed structurally sound, and some funds raised for its preservation.
Research and architectural description by Charles Suttlemyre, Jr., survey specialist.
Cabarrus County, Minutes, Board of County Commissioners, 1868-1882 Cabarrus County Courthouse, Concord, North Carolina.
Cabarrus County, Minutes, Board of County Commissioners 1868-1882, Division of Archives and History, Raleigh, North Carolina.
The Concord Register, Concord, North Carolina, 1876. Walter J. Boylin editor and proprietor. (Later edited by John Woodhouse in July of 1876.)
The Concord Sun, Concord, North Carolina, 1876. I.L. Nelson, editor and Wade L. Harris local editor.
† North Carolina Division of Archives and History, Cabarrus County Courthouse, Concord, North Carolina, nomination document, 1974, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.