Old Warren County Courthouse
The Old Warren County Courthouse Complex 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 © 2009, The Gombach Group.
Located in the center of Lake George Village on a lot that extends down to the lake, the Old Warren County Courthouse Complex is a series of five attached structures built in four stages during the 19th century. The Old Warren County Courthouse was built in 1845 to which was added in 1878 an imposing tower facade on the front (west) side as well as Judges' Chambers on the rear (east) side, two later additions east of the Judges' Chambers, including a two-story jail, were made in the 1890's.
The entire Old Warren County Complex is brick constructed with masonry load bearing walls, and wood floors and roof systems. The building has limestone foundations and a slate roof. There are six chimneys in all, two at the north and south ends of the tower section, one in the courthouse section, two at the north and south ends of the Judges' Chambers and one at the east end of the jail.
The front (west) facade is two stories high and five bays wide with a large two-stage tower centered over the middle bay. The recessed front door is framed by an arched entrance way. A double belt course divides the first and second floors with the inscription "Warren County Court House" on the front facade. The decorative brick cornice on the second floor is repeated on the first stage of the tower and the slates of hip roof are in colored bands.
The older courtroom portion of the Old Warren County Complex is one and a half stories high. The north and south facades are three bays wide with narrowly proportioned windows separated by pilasters. A gabled second-story dormer is centered on each side. The courtroom is now used as the Lake George Institute of History and Art, the Judges Chambers for an historical library and offices, and the jail wing for the Lake George Research Center and the Lake Champlain-Lake George Regional Planning Board.
The jail wing is two stories with a gable roof. The north and south sides are four bays wide and the rear (east) side which faces the lake is three bays wide. This wing, the latest addition, has a distinctive structural system. The first floor where cells were removed in 1969 is a clear span room without partitions or columns. The weight of the second floor is held suspended by three steel rods hanging from trusses supporting the roof. A small one story addition has been made in recent years to the south facade.
The County Clerk's Office, added to the northwest corner of the Tower section and projecting to the front property line was built in 1885. This large addition to the rambling Courthouse Complex obscured one half of the tower facade and was demolished in 1969 at the time of extensive interior renovations for the adaptive use of the complex.
Most of the interiors are not distinguished architecturally and have undergone some changes in recent years. The courtroom, though, now used for exhibitions, still retains its generous and pleasant proportions with high ceilings and large windows. Some early cells are still found in the basement of the jail section.
The nucleus of the Old Warren County Courthouse is an 1845 red brick courtroom, which in the course of the 19th century was sandwiched between notable additions built for added grandeur as well as space to house Judges' Chambers, County Offices and the Jail. The resulting complex is considered not only a local landmark in the architectural sense with its harmonious juxtaposition of 19th century forms, but also a landmark in the history of effective preservation in New York State through rehabilitation by a cooperative state and local effort.
The growth of the village of Lake George to a pre-eminent position in the area, and eventually the County Seat, took place after the Revolutionary War and was spurred by the high expectations of a profitable trade route directly to Canada through the Hudson-Champlain Valley. James Caldwell, an Albany industrialist whose interests ranged from the Albany Glass Factory to a tobacco factory in North Albany, saw the shipping potential of Lake George along this transportation route as well as the future resources in the area for industrial development. Caldwell purchased large amounts of land, and his influence was so strong that the village, known today as Lake George, was first named Caldwell.
Warren County was created in 1813, and Lake George chosen as county seat. For four years the court is said to have been held in the Lake George Coffee House until Caldwell donated a site in 1817 for the first County Courthouse. This building and a county clerk's office were destroyed by fire in 1843.
In 1845 a new brick courtroom was completed and here in the large chamber, the court sat for more than a century. Stephen Douglas is said to have campaigned against Abraham Lincoln in this room.
Two additions were built onto the 1845 courtroom in 1878. The tower facade gave an imposing, new entrance to the older one-story courtroom and it met new demands for space as did the Judges' Chambers to the rear.
The large 1885 County Clerk annex (demolished in 1969) demonstrated the further need for space in county administration; however, this time the construction was made at considerable detriment to basic aesthetics. The annex was "tacked on" to the seven year-old tower facade impairing its elegant symmetry.
In 1963 the Courthouse was abandoned when Warren County completed a new municipal center, several miles south of Lake George Village. The buildings stood abandoned for five years until the Lake George Historical Association launched a major development plan to save the complex with a number of adaptive civic uses.
Malo, Paul I., "Warren County Courthouse: A Report to the Lake George Historical Association" Undated.
Malo, Paul I., "The Warren County Courthouse: A Review of Adaptive Use Proposed."
Office of State History, "Evaluation Request: Historic Lake George Courthouse Complex, Lake George, New York" June 1967.
Schaefer, Paul, "Report on the Restoration and Reconstruction of the Old Warren County Courthouse Complex" January 1970.