Cabell County Courthouse
The Cabell County Courthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the orgiinal nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2013, The Gombach Group.
The Cabell County Courthouse located at 750 Fifth Avenue, Huntington, West Virginia, is the only courthouse in this region of West Virginia that exemplifies the Beaux Arts Classical style of architecture. The Cabell County Courthouse incorporates all of the then-fashionable features of classical architecture that American students of the Beaux Art school were bringing back from Europe. Included in these features at the Cabell County Courthouse is a central domed tower, a pedimented central pavilion, paired composite pilasters, a rusticated base, a symmetrical plan with flanking wings, and a grand domed interior rotunda. The presence of carving in the composite capitals, acanthus-leaf consoles and bold cartouches are other stylistic elements present in the composition. Local influence in the design and structural character of the courthouse may be seen in the Victorian verticality of window openings, pavilions, the use of pressed metal in the pediment of the entrance, the drum of the dome, and in the dome itself. These materials were locally available, being widely-distributed in the Ohio Valley.
Cabell County was formed, as a county of Virginia, in 1809 and named for Virginia Governor William H. Cabell (1805-08). The town of Guyandotte served as the first county seat until 1814 when the county seat was moved to the town of Barboursville. The county seat remained at Barboursville (excepting an 18-month period during the Civil War) for 73 years, until the transfer of the county seat to the new city of Huntington in 1887.
The choice of Huntington as the county seat of Cabell County was reflective of its newly assumed role as the dominant urban and transportation center of the region. The city had been laid out in the course of two years (1871-1873) to serve as the terminus for Collis P. Huntington's C&O Railroad. The city of Huntington sprang into existence in a very short period of time, and the first buildings to be constructed were railroad related structures. Due to the presence of the railroad, Huntington experienced a period of rapid growth, soon outdistancing other communities in the area. In 1880, Huntington's population was less than 2,000, by 1890 the population stood at over 10,000. In the decade of the 1880's, Huntington had acquired a water company, paved sidewalks, telephone system, electric lights, an electric street car line, and natural gas service. It seemed only natural, then, that such a thriving and growing city should be the seat of the county's government.
In 1892 the County Commission purchased Lot #90, the present courthouse square, but plans for construction were halted by the Panic of 1893. Plans for a new courthouse were submitted in 1895 by Gunn and Curtis, architects, of Kansas City, Missouri. The contractor for the work was Charles A. Moses of Chicago, Illinois, whose bid for the building was $95,000. Although the foundation was laid in 1896, actual construction did not begin until the Summer of 1899. The courthouse was completed on December 4, 1901. The first Circuit Court to meet in the new courthouse met on December 26 of that year.
As Huntington and Cabell County continued to grow, two wings were added to meet the increased needs of county government. The west wing, designed by Robert L. Day, was completed in 1924. The east wing, designed by Frampton and Bowyers, architects, was completed in 1940 and constructed by Engstrom and Wynn of Wheeling (who were later to do restoration work on West Virginia Independence Hall). The east wing construction was accompanied by the construction of a jail and some interior remodeling and partially financed by the Works Progress Administration. Both wings are architecturally compatible to the main unit.
James B. Stewart, the supervising architect on the courthouse, was a locally prominent architect who participated in the great boom years of Huntington. Architect of a number of prominent commercial buildings and fine residences, Stewart came to the forefront of architectural activity in his supervising role at the Cabell County Courthouse. Within a year of the courthouse's completion, in 1902, Stewart was chosen to design the new Carnegie Public Library (entered on the National Register of Historic Places, April 3, 1980) in Huntington, which is a masterpiece of Beaux Art Classicism.
Robert L. Day, who designed the west wing of the Cabell County Courthouse in 1923-24, was another prominent Huntington architect associated with the Courthouse. Day is remembered in Huntington for a large number of important buildings which he designed.
Centennial History of Huntington, West Virginia 1871-1971. Doris C. Miller.
Huntington Through Seventy-Five Years, George S. Wallace.
Cabell County Courthouses 1809-1940, George S. Wallace.