Jefferson County Courthouse

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This article is about the 1932 courthouse at Linn Park. For other uses, see Jefferson County Courthouse (disambiguation).
Architects' rendering of the Jefferson County Courthouse

The Jefferson County Courthouse is the seat of government for Jefferson County. It is the county's third courthouse. The cornerstone was laid in 1929, and the buildng was completed in 1932.

The courthouse occupies most of Block 22, on the east side of Linn Park, anchoring downtown Birmingham's "municipal center". Its address is 716 Richard Arrington Jr Boulevard North (formerly 21st Street North)

The design for the courthouse was commissioned by the county from the Chicago, Illinois firm of Holabird & Root, and was principally the work of Birmingham-born Jack B. Smith, with the Birmingham-based architect Harry Wheelock acting as an associate. The reinforced concrete building is clad with granite and limestone in an streamlined Art Deco style. The architects hired Leo Friedlander to design the sculpted relief panels near the roof line. Another Chicago artist, John Norton, painted the large murals depicting the "Old South" and "New South" on either end of the entrance lobby.

A 1962 annex to the north of the original building was designed in a complementary style by Charles McCauley. A restoration and refitting of the entire building was completed in 2002 under the direction of Giattina Fischer Aycock.

The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Controversies

Some elements of the courthouse's original decorative scheme have raised objections over the years. Geometric designs resembling swastikas on the granite walls of the outside steps at the east entrance were carved between 1928 and 1931, well before Adolf Hitler's National Socialist Party adopted a similar design for its flag.

The depiction of black slaves and miners as secondary figures at the feet of the heroically-sized white figures in John Norton's "Old South" and "New South" murals has also been criticized in recent years as examples of racism implicit in 1930s society. Consideration of removing or covering the murals was taken up by the County Commission in 2015.

References

External links

  • 3-D model of the Jefferson County Courthouse by Jordan Herring