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Athens, Ohio - County Courthouse History

Athens County was founded in 1804.  The Athens County government was created in 1805.  It is believed that business was first conducted from rooms rented in the local tavern.  In 1806, rented rooms in a log building served as the courthouse. Finally, land was cleared at what later became Court and Washington Streets for a new courthouse.  A two story log structure was built and served as the courthouse from 1807 to 1817.  In 1817 the log building was destroyed by fire.  In 1817 a two-story brick courthouse was built to replace the log building. 

By 1874 the courthouse was deemed to be be "beyond repair at anything like a reasonable expense."  The old structure was abandoned and ultimately destroyed. As taxpayers refused to pass a new levy for a new building, the county government again operated from rented space in the newly constructed City Hall.  It was only by a special act of the legislature and the passage of a new bond issue in 1878 that triggered the construction of the new courthouse which was dedicated in the evening hours of September 10, 1880.  

The 1880 two story building of red brick has tall windows capped by an ornamental arch of limestone. On the south side of the building is a columned portico through which stone steps lead into the main corridor. In 1935 the building was remodeled and the old "town clock" was transferred to the courthouse steeple from the old city hall building where it had been marking time since 1875.

A public drinking fountain adorned with the Goddess Hebe statue at the top graced the corner of Court Street and Washington Street in the 1900's.

In August 1908, President William Howard Taft also made a stop at the courthouse steps during his Presidency. 

In 1912, Presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt campaigned from the courthouse steps.

The Victorian-era building has been remodeled often although the architectural character of the building has been maintained.  The courthouse was extensively renovated in 2004, including replacement of windows, re-pointing of the brickwork, and restoration of the "Lady Justice" statue that can be seen on the roof in the photo, above.
 
Today, the Athens County Courthouse houses the Clerk of Courts, the Fourth District Court of Appeals, the Court of Common Pleas, Domestic Relations Court, Juvenile Court, Probate Court, the County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, and the Victim's Assistance Office.  The heating and cooling system is a closed system with high insulation windows being added for energy efficiency.  The lighting has been upgraded to high intensity LED lighting.  The common pleas courtrooms have added large screen monitors and speakers for multimedia presentations during trials. New recording systems have been installed in common pleas courtroom, domestic relations court, and and in probate/juvenile court. Computers have been upgraded throughout the offices.

The entryway of the Courthouse has changed over the years.  The main steps that lead to the second floor are permanently closed. Today, entrance and exiting can be made through the street level underneath the steps. Those with special needs can access the building through the Washington Street side entrance underneath a second set of stairs. An intercom system can be used to contact courthouse security to allow access through this entrance.  Anyone needing special assistance may contact (740) 593-6329 for further assistance. 

Athens County Courthouse by George McCarthy
The Athens County Courthouse on January 6, 2014 on the coldest day of the year at -13 degrees.  The Courthouse was closed for two days due to the extreme cold.  Photo by Judge George McCarthy