Caswell County Courthouse
The following ii placed here because the record exists. However, note that the architect and builder is erroneously identified as John William Cosby. The courthouse actually was designed by award-winning architect William Percival.

National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form (3 April 1973)

The Caswell County Courthouse, a monumental embodiment of Victorian institutional architecture, is a rectangular stuccoed brick structure located on the south side of Courthouse Square in Yanceyville. There is a sweeping view of the hills surrounding Yanceyville to the rear.

The present Caswell County Courthouse, an eclectic Victorian structure designed by John William Cosby and built between 1858 and 1861, is architecturally one of the most distinctive courthouses in North Carolina. The unusually striking main facade is dramatized by the recessed entrance porch on two levels, the brightly painted capitals of corn and tobacco, and the fine arched corbel course of the cornice.

The Caswell County Courthouse is the fourth built in the county since its creation in 1777. The third courthouse, which was designed and built by the Hillsborough carpenter-builder John Berry between 1831 and 1833, burned. The April county court of 1857 considered repairing this building, but by July, the court ordered a new one to be built and appointed a group of building commissioners. Evidently the commissioners held an architectural competition, for the January 8, 1858, issue of the Milton Chronicle, Vol. 17, No. 45, announced that:

"The New Court House was not let on the day appointed by the commissioners. Further time was allowed Architects to draw up plans. The commissioners met on Tuesday last, however, agreeable to adjournment and adopted the plan drawn up by John W. Cosby, Esq., late of Raleigh and now of Halifax, Va. Mr. Cosby has not superior as an architect, as the assylum [sic] for the Mutes in Raleigh and other grand monuments to his genius fully attest."

John William Cosby was the son of Dabney Cosby, who operated a brickyard on Hargett Street in Raleigh and is said to have been an architect himself. The Asylum for the Mutes to which the above account refers was built by Dabney and J. W. Cosby in 1848 in crenellated Norman Revival style. Unfortunately the identity of the "other grand monuments" designed by Cosby remains a mystery.

The Caswell County Courthouse was completed in 1861 at a cost of slightly more than $28,000. The stone used in its construction was quarried about one-half mile from the site, and brick was made near the quarry. County legend, probably stimulated by the magnificence of the completed structure, holds that the builder went broke before the yard was filled in and the retaining wall constructed, and later committed suicide. Although the building is in good structural condition, its massiveness is unfortunately disguised by its present coat of white paint, and the ornate cast iron fence which originally surrounded it was dismantled for repair in 1941 and said sold for scrap iron during the Second World War.

The building's primary historical significance is the result of a famous murder which occurred during Reconstruction. John W. Stephens, a Republican state senator, was ambushed and assassinated in the courthouse on May 20, 1870, by members of the Ku Klux Klan, whereupon the county was placed under martial law by Governor William W. Holden. Holden was later impeached for his "dictatorial" actions, the only governor in North Carolina every forcibly removed from office.

The architectural finish and furnishings of the courtroom are particularly noteworthy. The coffered plaster ceiling, a spectacular display of the plasterer's craft, spawned the local tradition that an itinerant French architect, finding the courtroom unfinished following the completion of the structure itself, asked to execute the ceiling and was granted permission. The courtroom is nearly unchanged in appearance and contains most of the original furniture. The original fabric of the entire courthouse, both exterior and interior, is remarkably intact.
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