Historical Marker #1599 in Columbia notes the location of the historic Adair County courthouse.
Town life in Kentucky’s small communities used to be centered on the local courthouse square. People attended "court days" to conduct business, buy goods, exchange information, and socialize. The courthouse was also the place where people registered to vote, received their driver's and marriage licenses, and honored their veterans with monuments. The courthouse square in Columbia has been prominent in that town's life since the first courthouse was built in the early 1800s.
Adair County was formed from part of Green County in 1801. The following year, Columbia became the county seat and the courthouse was built shortly thereafter. The current courthouse, constructed in 1886, was built on the location of the original structure. The present building was designed by McDonald Brothers, a Louisville architectural firm that was noted for its civic buildings. The courthouse was constructed by William Henry Hudson.
The courthouse occupies a center section of the town of Columbia and is distinguished by its combination of late Victorian styles. Town streets radiate from the courthouse square emphasizing the location's importance. The four-sided clock tower is a standout feature of the building. The structure's two arched doorway entrances are also notable.
The Adair County Courthouse has seen its fair share of prominent Kentucky attorneys. Among those who have practiced there include Adair County native and Union cavalryman Colonel Frank Wolford, Governor Thomas Bramlette, and Lt. Governor James R. Hindman.
In the years since its construction the scenes surrounding the courthouse and its importance to the community have changed. And, while the building's purpose and function constantly evolve, its architectural beauty and historical significance remains constant.