Bourbon County, 1786

Historical Marker #1246 in Paris commemorates Bourbon County's origins and its courthouses.

There are no surviving images of the first courthouse located on this spot, but the Bourbon County court required a frame building with a shingled roof and the necessary furnishings. In addition, a jail occupied the 2 acres provided. Bourbon County, Virginia, was created in 1786, so between 1786 and 1787 when the first courthouse was built, the court met at the home of James Garrard, John Kiser or James Hutchinson. In August 1787, the court met outdoors at the forks of Stoner and Houston Creeks, where the Hopewell Spring monument is located today on Second Street.

The second courthouse was built in 1799, seven years after Kentucky became a state. It was designed and constructed by John and Thomas Metcalfe. Thomas Metcalfe was the tenth governor of Kentucky, but was known as "Old Stonehammer" because of his skill as a stone mason. The second courthouse burned in 1872, reportedly at the hands of arsonists. The third courthouse was quickly built in 1873, which was a grand French Renaissance-style building, with a clock and bell tower rising 113 feet high. It had a mansard roof, and was constructed of brick with iron cornices. Its size was a disadvantage when fire broke out in 1901 as ladders and water could not reach the upper floors where the fire began. However, official county documents were saved by fireproof vaults that had been built to protect them. The fourth courthouse is presently in use and was completed in 1905. It is one of the grandest of Kentucky courthouses.

During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Court Day, a weekly or monthly meeting of the county court, served as a major reason to congregate at the courthouse square. Vendors, merchants, shoppers and anyone with business at the court gathered on the grounds. People came on Court Day to sell their horses and other livestock, hear political speeches and to catch up on the news of the day.

Images

Bourbon County Courthouse, 1799-1872

Bourbon County Courthouse, 1799-1872

This historic photograph shows the courthouse constructed by Tomas and John Metcalfe and built in 1799. Courtesy of Hopewell Museum. View File Details Page

Thomas Metcalfe

Thomas Metcalfe

Thomas and John Metcalfe were architects of the 1799 courthouse. Known as "Old Stonehammer" Thomas Metcalfe was governor of Kentucky from 1828 to 1832. He served Kentucky in several positions, and retired from the U.S. Senate in 1849 to his farm Forest Retreat, in Nicholas County, where he died of cholera in 1855. He is buried in the family graveyard at Forest Retreat. Courtesy of Hopewell Museum. View File Details Page

Bourbon County Courthouse, 1873-1901

Bourbon County Courthouse, 1873-1901

The third Bourbon County courthouse was designed by A. C. Nash of Cincinnati, in the French Renaissance-style at a cost of more than $125,000. It was completed in 1873, and included fire and burglarproof vaults for important court and government papers. The third courthouse burned in 1901. The current courthouse building was completed in 1905. Courtesy of Hopewell Museum. View File Details Page

Interior of Rotunda

Interior of Rotunda

The murals depicting the seasons of autumn and summer are pictured together in this photograph. Autumn shows the harvesting of tobacco, while summer shows a mule drawn bluegrass stripper, stripping the seeds from the mature grass. Bluegrass seed was an important Bourbon County agricultural product. Photograph courtesy of Rogers Bard├©. View File Details Page

Interior of Rotunda

Interior of Rotunda

The four murals in the courthouse's rotunda depict the four seasons of agriculture in Bourbon County. Winter and spring are shown in this photograph. Winter shows the breaking of hemp stalks to obtain the fibers, which were then twisted into rope and other fabrics. Spring depicts the blossoming life of farm plants and animals. Photograph courtesy of Rogers Bard├©, View File Details Page

Bourbon County Courthouse

Bourbon County Courthouse

This photograph shows the current Bourbon County Courthouse in 1954. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

1852 Bourbon County Agricultural Fair

1852 Bourbon County Agricultural Fair

This postcard was made from a photograph taken at the 1852 Bourbon County Agricultral Fair. Several notable personalities are shown. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Main Street in Paris

Main Street in Paris

This postcard image shows Main Street in Paris, the county seat of Bourbon County. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Views of Paris, Kentucky

Views of Paris, Kentucky

This postcard shows many of the sites around Paris, including a couple of views of the Bourbon County courthouse. Courtesy of the University of Kentucky. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Hopewell Museum, “Bourbon County, 1786,” ExploreKYHistory, accessed March 26, 2017, http://explorekyhistory.ky.gov/items/show/426.

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