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.