Georgia Bar Journal
GSB Vol. 13, NO. 7, Pg. 32.
The Monroe County Courthouse at Forsyth: The Grand Old Courthouses of Georgia
GSB JournalVol. 13, NO. 7June 2007The Monroe County Courthouse at Forsyth: The Grand Old Courthouses of GeorgiaWilber W. CaldwellTypical of many prosperous Piedmont counties that were the beneficiaries of early rails, Monroe County would resist the jubilant symbols of the myth of the New South, holding close to traditional architectural forms and keeping her 1825 courthouse for over 70 years. The old two-story brick structure, built in the vernacular style, featured a gabled roof, a broad cornice and four arched entrance doorways. Although the design was simplicity itself, the elegant proportion and considerable scale were particularly impressive, especially for such an early building.
There was wealth here, the wealth of cotton. Like Eatonton and Madison and other prosperous Piedmont towns, Forsyth would develop a society around well-to-do planters and their social urge to congregate in towns. But Forsyth's population would remain static through the closing decades of the 19th century (1,105 in 1880, 1,171 in 1900).
Finally on June 25, 1895, The Forsyth Advertiser published the following notice:
We the Commissioners of Monroe County ... realizing that her Courthouse ... has twice been condemned as unsafe by competent architects, and numerous grand juries, realizing that it was inadequate for the needs of the county, and that the progress of the court was often checked because jurors and witnesses could not be made comfortable in the building we now have recommended the building of a new Courthouse.
And so in 1896, the county built a new courthouse, not out of any euphoric hopes for the future, but simply because one was needed.
The architecture of the 1896 Monroe County Courthouse speaks for the period in several uniquely instructive voices. Despite the power of the American Neoclassical Revival that had been ignited three years earlier by the buildings of The Columbian Exposition at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, the silhouette here, despite its symmetry, still reflects the old Picturesque Styles. There was a distinct lag in the South when it came to adopting the new Classicism of the budding "American Renaissance." To be sure, this lag had been apparent all along. Italianate buildings...