Smyth County Courthouse

Smyth County Courthouse, 109 West Main Street, Marion, Virginia

Smyth County Courthouse, 109 West Main Street, Marion, Virginia

– Click on the image to enlarge or purchase –

Smyth County Courthouse

Smyth County in Southwestern Virginia was formed on February 23, 1832 when the Virginia General Assembly took parts of the neighboring Washington and Wythe Counties to create a new county. It is named after General Alexander Smyth who once represented the area in both houses of the Virginia Assembly as well as the US House of Representatives. The first courthouse was opened a couple of years later. Serving the county for the remainder of the century, it was razed to make way for the new Smyth County Courthouse which is the building which still occupies the site today.

Built in 1905 at a cost of $50,000, the courthouse on the corner of East Main and Church streets in Marion was designed by Frank Pierce Milburn. Milburn was a prolific architect primarily focusing on public buildings, particularly courthouses and legislative buildings. He did significant work at the South Carolina State House and the old Florida Capitol. Milburn had become the official architect of the Southern Railway Company in 1902. However, he continued to work on commissions throughout the Southeast US. He was also a skilled salesman, thriving on architectural competitions and advertising his designs in trade publications as well as sponsoring books of his works. One of the commissions that resulted from all this publicity was the Smyth County Courthouse.

Smyth County Courthouse, 109 West Main Street, Marion, Virginia

Smyth County Courthouse, 109 West Main Street, Marion, Virginia

– Click on the image to enlarge or purchase –

The Milburn designed building is an ornate, imposing structure built of salt-and-pepper brick and limestone. It has a colossal Ionic portico with eight columns. There is also a parapet as well as a shallow stained-glass dome. All of which indicates an influence of the Beaux Arts classicism seen in Washington DC during this period which had become identified with the American Renaissance. The auditorium, which become known as the Court Square Theatre, was used for county school events such as singing and spelling contests as well as professional entertainment.

Smyth County Courthouse, 109 West Main Street, Marion, Virginia

Smyth County Courthouse, 109 West Main Street, Marion, Virginia

– Click on the image to enlarge or purchase –

The auditorium was converted into much needed office space in the 1950s. In the 1970s the interior of the building underwent an extensive remodeling. At the same time the two wings were added keeping the overall style of the building compatible with Milburn’s original design.

The information for this post comes from a second-hand book I was lucky to find on Amazon recently – Virginia’s Historic Courthouses by John O. and Margaret T. Peters. This book was first published in 1995 by the University Press of Virginia. It talks about 110 courthouses in Virginia’s counties and independent cities.

Summary
Smyth County Courthouse
Article Name
Smyth County Courthouse
Description
Built in 1905 at a cost of $50,000, the Smyth County Courthouse on the corner of East Main and Church streets in Marion, VA was designed by Frank P Milburn
Author
Publisher Name
Mark Summerfield
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