Covington County Courthouse History
The Covington County Courthouse has sat in the center of Covington County both physically and symbolically for as long as anyone can remember. The current courthouse is actually the fifth one built in the county, but the first three courthouses burned down and then the county grew out of the fourth. Ironically, the courthouse almost never came to be because of a lawsuit. After the Board of Revenue, the predecessor to the County Commission, voted to purchase land and request bids for the building in 1914, a local citizen was successful in getting a local judge to issue an injunction against further work on the courthouse. The issue ended up going all the way to the Alabama Supreme Court where the decision was overturned in 1915 and plans were allowed to go forward.
Design and Construction
The courthouse was designed by a very famous architect, Frank Lockwood. Mr. Lockwood was originally from New Jersey, graduated from Princeton University, and came to Montgomery, Alabama, via Columbus, Georgia. He designed many other important buildings around Montgomery, including the two wings on the State Capital and the United States Post Office, which now houses a portion of the Federal Courthouse in Montgomery. He also designed the Avant house down Sanford Road and the First National Bank Building here on the square. Part of the reason for such a magnificent courthouse is that the county leaders were hoping that Andalusia would be the site for a federal courthouse.
It was completed, we believe, in July of 1917, at the cost of approximately $91,000. Surprisingly, we can find no record of a big celebration, open house, or any such event recognizing its completion. It is simply noted in the newspaper that the Board of Revenue held its first meeting in the courthouse in July of 1917. The original courthouse has been added onto twice since 1917. Originally, the building was in an “L” shape. A wing was added on the East side in 1939, leaving a little courtyard in the middle. The courtyard was filled in at some later date.
A couple of interesting facts about the courthouse. First, there is area at the top of the courthouse that was used for a bunk room for jurors when they were sequestered (not allowed to go home) or if they simply came from someplace far off, and if court lasted more than one day, it was available as a place to spend the night. Also, we have been unable to locate the cornerstone. We have heard that it was removed during one of the additions, but some people have also speculated that it was simply covered by one of the additions.
In 1988 when the courthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places, the following written description was made:
The Covington County Courthouse is located on the north side of Court Square in Andalusia. Designed by architect Frank Lockwood, it is an excellent example of the “Beaux Arts” school of the early years of this century. The Courthouse is a rectangular structure of combed granite with a large number of neoclassical motifs and design elements and the high degree of detail typical of the style.
The approach to the Courthouse is by a set of granite and tile steps, flanked at the summit by a pair of cast iron lamp posts with proportions and balance with six fluted Corinthian columns supporting a shallow bracketed pediment, at the center of which is an elaborate medallion. The triple-entry doors are flanked by Corinthian pilasters. Semicircular niches surmounted with fluted fans are outside o f the pilasters.
The interior space of the Courthouse is very impressive and well preserved. The main entrance leads one to an octagonal 2-story atrium surmounted by a dome with stained glass at its apex. The floor is white marble tile. The space is defined by a series of grey marble walls alternating with paired smooth grey marble column with gold leaf terminals. The solid wall sections have angled pilasters at the corners. There is a wide “y” – shaped staircase at the rear of the atrium with white marble treads and black wrought iron risers and balustrade. Flanking the staircase are a pair of square columns and pilasters. The staircase leads to a gallery around the second story of the atrium, from which offices open.
The Covington County Courthouse was originally intended to serve the county’s growing administrative needs. In the century of its use, it has certainly lived up to that challenge. It also stands as a symbol of justice and our county’s history.