Clock Tower

Out of the Clock Tower

Hello and welcome to the Greene County Archives' blog, "Out of the Clock Tower".  Please join us as we share information on archival issues, news, special events, and highlights from our collection.

Before the archives program began in Greene County in 1996, permanent records were stored in every conceivable space, in basements, garages, and closets. Usually they were in boxes of various shapes and sizes, although seldom adequately labeled, but occasionally they were just in loose piles of books and papers. Most notable were the old records stuffed into the clock tower of the County Courthouse, where they shared their home with pigeon droppings.

Now, there is a clean, environmentally controlled, well appointed location for the county archives, where our historical records are housed in standard sized boxes on steel shelves. We have taken note of their journey in the name for our blog.

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Dec 18

How the Walls Came Crumbling Down at the County Courthouse

Posted on December 18, 2015 at 2:04 PM by Elise Kelly

Faulty Wiring

 Can you imagine sitting in a courtroom today, hearing a key witness give their testimony and all of the sudden, chunks of plaster start falling down.

This happened in 1883 inside Greene County's third courthouse (See Below).
inside courtroom
Inside the courtroom of the third courthouse.

              Greene County Commissioner Meeting Minutes, Vol. 10, PG. 437

Ceiling collapse
"The roof and ceiling of the courtroom having broken down and fallen into the courtroom..."

Not only was the roof and ceiling in serious disrepair, but a large crack extended throughout the front wall of the building
(See Below).

           Greene County Commissioner Meeting Minutes, Vol. 10, PG. 447

"There is a large crack over front door extending to top of brick wall said crack being wide on the top than on the bottom, indicating a spreading of the wall on the top jamb [?] on the windows."

Let's take a look at a close-up of the courthouse circa 1890s. It is hard to get a full view of the front door, but on the far left column, could that be a crack, a water spot, or just a shadow?

 front of courthouse
Photo courtesy of the Greene County Historical Society.

Photo courtesy of the Greene County Historical Society.

The walls on each side of the courthouse had begun to fracture and splinter off. The courtroom floor had shifted, making the floor uneven. The timber supporting the cupola had also started to sag.

In addition, the stairs were not sufficiently strong enough for a public building and the stone steps outside were giving way.

How could this have happened in such a short amount of time? The building was erected in 1843. Forty years later, in 1883, it was falling apart.

A Mad Rush
By the 1830s, most of the County officials had moved out of the second courthouse that was built in 1809. Many of them were agitated that their offices were not centrally located. Consequently, by the early 1840s, the County Commissioners decided to take action.

The second courthouse was sold off in 1842. The contractors hurriedly constructed the new building and finished it the following year. Perhaps one of the reasons why the building was in such unstable condition in such a short time, was because the contractors rushed to finish the job.

The Courthouse needed so many repairs that the County Commissioners thought it would be better to....(See Below).

           Greene County Commissioner Meeting Minutes, Vol. 10, PG. 446

That for the purpose of placing before the public the facts necessary to form a national opinion and judgement relative to the question of levying a tax for the erection of a court-house building..."

 Many of the county papers were in favor of constructing a new courthouse, but citizens were not as enthused. One individual wrote to the Xenia Daily Gazette stating, that it would be better to initiate thorough repairs. He or she also argued that the final decision of whether a new courthouse should be erected, ought to be decided by the County Commissioners.
"Old Fogy" was not in favor of a popular vote - he/she's closing arguments are above.
Xenia Daily Gazette, Sept. 3, 1883.

In the end, not a single township in the county voted in favor of erecting a new courthouse. It was not until 1900, seventeen years later, that the building was condemned. Subsequently, Greene County citizens voted in favor of constructing a new courthouse - which still stands today. 

So how did they temporarily "repair" the courthouse's roof? (See Below)

           Greene County Commissioner Meeting Minutes, Vol. 10, PG. 440

They used canvas, paying only about one hundred dollars for it!

Until Next Time!

This Week's Trivia Question:
Many courthouses throughout the country were destroyed by what natural occurrence?

Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question: What is dropsy? - Answer: The swelling of soft tissue due to the accumulation of excess water.


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