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National Registery- Building - #70000634      

Old Washington County Courthouse

St. George was designated the seat of Washington County on January 14,1863. The courthouse was begun in 1866 and completed in 1876.
The city of St. George was another of Brigham Young’s many pioneer colonies in the west. It was established in 1861 when he "called’ 309 families to come to the desert area to raise cotton by taming rivers for the needed water. Brigham knew cotton would be scarce and expensive because of embargoes imposed by the south during the Civil War.

The courthouse was started less than 5 years after the pioneers arrived. It took those hard-working individuals 10 years to complete, and was built during the same time as the Tabernacle, the Temple and the addition to Brigham Young’s Winter Home.

Brick and mortar were manufactured locally. The building has a full basement which originally served as a jail. The first floor served as offices for the county government. The large room on the second floor was used as a schoolroom and the courtroom. Other interesting features include the l8-inch thick interior walls, some panes of original glass along-side the entrance doors, the old chandeliers, original paintings of Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon, an old security vault, the exterior cornice work, and the cupola.

He walls of the building are 18-inches thick and are faced on the outside with the chiseled red sandstone blocks which were quarried just north of this site. Notice the windows are wider on the inside. This allows more light to enter. A necessity, since even candles were a luxury to the early settlers. The typical lighting source used were the small dish-type oil lamps. Also notice that many panes of glass are the original hand-rolled sheets that contain bubbles and flaws by today’s standards. The glass came from New York State and was shipped by boat around South America to the west cost, then freighted by wagon to this site.

The rooms on the main level were originally town offices and later converted to county offices in 1883. Today, the offices are used by the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce.

The basement contained three jail cells, constructed in the varying degrees of security. The "Black Hole" cell was designated for the worst offenders - murderers and horse thieves. Plans are to restore the basement to make it safe for visitors. Some of the heavy hardware part of the jail cells are still embedded in the stone. From looking at the size of the steel, it is hard to imagine that history tells of some jail breaks. The wood used in the building is ponderosa pine and it believed to have been harvested from Pine Valley Mountains about 35-miles north of St. George. There were once seven lumbering camps on the mountain during its heyday. The million’ board feet required to build the Temple came from Mount Trumble, about 80 miles southeast of the city.

The curved railing on the stairs is a small sample of craftsmanship done by Miles Romney, the master builder who created the circular stairs in the Tabernacle. The large room at the top of the stairs is the courtroom. In the early days of the building, the room was used as a school for the older students during the day and court was held at night. Facing the bench, the judge’s chamber was the room located to the immediate right. The court clerk sat at the Judge’s left and the witness on the right. Notice the two drawers on the outside of the bench used for storing the Bible used to swear in the witness. The jury box is located in the left corner of the room. The benches in the roomn are authentic for the period and may have been used here.

The original oil paintings on the back wall are believed to have been of 1920 vintage and depict views of Zion and Grand Canyon National Parks. The courtroom was used continuously until about 1960. Today the room is used for meetings, classes and lectures. Several fun musical plays have been performed here for audiences of about 50.

The beautiful chandelier in this court room is said to have come from an old building in Park City, Utah. New pine flooring was laid in recent years over the original worn floor. The door to the fire escape was installed to meet current fire codes for the public and a new elevator was installed to assist the physically challenged.

The top of the building is capped with a large cupola. It was designed, complete with a trap door, for hangings. However there is no record of it ever being used.

On the main floor, there is a man-sized security vault in the north wall of the west office. The door on the vault is original. The safe extends through the thick wall and protrudes beyond about two feet and has a back door. A stone wall, we"re told, once covered the safe, but no one living knows why is was designed this way.

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