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Recognition of 175 years of the Chenango County Courthouse

West Park Place, Norwich, NY - September 29, 2012 at 12 PM

History of the Chenango County Courthouses

The First Court of Common Pleas and General Sessions of the Peace took place in the town of Hamilton, June, 1798. At that time Chenango County included what later became Madison County.

First business transacted was the entry of an order that Thomas R. Gold, Joseph Kirkland, Nathan Williams, Stephen O. Runyon, Nathaniel King, Arthur Breese, Peter B. Garnsey and Medad Curtis be admitted to practice as attorneys and counselors of the court.

Second Court was held at Oxford in October of the same year. Subsequently court was held alternately at these two places three times each year.

The first Circuit Court was held July 10, 1798, at the Academy in Oxford.

March 6, 1807 the supervisors selected the site of court house and goal (jail) in the Norwich village, within one mile of the residence of Stephen Steere, (now site of Cole Muffler, 32 North Broad Street, Norwich, NY).

Josiah Dickinson and George Saxton where hired to erect the court house and jail. It was completed in 1809. “A wooden structure, two stories high and substantially built. It was square and well proportioned; but its interior dimensions proved inadequate to the accommodation of the large audiences which congregated when trials of interest took place. Its entire cost was sixty-five hundred dollars”. They were over budget by $1500.

March 24, 1837, an act was passed for erection of a new court house at Norwich (the current one). A tax was levied on the taxable property for $7000, not more than $400 of which was to be levied in any one year. The bond was authorized to draw the entire amount, at six per cent interest, due in 5 years. William Randall, of Norwich, and William Knowlton, of Smithville, were appointed to superintend the construction of the new building; subsequently David Griffing and Alfred Purdy, both of Norwich, were substituted in their place. The new building exceeded the amount originally allowed by $9000.

"It is a plain, but slightly and imposing structure, built in the Grecian style of architecture, with a portico borne by four massive Corinthian columns. The material is stone, obtained from a quarry about four miles south-west of Oxford Village. Clark says of it in 1850, "the edifice itself is elegant! Perhaps the most elegant of any structure of the kind in the State;" but, he says, the court room, which occupies the entire upper story, "is not constructed in harmony with the principles of acoustics." He adds elsewhere that perhaps, it "is not more objectionable on this account than large rooms generally." The lower floor is partitioned off into rooms, on either side of a central spacious hall, which are occupied for various county purposes."

(Smith’s History of Chenango County)