Statesboro’s Skyline: Bulloch County Courthouse
Bulloch County has had four “courthouses” since its establishment in the first decade of the nineteenth century. The first was a small wooden building constructed in 1803 that served the legal needs of residents in the largely agricultural county. A second wooden building served as the courthouse until it burned down as Sherman’s troops marched through the area in 1864. The two-story structure built to replace it served the community until 1894. In that year, the residents of Statesboro voiced their opinion that the current building was no longer meeting the legal needs of the county, and they needed a newer, bigger courthouse.
The architectural firm Bruce and Morgan designed the new building. Since the original allocation of funds for the courthouse did not provide for a clock tower or bell, the public raised the funds to purchase them. The clock in the tower traveled all the way from Connecticut before making Statesboro its home. The bell itself is from Baltimore, Maryland. When the clock struck for the first time on February 25, 1897, the courthouse was finished, but it still had yet to acquire the distinctive look that Statesboro residents know and love today.
The building underwent a major renovation in 1914 under the direction of the architect Edward Columbus Hosford. (He was well known throughout Georgia and Florida for designing neo-classical style courthouses, and went on to design the Donehoo-Brannen house on Savannah avenue three years later). These renovations included internal expansions and a serious facelift to the look of the building. The courthouse acquired columns, additional brickwork, and white trim.
In 1954 the quantity of legal business conducted in the courthouse began to surpass its capacity. The following years saw several failed attempts by county commissioners and public referendums to raise and approve funds for renovating the courthouse. Some offices relocated to annex buildings in the general area. In the 1970s the courthouse took on a new look, courtesy of a coating of white plaster with asbestos.
In the 1990s the city began efforts to renovate and restore the century-old building. To minimize health risk to the workers and community, the asbestos-laced plaster coating was painted over with a red-brick color, closely resembling the color of its original brick. This brought the courthouse to its present appearance as a Statesboro landmark.
The story of how the courthouse came to occupy its prominent place in the Statesboro skyline is one of official action as well as community input.
For further reading see Parrish Blitch, “The True Story of the Bulloch County Courthouse” https://digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/bchs-pubs/3