Postcard c1910 (source: Onondaga County Library)
In 1890 the County Board of Supervisors voted to build a new
court house to replace the constrained quarters in the Third Court House on
Clinton Square. But it wasn't until 12 years later, in 1902, that Archimedes
Russell and Melvin King were hired to design the new structure, and it did not
open until 1907.
Russell, as the principle design architect, created a Classical
structure of elegant monumentality. Actually, it was intended that the court
house be built on the entire block on the north side of Clinton Square. This
would have allowed a large lawn and broad seeping stairway in the front. But
owners of property in the block refused to sell, so the present site, a much
smaller one, was selected. Unfortunately the whole building and stairway as
designed would not fit. Rather than diminish its total proportions, Russell
decided to squeeze in the stairway. That is why they have always been so steep.
After too many mishaps in the winter, the stairway was closed to the public and
the main entrance was
moved to the much less elegant doors beneath the stairway.
Russell produced one of the most elaborate and elegant court
houses in New York State. Former President Theodore Roosevelt testified in a
civil suit here in 1915. Murals on the walls were produced by William de L.
Dodge and Gustave Gutgemon.