Fourth Onondaga County Court House

Columbus Circle

Archimedes Russell, architect


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.

Courthouse c1925

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.

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