There have been five courthouses in Richland County’s history, starting from the modest blockhouse in the square, they have grown to meet the needs of residents over the decades. During the War of 1812, two blockhouses were erected in the public square, one of round logs and the other made of hewed logs. On July 10, 1813, commissioners examined the hewed log blockhouse and determined that it should be “prepared for the reception of court.” The lower portion was to be used as the jail. This served the county for three years until the two bock houses were sold at auction on December 3, 1816. The hewed log blockhouse sold for $56.40 to Alexander Curran, while its round log companion sold for $20 to Jacob Snider. A second wooden courthouse was built and served the community for another ten years. The commissioners would meet at the courthouse on November 6, 1826 and receive proposals for the building of a new brick courthouse the following season.
From the Mansfield Gazzette, October 19, 1826.
The third brick courthouse shortly before its demolition in 1873. The fourth courthouse can be seen in the background.
Thomas Watt was hired as the contractor for the new building, which cost around $3,000 to construct. The location of the new brick courthouse was just to the north of the old one, still located in the public square. The building was a modest two-story structure with the courtroom below and offices above. In 1851, changes were made to the courthouse, which Graham states in his History of Richland County, Ohio, added no real value, but did make the building more imposing. “A third story was added, which was never used, and this third story was extended beyond the original building on the north and south sides, and for the support of this extension, heavy brick columns were erected.” The commissioners approved $7,000 for the addition, but McCarron & Sheffler, who were awarded the contract, spent between $14,000 and $16,000 on the project adding in extras. The addition, according to Graham, could not “be called a brilliant success.”
The fourth courthouse shortly after construction.
The fourth courthouse around 1909, missing its tower.
The newly remodeled fourth courthouse.
On January 22, 1873, a new elegant and what most of us think of as the old courthouse was dedicated. Cleveland architect H. E. Myer was hired to design the building, which now sat on the corner of, what is today, Park Avenue East and South Diamond. The brick for the construction of the courthouse was made locally and pressed by Enoch Smith and Harry C. Hedges. The plastering and stucco work was completed by local resident E. D. Lindsey, one of the best workmen in the country according to the Mansfield Herald. The five-foot clock was run on a compound pulley system with 59 ½ foot weights weighing 1000 pounds each. The pendulum weighed 237 pounds and a 100 pound hammer would strike the 3200 pound bell, which could be heard three miles away. It would be an understatement to say the new elegant structure was an improvement on its modest, yet imposing, predecessor. The total cost would be $226,700.
The courthouse went through changes over the years, including a new roof and tower around 1909. It would stand for over 90 years before being demolished in 1969, when a wrecking ball smashed through the roof at 3:00 pm on February 3, two weeks after the new 2-million dollar courthouse we see today was officially turned over to the county commissioners.