Court House

WFP Historical Society

Contributed from the 1973 Audubon Pilgrimage Booklet
by the WFP Historical Society

On public buildings corner stones give credit tot he officials responsible for their erection. The cornerstone on the Court House in St. Francisville is blank, giving rise to the notion that it is a risky business to tamper with the citizenry's landmarks.

After Feliciana was divided into East and West in 1824 and the seat of government returned to St. Francisville, court sat in the upper story of the store building which housed the Bank of Louisiana. There was talk of building a proper Court House, but in 1829, prudent heads suggested to the Police Jury that instead they buy the St. Francisville Hotel and turn it into a Court House, this being "a time of great scarcity of money." The Hotel has been built by public subscription prior to 1810 and was in 1829 used as a tavern. The Jurors built a fireproof office for parish records, cleaned the gutters before the Court met, and rented out the unused rooms, "using a sound discretion."

Still there remained in the minds of the citizenry a desire for a proper Court House. In 1852 Thomas Weldon was employed to design and build one on the same site as the old Hotel. Weldon built a classic structure of slate-covered brick with round columns and double chimneys at each end. It had wrought iron balconies and a copper roof. In the rear stood an equally classic well house. The citizenry was well pleased.

When the Federal gunboats fired on St. Francisville during the Civil War, the Court House was severely damaged, but remained in use and in fairly good repair until the end of the 19th century. Then it was decided, by a few, that the old landmark should be razed and a new Court House built in its stead. It was a most unpopular decision. The new Court House was completed in September of 1903, but the citizenry failed to cheer.

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