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Inside Onondaga County's Courthouse

At 100 the county courthouse is still moving forward

Even under a Tyvek dome, Onondaga's fourth Courthouse is a magnificent structure. It was the result of a 58 to 5 vote by the Onondaga County Bar Association on June 6, 1902.

Two months later, architect Archimedes Russell was chosen to design the structure. He and draftsman Melvin King went to school on the Capital building in Providence, Rhode Island to create this Italian Neo Renaissance Revival style edifice.

It was dedicated in December 1906, and officially opened its grand entrance up the stone steps Jan. 2, 1907. That same entrance was closed after Sept. 11, 2001 for security reasons. The doors that flank the grand staircase on the ground level (first floor) are utilized instead.

It is a steal beam frame, clad in Indiana buff limestone. Inside, it is adorned with Italian marble, leaded windows, elaborate wood paneling, handsome lights, brass door fixtures, murals and terrazzo floors (now covered with carpet for sound reasons). Each courtroom is painted a different color. Portraits of many former judges and politicos are scattered throughout, plus pictures of the many lawyers who have worked in Onondaga County.

A portrait of President Teddy Roosevelt, who was involved in a liable law suite Barnes verses Roosevelt, is also evident. The chair Roosevlet sat in during this notorious trial of 1915 remains in memorial.

It is of interest that the initial formal hall's murals depict early settlers and Indians, but not together. There is Asa Danforth and Pere Le Moyne on one side, and "The Death of Minnehaha" and "The Assension of Hiawatha" across the great room (on the second floor). These were painted on canvas and cemented to the walls in 1906 by a well-known muralist William Dodge, whose work is also in the Library of Congress.

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