Henderson County Courthouse

© Lavilo LLC, North Carolina. All rights reserved. Title: Henderson County Courthouse in Downtown Hendersonville, North Carolina, Hendersonville Region.

With the arrival of the railroad in 1879, trade and tourism started to flourish bringing wealth and prosperity to Henderson County.

With such a booming economy in front of their eyes, the county commissioners deemed the “old” Courthouse “inadequate” for the times and accepted the plans of Richard Sharp Smith for a new Courthouse, which was completed in 1905.

© Lavilo LLC, North Carolina. All rights reserved. Title: Henderson County Courthouse in Downtown Hendersonville, North Carolina, Hendersonville Region.

The 6-foot statue on top of the dome represents the Greek goddess Athena (due to the missing blindfold) or the Roman goddess Iustitia or Anglicized Justicia.

Lady Justice is usually portrayed as an impassive woman with a scale and double-edge sword wearing a blindfold (since the 16th century to symbolize that Justice should be impartial).

© Lavilo LLC, North Carolina. All rights reserved. Title: Henderson County Courthouse in Downtown Hendersonville, North Carolina, Hendersonville Region.

The Neo-Classical Revival courthouse features Corinthian columns at the entrance of the building, supporting a Roman inspired portico (Italian for porch).

© Lavilo LLC, North Carolina. All rights reserved. Title: Henderson County Courthouse in Downtown Hendersonville, North Carolina, Hendersonville Region.

In 1979 the Henderson County Courthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Today, the courthouse is home to the Henderson County Heritage Museum.

A Courthouse Reminiscent of Prosperous Times

The Henderson County Courthouse was built in 1905 after the county commissioners deemed the adjacent 1840s courthouse “inadequate” for a growing county and its booming economy after the arrival of the railroad in 1879 had brought trade and tourism and also prosperity to the County.

After rejecting the plans of Frank Pierce Milburn (1868-1926), who had designed the Columbia County Courthouse in Florida and the nearby Blanche Hotel in 1902 and did major work at the South Carolina State House and the Florida Capitol, the commissioners accepted the plans of Richard Sharp Smith (1852-1924).

Standing out from the three-story brick courthouse is the golden dome forming part of the building’s roof, also called cupola. On top of the dome the architect placed a 6-foot statue. Some sources state that the statue depicts the Greek goddess Athena representing among others law and justice. But it could also be the Roman goddess Iustitia or Anglicized Justicia, also called Lady Justice, who is usually portrayed as an impassive woman with a scale and double-edge sword wearing a blindfold (since the 16th century to symbolize that Justice should be impartial) and who stands in front of many courthouses.

The Neo-Classical Revival courthouse features Corinthian columns at the entrance of the building. The front and side entrance pavilions are Roman inspired porticos (Italian for porch) with four columns (tetra style). Gray granite floors and brick wainscot form the interior of the courthouse, which give the building some delicacy and magnificence reflecting a prospering town and county.

In 1979 the Henderson County Courthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Today, the courthouse houses the → Henderson County Heritage Museum.

About Richard Sharp Smith (1852-1924)

In 1852 Richard Sharp Smith was born in Yorkshire, England. He received his architectural training in the office of his cousin George Smith. He also worked for several architects in Manchester.

In 1882 Richard Smith immigrated to the United States and started his new position with the Reid Brothers, architects, in Evansville, Indiana.

In 1883 Richard Smith moved to New York City and joined Bradford L. Gilbert’s office, where he supervised the design and construction of railroad stations.

In 1886 Richard Smith joined the office of Richard Morris Hunt working on various projects for Richard Hunt.

In 1889 Hunt assigned Richard Smith to the Biltmore Project supervising the construction of → Biltmore House and other buildings on George Vanderbilt’s estate. Richard Smith was sent to Biltmore and communicated with Richard Hunt, who remained in his New York office, through weekly progress reports and frequent letters.

Starting in 1892 George Vanderbilt asked Richard Smith to design additional buildings for him.

In 1895, the same year, when → Biltmore House was finished, Richard Hunt suddenly died and Richard Smith became George Vanderbilt’s personal architect.

In 1896 the → Vance Monument, which Richard Smith designed, was completed.

By 1901 the first cottages in the → Cottage District in Biltmore Village were built.

In 1901 Richard Smith established his own private practice in fast growing Asheville. Through his own abilities as an architect and certainly through his association with George Vanderbilt, Richard Smith became one of Asheville’s leading architects, and the first, who resided permanently in the city. During this time, Richard Smith designed the → Henderson County Courthouse in Hendersonville (1905) and together with Rafael Guastavino the → Basilica of Saint Lawrence (1905-1909).

In 1906 Richard Smith formed a partnership with Albert Heath Carrier, whose family had moved to Asheville in 1885, and formed the Smith and Carrier firm. Together the firm worked on more than 700 projects from its inception to Richard Smith’s death in 1924. Some of their important works were the → Legal Building (1909), the Scottish Rite Cathedral and Masonic Temple (1913), the Fraternal Order of Eagles Building (1914), the Elks Home (1915) and the Loughran Building (1923).

In 1924, Richard Smith died. He was praised by the local newspaper Asheville Citizen to have “done more than any other person to beautify the city”.

Richard Sharp Smith is buried at the → Riverside Cemetery in Asheville’s historic Montford District.

You may want to combine with a visit to the Henderson County Heritage Museum, as it is located inside the Henderson County Courthouse.

The Henderson County Courthouse is viewed from the street.

The Henderson County Courthouse is viewed from the street.