The Cabell County Courthouse in Huntington has served as the seat of county government for over one hundred years. Cabell County was formed in 1809 from the western portion of Kanawha County. For much of the nineteenth century the county seat was located at different times in either Guyandotte or Barboursville; the seat moved to Huntington in 1887. The Beaux Arts Classical style courthouse was constructed between 1899 and 1901 and was designed by the Kansas City architectural firm of Gunn and Curtis. The building was expanded with the construction of new wings in 1923 and 1940 respectively. It is one of the most ornate courthouses in West Virginia and one of the most prominent landmarks in Cabell County. The courthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic places in 1982.
Cabell County was formed in 1809 from the western
portion of Kanawha County and named after Virginia Governor William H. Cabell.
The very first meeting of the Cabell County court was held in the home of
William Merritt around Barboursville; afterwards the town of Guyandotte was
made the official county seat. In 1814 the seat was moved to Barboursville. It
briefly relocated to Guyandotte again in 1863 due to the threat of Confederate
forces in Barboursville, but the seat was returned there in 1865 at the end of
the Civil War. The growing new city of Huntington was designated the Cabell
County seat in 1887 after voters’ approval in a referendum.
The Cabell County Court at first shared space with
Huntington City Hall at the 400 block of Ninth Street while plans were made for
the creation of a formal courthouse. In 1892 the county commission purchased a
tract of land between Fourth and Fifth Avenue and Seventh and Eighth Street,
known as Block 90, for around $24,000. The decision initially proved
controversial; critics complained that the plot of land was too large and too
far away from the central business district. Actual construction of a
courthouse was delayed when the Panic of 1893 harmed the community’s finances.
In 1895 the county commission accepted a design proposal from the Kansas City
architectural firm of Gunn and Curtiss; the Moses Construction Company of
Chicago was contracted to build the structure. Local architect James B. Stewart
was commissioned to oversee the project. The sandstone foundation of the
building was soon built but more financial problems delayed further work on the
courthouse for several years.
Construction officially resumed with a
cornerstone-laying and time capsule ceremony on November 11, 1899. Cabell
County spent around $95,000 building the courthouse, along with an additional
$83,000 in interest in bonds that had been sold to raise money. The Beaux Art
Classical style building was one of the grandest courthouses ever built in West
Virginia. The two-story stone structure contained facilities for the circuit
court, the county court, the county clerk, and a jail. It was topped with a
large dome containing a clock and bell tower. The jail reportedly made national news in 1932
when eighteen prisoners escaped by sawing their way out and overpowering two
guards. The continued growth of Huntington and increased demand for court
services to be expanded twice, with a west wing built in 1923 and an east wing
Neglect and inadequate maintenance throughout the
twentieth century caused concerns about the building’s appearance and
structural integrity by the 1990s. A series of renovations were undergone
between 1997 and 2000 that included the restoration of the courthouse dome; the
repairing of loose masonry and water damage; and new paint. The dome was also
covered in golf leafing thanks to a donation from local attorney John Hankins.
In 2014 the original bell was removed and placed on display on the courthouse
grounds after the bell tower was found to be in an extreme state of
Along with the bell, there are a number of monuments
scattered throughout the courthouse grounds dedicated to various subjects. A
stone commemorating the James River and Kanawha Turnpike was placed in 1939. In
1941 a monument to Revolutionary War veterans buried in Cabell County was
installed. In 1953 a monument was placed honoring Cabell County soldiers from
the War of 1812. In 1959 a tablet was installed commemorating the 150th
anniversary of the creation of Cabell County. The most recent monument was
placed in 1987 to note the bicentennial of U.S. Constitution.