The Wirt County Courthouse
The Wirt County Courthouse has been an icon the people of Wirt County since its construction in 1911. When built, a full-functioning jail was also built behind the courthouse and it held Wirt County prisoners until the late 1990’s. Prior to the current courthouse, there stood a brick courthouse built in 1848 which burned to the ground in 1909. Being such an important part of Wirt County’s history, today the courthouse holds the offices of elected county officials and the Wirt County Courtroom and is listed on the National Register of Historical Places.
Backstory and Context
The Wirt County Courthouse standing today is not the original courthouse. The original courthouse was built in 1848 of brick. It was one and a half stories and had eight chimneys. The jail was the basement of the structure. It was designed by Peter G. VanWinkle who was only paid ten dollars for this job. He was the president of the Northwestern Virginia Railroad and was a WV senator. In 1909, the original courthouse was burned down.
After the fire, various places were used as the courthouse until the one still standing today was constructed in 1911. This courthouse stands in the same location as the first one that burnt down. There was also a jail building built directly behind the courthouse. Both of these buildings were built with yellow brick. The building was built in the Neo-Classical architecture style, which is very significant for a rural place at this time in history. Court has been held in the current courthouse since 1912.
There are two monuments on the front lawn of the courthouse. One of these monuments is a Civil War monument which consists of two Civil War cannons which are on each side of the courthouse. They were placed on a concrete base and inscribed with “G.A.R. 1914” in 1914. The other monument is a World War I monument as an inscribed stone at the base of the courthouse flagpole.
The jail building functioned as the county jail until the late 1990s. The first story of the courthouse holds most of the offices of county officials. The second floor holds a few more offices, but is mostly taken up by the court room. The court room today is used as a court room, but in the past, it was used for other community activities as well, including high school plays. The Wirt County Courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historical Places and is an iconic feature in Elizabeth, WV.
The National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form-http://www.wvculture.org/shpo/nr/pdf/wirt/04000918.pdf The Historical Wirt County Group Images of America-Wirt County by Richard T. Lowe