The Old Green County Courthouse
Located in the quaint town of Greensburg this historic Kentucky courthouse is one of the oldest buildings in the Bluegrass State and the oldest courthouse west of the Allegheny Mountains. The courthouse was erected in 1802 and was used for over a century. In 1928, a Green County judge began the movement to build a new courthouse. Part of his initial plan included the demolition of this historic structure. The citizens within Green County rallied to save the building through editorials, petitions, and letters in addition to a successful court injunction.
Backstory and Context
Within the historic town square of Greensburg, this building on the southeast quadrant replaced a previous courthouse that was constructed of logs and built right after the founding of Green County in 1972. The courthouse is two stories high, constructed of locally sourced limestone, and has the dimensions of 34’x40. In 1879 a bell was added, and in the 1930s rock columns chains were constructed all the way around the perimeter of the lot where the courthouse is located. A wooden floor replaced the original flagstone floor and a stairway was relocated. In addition, fireplaces throughout the building have been plastered over.
Men enlisted and were mustered into service at this courthouse during the War of 1812. In 1832, Andrew Jackson was in Greensburg for a few days and filed a brief in this courthouse. The brief itself was maintained and preserved. However, in 1935 during the reorganization of records, the document was either stolen or misplaced. Ninian Edwards practiced law in this building and was of a friend of Abraham Lincoln and would go onto serve as the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico.
Thomas “Stone Hammer” Metcalfe, a stonemason who later became the tenth Governor of Kentucky built the structure. Metcalfe served as a Captain during the War of 1812 and became a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives as well as the U.S. House of Representatives. As a member of the U.S. Congress, he also was the chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs and the Committee on Militia. Metcalfe was a member of the Whig party and supported infrastructure developments that were then referred to as "internal improvements." For example, he supported the construction of a canal in Louisville and the creation of the railroad between Lexington and Cincinnati as well as the Lexington/Maysville Turnpike. Metcalfe served as Governor from 1834 to 1838.
On June 23, 1848, Metcalfe filled the U.S. Senate seat that was vacated when Mr. John Crittenden went on to serve as U.S. Attorney General. Other works by Metcalfe include the old Governor’s Mansion in Frankfort as well as the West Union Presbyterian Church located in West Union, Ohio. Thomas “Stone Hammer” Metcalfe passed away in August of 1855 due to cholera.
This historic building was almost lost on more than one occasion. During the Civil War, Brigadier Gen. Hylan B. Lyon was en route to Greensburg with orders to destroy the courthouse when he caught word that Union Col. Moore was in Greensburg to protect the structure and town. Lyon instead went to neighboring Campbellsville where his men set fire to the courthouse in that community on December 25, 1864.
Historical Greensburg. Greensburg Online. Accessed October 02, 2017. http://www.greensburgonline.com/index.aspx?nid=920.
Green County Courthouse. Loc.Gov. Accessed October 02, 2017. https://www.loc.gov/item/ky0125/.
Greensburg, KY. National Register of Historical Places. Accessed October 02, 2017. http://www.nationalregisterofhistoricplaces.com/ky/green/state.html.