Historic Burke County Courthouse
The Old Burke County Courthouse was constructed by James Binnie and Frederick Roderick between 1833-1835 at a cost of $12,000. It replaced a rundown courthouse that had been constructed in 1791. From 1847-1862, the Burke County Courthouse housed the August sessions of the North Carolina Supreme Court and, during the Civil War, Union cavalry members stormed the courthouse, resulting in the destruction of most of the court records. The building was renovated by Frank Milburn in the early-twentieth century, but a new courthouse was constructed in 1976, which is when the Historic Burke County Courthouse closed its doors. However, having been added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970, efforts were made to preserve the building.
Backstory and Context
The Old Burke County Courthouse was constructed between 1833-1835 at a cost of $12,000. This classic revival style building is a bi-level, square stone structure that rests on a raised basement foundation. A Scottish builder named James Binnie was awarded the contract for the project in 1833 and, with the help of Frederick Roderick, a German stonemason, assembled the structure using native stone and materials that were foraged on the Forney plantation approximately four miles north of the city.
From 1847-1862 the Burke County Courthouse housed the August sessions of the North Carolina Supreme Court. Its location proved to be of significant convenience for lawyers in the western part of the state who were arguing cases in the Superior Courts.
The American Civil War divided the nation from 1861-1865 and during this time a portion of the Union cavalry took possession of the courthouse during Stoneman’s Raid. Unfortunately, in April of 1865, most of the county’s records were destroyed.
In 1885, the exterior of the building was covered with stucco, and in 1903, a major renovation designed by architect Frank Milburn of Columbia, SC, replaced the simple classical cupola that originally adorned the roof of the structure with an elaborate one of Baroque style, giving the courthouse its final appearance. The courthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 17th, 1970.
The current Burke County Courthouse is located at 201 South Green Street, Morganton, Burke County, North Carolina was opened in 1976 to replace the Old Burke County Courthouse and operates as the current courthouse for the county. In 1978 the effort to preserve the original courthouse structure began and 6 years later was completed in 1984 thanks to the support, funding, and efforts of the city and county itself as well as the Historic Burke Foundation.
Burke County Courhouse, National Register of Historic Places. April 17th 1970. Accessed December 13th 2019. https://files.nc.gov/ncdcr/nr/BK0003.pdf.
Historic Burke County Courthouse, Historic Burke Foundation Inc. Accessed December 13th 2019. https://www.historicburke.org/historic-courthouse.