Earlier this week, I was coming back to Jackson on Hwy 49 and decided to swing off the highway into Mendenhall. It was such a nice day, albeit a little on the cool side, that I wanted to take some pictures of the Simpson County Courthouse. I love this courthouse especially because it is so prominent in the little town of Mendenhall. Mendenhall’s main two-block commercial street of one and two-story buildings terminates at the courthouse which is located on a rise that makes its wonderful central dome even more dominant over the town (see a great picture taken on a deserted Sunday here). Simpson County has never been our richest county, but its citizens built a first-class courthouse a hundred years ago to show their civic pride, and they have invested in it over the years to keep it maintained and functional.
According to the National Register nomination (Apr 1985), written by Mary Warren Miller of the Historic Natchez Foundation, the courthouse “is one of Mississippi’s most ambitious public essays in the Neo-Classical style.” For the architecture nerds amongst us, the courthouse was built in 1907 by M.W. Land of Jackson (this is the only building I know of that he built–maybe he came from out of state?) and designed by Andrew J. Bryan, an architect who spent only a few years in the state during his travels around the South designing courthouses. His courthouse designs included the Monroe County Courthouse in Alabama, site of the trial that inspired To Kill a Mockingbird, the Prentiss County Courthouse (1905-1924) and Scott County Courthouse (1900-1923). As far as I know, this is the only courthouse of his design still standing in Mississippi–he moved off to New Orleans for a short while, then so far, he disappears from the historical record.
Here’s a little taste of the Simpson County Courthouse on a fine Spring day. (Note: the courtroom on the second floor is very grand and has been recently restored, but both stairs were blocked to non-employees, so I don’t have any pictures):