HABS in Mississippi: Lowndes County Courthouse

With its impressive domed clock tower, round-arched windows, and modillioned portico, the Lowndes County Courthouse seems to characterize the confident neoclassicism of the early 20th century. But in fact, it is a somewhat rare antebellum courthouse, built in 1847 and attributed to renowned Columbus architect James Lull, who designed “Riverview,” a National Historic Landmark. In 1901, Chattanooga architect Reuben Harrison Hunt, who seemingly designed most of Columbus from the 1890s to the 1910s, dressed up the building, adding the tower and portico. I’ve never seen a photo of the building before Hunt’s renovation, but I suppose that its essential antebellum character, remodeled though it was, is what earned it a photograph in the 1936 Historic American Buildings Survey, since HABS at that time was not really paying much attention to 20th-century buildings.

General View of Front, June 10, 1936. James Butters, HABS photographer.

General View of Front, June 10, 1936. James Butters, HABS photographer.


HABS online record: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ms0070/

MDAH Historic Resources Database record: http://www.apps.mdah.ms.gov/Public/prop.aspx?id=20801&view=facts&y=728

More Historic American Buildings Survey. . .

Categories: Columbus, Courthouses, Historic American Building Survey (HABS)


14 replies

  1. Hunt was certainly the master of the multi-stage courthouse tower. I still sometimes just stand and stare at the Leflore County Courthouse, amazed that such a creation exists in this small town. Hunt was a bit more decorative in Lowndes County.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. i am surprised to read that our webmaster knows of no surviving images of the lowndes county courthouse pre-hunt’s remodeling—presumably, if there were, ken p’pool, the llul authority, would know? (i am also including drawings and prints, not only photographs or paintings.) as a guess, i would think it resembled antebellum court houses in n. ms, and western alabama–but, i don’t have any of my research on those topics handly. isn’t there a sort-of recent book on ms courthouses that would have images of surviving court houses from the same period?

    hunt’s firm was rather incredible for it’s swath of architectural commissions. it has certainly been mentioned in this blog from time to time, and, i could write more about it, but, once again, i’m dealing with the intense cold up here in the north and need to do some other things now. i still plan on creating comments on ‘glenwood’ aka ‘goat castle’, too.


  3. i misspelled lull’s name—pardon me; however, in high school, i had a friend whose last name was spelled ‘llul’–i wonder if he was of the same family?


  4. in my first, ‘quick look’ at the habs photo, the tower–‘in the distance’— looks centered; in looking at other images on the net just now–since i can’t fly down to columbus–the tower is actually off center! perhaps, structurally, there wasn’t a way that the old building could support such a tower ‘in the center’! am now curious about all elevations—–

    Liked by 1 person

  5. and, further(yes, folks, i am ‘playing mississippi archtitecture’ instead of doing what i should be doing-!), in the habs photo, the surface color of the courthouse (then?) was very light— old photos indicate that the remodeled building was either red brick or red brick painted; it is now ‘red brick’.(again?).


  6. The irony is that the HABS photograph (and they took only one because of the Mississippi HABS office’s cursory survey methods, which have been lamented ad nauseum on this site) shows the least antebellum area of the courthouse: the porticoed front facade. Simply look at the obliquely angled photographs of the courthouse on the site Courthouse History, which show the Hunt facade on the front and the original antebellum side facades, which demonstrate sturdy, unpretentious Greek Revival, with red brick pilasters and a simple architrave/frieze/cornice. http://courthousehistory.com/gallery/states/mississippi/counties/lowndes


  7. Ed Polk Douglas is right; there is a photo of the Lowndes County Courthouse before R.H. Hunt’s remodeling. The antebellum building was typical of James Lull’s chaste, masculine version of Greek Revival, with a robust square-pillared portico and a square, pillastered cupola. I am not presently where I can access the photo, but would be willing to bet that Mona at the local history collection of the Columbus/Lowndes County Library can furnish a copy.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. great to have the comments by both mr white and mr p’pool; it would be wonderful if our webmaster can get the copy of the surviving photo of the pre-hunt building from the columbus/lowndes county library. i can certainly see the gabled side of the older building now— behind the confederate memorial in some views i saw previously. i am wondering if the ‘fussy’ hunt center section and tower is an extension of the original building or just a facade applied to a previous ‘extension’ of the plane of the older building? mr white might know if there are some alabama courthouses that resemble lull’s work in columbus. once i see the view of the old building, i suspect i will know some similiar, even in this area.


  9. i am on the trail of the old photo of the pre-hunt lowndes county courthouse; will keep everyone posted; wish e luck that it can be put up on the blog!


  10. well, ‘wish ME luck’, i meant–the few hours of sun and temps up to 51 here today have put me in shock—well, pleasant shock. but didn’t really feel that warm cause ground is rock-solid frozen and still snow-covered and winter is coming back on tues!


  11. through the gracious help of ken p’pool, who referred me to ms mona vance-ali and the columbus-lowndes county public library, i now have an image of the pre-hunt lowndes county courthouse. i am sending this to our webmaster, and i hope she can transfer it to this blog or create a new blog showing both the old and new buildings side by side(or, up and down). and, then, we can all look and comment!


  12. and the plot thickens re this building; stay tuned!


  13. I cannot believe that Rosamond would have been party to the scheming scoundrels at the Lowndes County BOS and the Mississippi Bar Association to demolish the courthouse.

    Lowndes County, Mississippi Bar Association Wants Old Courthouse Demolished Tue, Jan 9, 1973 – Page 2 · Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Hinds, Mississippi, United States of America) · Newspapers.com


  14. Could this house listed on Craigslist be attributed architect to R. H. Hunt? The few houses in Crawford that now survive from antebellum times and early twentieth century had that slate shingle roof. There were four houses re-roofed with this slate during the 1920s in Crawford when a drummer came through there with an offer to provide the slate shingles if the owner would provide the labor.
    “Too poor to paint and too proud to whitewash” led to many of the lost houses in Crawford…that and rural electrification through FDR and Bilbo’s New Deal REA.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: