The history of courthouses in Lexington County

By J.R. Fennell
Posted 12/1/23

Lexington County has had seven courthouses since the creation of Lexington District in 1804. 

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The history of courthouses in Lexington County


Lexington County has had seven courthouses since the creation of Lexington District in 1804. 

The first courthouse was actually located in Granby, just south of modern day Cayce on the Congaree. Granby, although a bustling town for most of its existence, slowly began to die as floods ravaged it and Columbia grew across the river. 

Because of Granby’s decline and the desire to have a more centrally located courthouse, the state legislature decided to move the courthouse to near the center of the district. Land was bought from the widow of Laurance Corley, Anna Barbara Derrick Corley, to establish a courthouse and jail in 1820. This land was well-situated on the road from Augusta to Columbia and was located on high land. A wooden courthouse and jail were built that same year and stood in use until 1838. No description of these buildings survives.

 In 1839, a granite courthouse inspired by architect Roberts Mills’ designs was erected on the same site, on what is now the northwest corner of North Lake Drive and East Main Street. It faced south toward Twelve Mile Creek. It featured a heating system of wood burning stoves and tall window sashes with lead weights to make their opening easier. The courthouse was the center of the new town, and the square around the courthouse served as the site of a public market. A gallows and whipping post was in the yard of the jail across the street. This courthouse, although in some disrepair by the 1850s, lasted until it was burned by Gen. Sherman’s troops in 1865.

The S.C. government in 1868 wrote a new state constitution that changed districts into counties. Lexington County then constructed a barn-like log courthouse, which was used until the construction of a two-story brick courthouse in 1884 on the northwest corner of North Lake and East Main. In 1940, the building currently referred to as the “old courthouse” was constructed and became the main courthouse for Lexington County. Although there was talk of turning it into a museum, the 1884 courthouse was torn down in 1957. The 1940 courthouse was designed by Columbia architect J. Carroll Johnson and also served as the location of many county offices as well. 

In 2004, the current judicial center was constructed, and it continues to serve the growing population of the county. 

J.R. Fennell has served as director of the Lexington County Museum since 2007. He holds a master’s degree in public history and a certificate of museum management from the University of South Carolina.


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