Greene County Courthouse (1888)
The 1888 Greene County Courthouse, located at 306 W. Court Street in Paragould (Greene County), is a three-story rectangular structure. The building exhibits the Italianate style in the low-pitched, hipped roofline; the square cupola supporting a clock tower; widely overhanging eaves with decorative brackets; and tall, narrow windows. The exterior also features Georgian Revival accents shown in the pediments on each side. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 11, 1976. The restored building is no longer used as a courthouse, but it houses the Paragould Regional Chamber of Commerce and is open to visitors.
Greene County has changed county seats three times. The first county seat was located at a town called Paris from about 1825 to 1840. A popular vote named a town called Gainesville the second county seat, and after completion of the log courthouse and jail, it acquired the court records. The community grew and built a three-story frame courthouse, though the construction date was not recorded. In 1874, fire destroyed the second courthouse in Gainesville, along with part of the county records. Fires also destroyed two temporary offices that housed the remaining records. Officials purchased and installed a fireproof safe in the next temporary offices. Completed in Gainesville in 1877, this courthouse cost the county $475.
A vote in September 1884 changed the county seat to Paragould due to a new railroad route. In October that year, the county moved the fireproof safe to the temporary courthouse in Paragould. S. R. McGinnis and W. F. Bone constructed the new courthouse, completed in 1888 for $15,700, including the addition of the bell in the tower. The new courthouse resided on Court Square as a two-story, brick structure topped with a clock tower displaying a four-faced clock dome.
While it was in use for county business, remodeling projects changed the appearance and design of the 1888 Greene County Courthouse. In 1916, storage space increased to accommodate the vaults, with a two-story addition to the east side of the building. The jail storage rooms (two white frame structures) extend from the east side of the building. County officials decided to cover the deteriorating brick exterior with brown stucco in 1918. The stucco project cost $15,000, almost as much as original construction. During remodeling projects, some of the interior was also converted into office space. In 1968, the clock tower was removed for safety reasons.
In August 1995, county voters approved a countywide one-cent sales tax to pay for a new courthouse. This was completed in 1997 and is located at 320 W. Court Square. The new complex covers 39,000 square feet, and the building and furnishings cost $4.1 million. The new courthouse houses the fireproof safe from the 1877 courthouse at Gainesville.
The Greene County Preservation Society championed the cause to restore the 1888 courthouse building. Through their efforts, the façade returned to the original red brick, a clock tower once again ornamented the rooftop, and the reclaimed wrought-iron fence skirted the walkway entrances. The society restored and maintained the building through fundraising and more than $300,000 in grants. The building is utilized by the Paragould Regional Chamber of Commerce and is available for visitors Monday through Friday. The basement houses court records, which are available to researchers through the Greene County Historical and Genealogical Society.
The 1888 Greene County Courthouse grounds are located on Court Square. The southwestern corner of Court Square displays a gazebo built as part of the final renovation in 2005, which conceals a spiral staircase leading to the basement storm shelter. This structure was partially funded by the Paragould Rotary Club. The final renovation design also included a sidewalk encircling the building. Since November 11, 1924, the northwestern corner of Court Square has displayed a war memorial of white marble with a five-foot-tall bronze replica of the Statue of Liberty. Originally, the memorial honored only World War I veterans, but additional stone slabs were added to also honor veterans from other wars. The Paragould War Memorial was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 20, 1997.
For additional information:
“Greene County Courthouse.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas.
Mueller, Myrl Rhine. A History of Greene County, Arkansas. Little Rock: Parkhurst Book Design, 1984.
“Paragould War Memorial.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas.
Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
Last Updated: 01/20/2016