Lee County Courthouse

The Lee County Courthouse is located on 15 East Chestnut Street, overlooking downtown Marianna (Lee County). The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program recognizes the two-story building as architecturally and historically significant, as it stands as a visible result of the New Deal policies of the 1930s and the best example of the Classical Revival style in the county. The National Park Service added it to the National Register of Historic Places on September 7, 1995.

Marianna grew in both size and wealth after the establishment of Lee County in 1873, largely due to the rich agricultural land in the Arkansas Delta and commercial access to the Mississippi River. By the mid-1930s, Lee County needed a larger courthouse than the two-story brick building that had been constructed in 1890. Judge J. O. Foreman led a committee made up of the county’s power elite, including Max Miller Sr., J. F. Hunter Sr., and John L. Daggett. They managed the process to select an architect, raise funds, and review design submissions for expanding the courthouse.

Like the rest of the nation, Lee County felt the effects of the Great Depression. The committee sought financial assistance from the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works, a New Deal program more commonly known as the Public Works Administration (PWA) that funded construction projects. Titled project number 1136-R, the structure was completed in 1939. Architects George Mahan and Everett Woods designed the courthouse’s expansion in the Classical Revival style with Ionic columns, arches, and pilasters at the front end of the building. The addition’s size dwarfed the standing 1890 building. Essentially, builders constructed the 1939 structure in front of the 1890 courthouse, adding an entry hall, dual staircases, two offices, and a two-story jail.

The exterior was made of limestone and yellow brick in a restrained Classical style and showing some signs of the growing Art Deco architecture trend popular in the 1930s. The interior is typical of Depression-era courthouses, with oak doors, wood moldings, metal staircases, and painted plaster walls. Two freestanding fountains are located on the second floor.

Lee County built another addition in 1965, replacing the original 1890 section of the building. A one-story brick and concrete block structure housed a new courtroom and county clerk’s office. The courtroom has yellow brick walls, blue spectator seats, green attorneys’ chairs, and a black judge’s chair. The bench is fifty-four inches tall and has a fifteen-inch overhang. Dedicated to former Judge W. L. Ward Jr., the attorneys’ lectern is used by both Lee County and the City of Marianna for judicial business, which is typical for small counties.

The Lee County Courthouse overlooks the courthouse square, a green space that includes a wooden bandstand and a stone statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, after whom the county was named. Rows of red-brick storefronts face the square.

For additional information:
Gill, John Purifoy, and Marjem Jackson Gill. On the Courthouse Square in Arkansas. N.p.: 1980.

“Lee County Courthouse.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/LE0023.nr.pdf (accessed November 18, 2020).

Jared Craig
Arkansas Historic Preservation Program


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