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Cortland County Courthouse

Cortland City, Cortland County, NY

The Cortland County Courthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1]


The 1924 Cortland County Courthouse is a three story building constructed of smooth cut Indiana limestone. Located within a three acre park, the cupola highlighted structure is heavily influenced by Beaux Arts Classicism.

In the shape of a Latin cross, the building has a three bay wide front on the north facade. Above the entrance way including the second and third stories is a balcony with Doric columns — single columns at each end and two interior pairs of columns. Similarly, engaged columns interrupt the window treatment of the second and third floors on the east and west elevations.

A low profile hip roof covers the structure. The original slate was replaced with asphalt shingles in 1969. The roof cornice is topped with a parapet also of Indiana limestone.

The outstanding architectural feature of the structure is its cupola, which rests on a balustraded octagonal base above which are twenty-four Corinthian columns. Next, the modillions of the building's cornice are repeated in proper scale. Over the top of the order is a four inch concrete dome, overlaid with copper and sixteen inch steel arc beams that meet at a circular opening in the top. Above the drum is an Ionic columned finial on which stands the statue of justice.

The dome is also the central feature of the interior. Inside the building is a rotunda towering to the dome. Columned balconies on the second and third floors overlook the rotunda; the dome's interior has a coffered ceiling of plaster with a stained glass skylight covering the central opening. Marble wainscoting is found throughout the building.

A one story circular limestone war monument, constructed of eight columns and a roof is directly in front of the main entrance on the north facade.


The Cortland County Courthouse designed by the noted architect James Riley Gordon is significant at the local level as public architecture influenced by the design of the National Capital. It is the third of Cortland County's courthouses.

Location for the Cortland County Courthouse, the site of the old Normal School, was largely based on the locations of its two predecessors. All three structures were erected on or adjacent to West Court Street, within approximately two and one half blocks of each other, and near the geographic center of the City of Cortland.

The third courthouse resulted from a desire to consolidate under one roof the scattered public offices. Many groups had stressed this need, including such organizations as the Bar Association. Finally when the old Normal School burned several members of the Board of Supervisors thought the ideal site was now available and voted to purchase it from the state for $4,750. When it opened in 1924 the Cortland County Courthouse contained all of the County's offices, a situation no longer true.

In 1922, when the Supervisors voted to construct the new building they hired James Riley Gordon, an architect with a reputation for designing fine public buildings. Gordon had left San Antonio in 1904 to join the New York firm of Tracy and Swartwout. Seven years later he formed his own firm. As a designer of courthouses, said to number sixty-nine, Gordon was noted for such structures as the first Unit of the Lee County building in San Antonio, Texas and the Bergen County Courthouse in Hackensack.

The Cortland County Courthouse's significant architectural feature is its cupola and corresponding interior rotunda. Its imitation of the U.S. Capital reflects both the grandeur in public buildings of the period and the desire to copy a national model on the local level.


Cortland County Historical Society. Bulletin Vol. No. 8 (August, 1947).

Cortland County Board of Supervisors. Proceedings, 1921, 1969.

Cortland Standard. various issues Scrapbook, Cortland County Historical Society.

  1. Levy, Steven S., New York State Division for Historic Preservation, Cortland County Courthouse, nomination document, 1974, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Nearby Neighborhoods

Street Names
Court House Square