Onondaga County Courthouse

Syracuse, NY

The Onondaga County Courthouse, located in the Columbus Circle area of Syracuse, New York, was constructed between 1904 and 1906, opening its doors in January of 1907. It is colloquially known as the “Fourth Onondaga County Courthouse,” as it was preceded by three 19th century courthouses. It was designed in the Beaux Arts style by Syracuse architect Archimedes Russell and his draftsman Melvin L. King, who was given much of the responsibility for designing the building. The design was inspired by the Rhode Island State Capitol in Providence, which was designed by the architectural firm McKim, Mead, and White. The interior finishes were created by local interior design firm Allewelt & Brothers; they placed significant decorative focus on the central lobby and light court, with additional ornate decorations being included in the courtrooms on the third floor. The firm hired two New York muralists to paint murals for these central areas: William de Leftwich Dodge and Gustave Gutgemon. William de Leftwich Dodge, who had previously done work for Library of Congress and for Richard Morris Hunt’s Administration building at Chicago’s Columbian Exposition, was contracted to create a series of murals for the central light court which depicted local history and legends. Gustave Gutgemon, a muralist and portrait painter, was contracted to create a series of murals for the stairwell which depicted law and justice. The building included the most up to date technological conveniences, such as hydraulic elevators, a ventilating and steam-heating system, and a duct system concealing all wiring.

EverGreene was contracted by the Onondaga County Department of Facilities Management to perform two tasks. The first task included performing varnish removal tests on room 300 (one of the main courtrooms), as well as provide recommendations for future conservation treatment and reproduction of historic hand-painted decorative finishes. The second task was the actual conservation and restoration of the plaster and decorative finishes in courtrooms 300 and 304, which was based upon the treatment recommendations provided as a result of the room 300 investigation. 

The Onondaga County Courthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 as contributing structure to the Montgomery Street-Columbus Circle Historic District. It continues to act as a courthouse, with minimal changes to its structural and decorative features. The building envelope and roof were both restored in 2009.