Burlington County Court House - Mt. Holly Historic District - Mt. Holly
Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member Math Teacher
N 39° 59.771 W 074° 47.335
18S E 518018 N 4427354
Quick Description: This old court House was built in 1796 and modeled after Congress Hall in Phila. It was used full-time until 1959 when a new County office building was opened which included court facilities. The courthouse continues to handle judicial proceedings.
Location: New Jersey, United States
Date Posted: 6/30/2012 5:41:32 PM
Waymark Code: WMER83
Published By: Groundspeak Charter Member BruceS
Views: 3

Long Description:

I. The COUNTY BUILDINGS, Main St. between Garden and Union Sts., are grouped as a unit with the large COURTHOUSE, erected 1796, in the center and the smaller SURROGATE'S OFFICE and ADMINISTRATION BUILDING, built in 1807, on either side. The courthouse in particular is an outstanding example of Georgian Colonial design adapted to a public building. It is a two-story, yellow brick structure, with white trim, green shutters, and a well-proportioned tower. The entrance is lighted by a Colonial lantern; over the great oak door is the coat of arms of New Jersey in granite, and a graceful fanlight. The surrogate's office and the administration building are both one-story structures of brick, painted yellow, with green shutters and white trim. --- New Jersey, a Guide to Its Present and Past, 1939; page 293

This is one of the older and more beautiful structures in this historic district. The bell tower up top is one of its well-known and principal characteristics. The bell came from the original Burlington Court House which was built in 1693, almost 100 hundred years earlier. It was cast in England in 1755 and reportedly rung to signal news of the Declaration of Independence as well as faithfully announcing the opening of Court sessions up to 1959, when the major courts were transferred to the newly built County Building on Water Street.

After the first courthouse fell into disrepair, nearly a century later, three men, Joseph Budd, Richard Cox, and Zachariah Russell, commissioned a new courthouse that was erected in the town of Mount Holly. Samuel Lewis, who worked on the similarly styled Congress Hall in Philadelphia, served as the master carpenter for the project that came into fruition in 1796. The building date can be found inside the pediment and painted black, all original. The first two numbers are separated from the alter two numbers by a fan light in the middle of this pediment.

Two plentiful, regional materials, marble and brick, compose the building's exterior facade. The brick building was initially decorated with white trim, typical of the Georgian style; later, the brick was painted white and the trim was changed to dark green. An octagonal open cupola crowns the two-story building and houses a bell that was cast in England in 1755. The inclusion of the cupola, a balustrade, decorative detailing along the roofline, an elliptical dormer window, and the building's symmetrical plan identify the courthouse as Federal in style. In America, Federal architecture traditionally denotes power and wealth, and in the case of the Burlington County Courthouse, the aim was most likely that these characteristics would be attributed to the county as a whole.

Many architectural features of the Burlington County Courthouse reflect its Federal style, a refined variation of Georgian style. The five equally spaced upper-story windows, for example, are positioned directly above their counterparts below, resulting in a balanced appearance. A belt course externally divides the two stories. Each of the courthouse's large windows is adorned with shutters, in accordance with the Federal style.

Across the lower-story on the front face of the building, two large round-headed windows evenly flank the central doorway and a marble coat of arms is displayed within a classical pediment. With its narrow sidelights, pilasters, thin frame, and elegant ornamentation, the entrance serves as a focal point for the courthouse. The fanlight above the doorway further emphasizes this area of interest.


Naturally, a building this old and unique is also a contributing structure to the Mount Holly Historic District. In my never ending quest to document all things contributing, I visited the town library to retrieve the nomination form and narratives for the historic district. The reference desk rewarded me with a very old packet from 1969. Despite what on-line sources would have you believe, there are actually 39 contributing structures and not 36.

From the Nomination Form:
13. BURLINGTON COUNTY COURT HOUSE ....1796 ....High Street
Architect: Samuel Lewis, Philadelphia, worked on Congress Hall in 1780; builder: Michael Rush; two and one-half story L-shaped flemish bond brick with moulded brick water table and low stone foundation; keystones above windows; frontispiece entrance with arched opening and 8-panel double doors under fan light; Gothic sash windows, first floor 19/12, second floor windows 12/12, flanked by louvered shutters on first and second floors; hip roof with octagonal cupolas; box cornice with carved and shaped dentils; marble New Jersey Coat of Arms above front door, executed by John Eckstein, Philadelphia sculptor (H.A.B.S. NJ 6-27)

Name of Historic District (as listed on the NRHP): Mt. Holly Historic District

Link to nationalregisterofhistoricplaces.com page with the Historic District: [Web Link]

NRHP Historic District Waymark (Optional): [Web Link]

High Street Mount Holly, NJ 08060

How did you determine the building to be a contributing structure?: Other (Please explain in the Private Message field)

Optional link to narrative or database: Not listed

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