THE GOVERNMENT CENTER
The process for determining the future of the historic Government Center began in 2017. What is provided here includes Historic Columbus' position and additional background information.
Historic Columbus Position Statement for
Renovation of the Historic Government Center Complex
Historic Columbus holds the position that the Government Center has architectural, cultural, and economic value, and the buildings should not be demolished.
In 2017, Historic Columbus was asked to participate in the Mayor's Government and Judicial Building Commission. The above statement was approved by the Historic Columbus Board of Directors at that time, and it was reaffirmed in 2023.
The statement explains the organization's position on the architectural, cultural, and economic value of the complex and why it is worthy of renovation. It also begins to make the case for the preservation of mid-century architecture in general.
Click here to read the full statement:
The purpose of the Mayor's Commission was to review and consider the existing conditions at CCG’s current Government Center, located at 100 – 10th Street, and to make recommendations on whether and how to appropriate funds to better these conditions.
Click here to read the full report presented to then Mayor Tomlinson on November 16, 2017: Final Commission Report
History of Courthouse Square
When Columbus was originally laid out, two squares were set aside in the northern part of the city for a county courthouse and jail. The two squares were located between First and Third Avenues, and 15th and 16th Streets, the one on the west being the site of the courthouse. Later, in 1828, the General Assembly relocated the courthouse site nearer the business district. This first courthouse was a rough, plain, wooden building, and the Clerks of the Superior and Inferior Courts were housed in a smaller building on the same lot.
Construction on a second courthouse began in 1838, and this building would be placed on the present Government Center location in the block bounded by First and Second Avenues and 9th and 10th Streets. The contractors were W. and J. Godwin, and the construction cost $36,000. It was completed on October 20, 1840. The Greek Revival courthouse was brick with two stories above the ground and a daylight basement. City Council occupied the basement rooms as "the safest and most convenient," and left the upper floors for county officers.
During the Civil War the Senior Surgeon of the Confederate Military Post in Columbus appealed to the public for buildings to house 1,500 sick and wounded soldiers. The Inferior Court of the county granted the use of the courthouse for this purpose. The building was demolished in 1895 to make way for the third courthouse building.
The third Muscogee County Courthouse was built between 1895 and 1896. It faced the Springer Opera House with public grounds featuring a cannon, bandstand, and fountain. The courthouse was designed by Andrew J. Bryan, a noted courthouse architect. The contractor for the new courthouse was Mr. DeVolt of Ohio with a construction cost of $63,479.40. It was a red brick structure with granite foundations and five Corinthian columns outlining the ornamental porticos on the north and south entrances. While the building was under construction, court was held in the old Webster building at the southwest corner of Broadway and 10th Streets.
Construction for the fourth courthouse, the Government Center, began in 1970 when Muscogee County and the City of Columbus consolidated. The 1895 courthouse was demolished in 1972. The fourteen-story tower and side buildings were designed by local architect Edward W. Neal. The buildings are a combination of two mid-century architectural styles - International and Brutalism - now known as New Formalism.
New Formalism offered another design strategy for achieving a sense of monumentality, particularly for civic buildings, mostly by referencing the classical tradition more directly, but in a stylized, modernistic way. The Columbus Consolidated Government Center (1971-73) vividly reflects this trend as a monumental multibuilding ensemble. Housing the merged city and county governments, the symmetrical three-building composition wrapping around a rectangular plaza accessed by a grand staircase recalls the layout of the Lincoln Center in New York, the most noted work in this style. In Columbus, abstracted white concrete piers merge to form a rounded arcade and cornice on each building that stands out against darker adjacent materials. Lacking broader appreciation, New Formalist buildings have not fared well in terms of preservation and the fate of the Columbus building remains in peril.