Androscoggin County Courthouse-Auburn, Maine

The following excerpt is reprinted by permission from The Courthouses of Maine, Robert K. Sloane, Senior Editor.

The County Courthouse Image of Androscoggin c

At the rim of the cove ceiling in the newly restored courtroom in the Androscoggin County Courthouse in Auburn are the words:  “Fidelity, Ethics, Morals, Truth, Justice, Mercy, equity and Right” Embossed with gold leaf, the words, along with four State of Maine seals, comprise a pattern that merges with stenciled leaves above the windows and delicate tracery painted on the walls.  A skylight or “dome” highlight the ceiling, planned when the original building was designed and built over 140 years ago.  The principal courtroom, now gleaming and restored to its original state, has a high ceiling with fluted columns between large arched windows on each wall.  The room is the highlight of a handsome brick building with a mansard roof.
 

Public bidding to construct the courthouse took place in early 1856, under the supervision of Isaac S. Small, Joseph Chase, and Samuel F. Waterman, county commissioners.  The contract for the buildings was let to Albert Currier of Newburyport, Massachusetts for a total price of $69, 753.  The work of building the courthouse, county offices and jail was completed in only fifteen and one-half months, and the courthouse opened for business on January 1, 1857.  Auburn commemorated the occasion by changing the street names in the center of town.  Main Street became known as Court Street, and River Street was redesignated as Main Street. 

At the site of the new courthouse, three major interconnected buildings housed the courts, the county administrative offices and the jail.  The frontage of the complex was substantial:  over one hundred feet long on the Turner side street, and over fifty feet on the Court Street side.  The buildings were prudently designed to be fireproof, with vaults for county records, and fire doors between wings of the building.  The most prominent part of the new construction housed the courtroom, county offices and the Register of Deeds.  It fronted on Turner Street at the corner of Court Street.  The first floor housed the county offices, the second the 55’ x 50’ courtroom and the rooms for jury deliberations.  There was a partial third floor, initially used only for storage, behind the mansard roof.  The roof was slate, rising in “hipped” fashion from each side of the building, to meet a flat portion at the top.  In the center of the flat roof was a cupola or dome light, which let natural light through the third floor in to the courtroom. At the northern end of the courthouse buildings were the jail keeper’s house and the two-story jail.  Between the court building and the jail was the section housing the Probate Court, which was descried as two stories high, but the cellar raised the building significantly on the Turner Street side. 

The outward appearance of the Androscoggin County Courthouse has changed remarkably little over the years.  Additions to the county buildings and interior renovations have not changed the exterior appearance of the original buildings significantly.  In 1922 a three-story addition was added along Court Street.  The new building housed the Register of Probate and the Register of Deeds, along with new court related rooms on the second floor.  In 1970 and again in 1990 substantial additions were made to the county jail.
 

The old courtroom still serves its purposes admirably, and has been restored to its appearance when the building was constructed.  A seated figure of Justice overlooks the room form a hemispherical mural painted by Harry Cochrane.  The room retains unusual touches such as swivel chairs for the jury, and curtained doors at either side of the bench.  The rooms of the Androscoggin County Historical Society are located on the third floor of the courthouse, with a collection of American Indian implements and items of local historical interest, including files on historic trials in Androscoggin County.  The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.