From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Seen in Princeton, Kentucky

Caldwell County Courthouse and downtown Princeton, KY



Art deco courthouse

I've been doing a little research lately on WPA buildings in this area of Kentucky. To my surprise, I learned that Princeton, a small town northwest of Hopkinsville, has one of the few Art Deco courthouses built by the WPA in Kentucky.

I had only been in the downtown area of Princeton once, so Dennis and I drove over to look at the Caldwell County courthouse last Sunday. It is a striking, concrete building that sits on the square in the center of Princeton. Each of its four sides has a dramatic doorway, but the main entrance with the widest steps (photo above) is on the south.

Caldwell County, KY, courthouse

Here's a closer look at the south facade (above photo.) This is the area directly above the doorway. The very austere eagles are repeated around the building.

On the east and west sides, the stylized leaves between the first and second floor windows surely must represent tobacco. At the top of the building, another set of designs may represent plants -- tobacco again? I'm not sure.

One wall has a bust of George Washington (I think) under a giant, rounded-off, concrete ledge that is an architectural detail of that wall. You can see the ledge and the bust protruding from the side of the building in the photo below (upper right.)

WPA courthouse in Kentucky

This is the north entrance (above photo.) In case you get disoriented, the direction is inscribed above each doorway. I wonder if the pillars in front, with the inset glass blocks, might light up from the inside.

Princeton, KY downtown

Princeton, KY historic downtown

The buildings in the two photos above are just a few of the interesting old storefronts in the downtown area around the courthouse. I believe that Princeton has done a better job of preserving its old architecture and keeping some business downtown than Hopkinsville has done.

Princeton, KY church

The church in the photo above is the Christ Tabernacle. The sign says it's a non-denominational church and everyone is welcome. Nearby there's also a large Baptist church. Both churches are only about a block from the courthouse.

I want to drive back over to Princeton and look inside the courthouse on a weekday. I'm curious whether the interior has any distinctive Art Deco features.

General Harlan B. Lyon of the Confederacy burned the Caldwell County courthouse, the Christian County Courthouse (in Hopkinsville), and others during the Civil War so they wouldn't fall into Union hands. He was said to be the "courthouse-burn'est" general around.

Caldwell County built another courthouse after the war was over. It must have been in poor repair or too small, because they needed another new one by the time the WPA was looking for projects during the Great Depression.

6 comments:

alissasanderson said...

I lived in Princeton for a year--I LOVED it there. What a great little town--the downtown area is awesome with little shops and friendly people. And, what I recall from the interior of the courthouse is that it pretty much matches the outside architecture...in an outdated, 1950's kind of way :-)

Genevieve said...

I was really impressed with Princeton's downtown. I wish that Hopkinsville's downtown buildings looked as good. Hopkinsville has some nicely restored downtown buildings, but others have deteriorated so much that they will be torn down, I fear.

Chip Hutcheson said...

Thank you for the complimentary post about Princeton and its downtown. That area is vibrant today, thanks to a program called "Let's Paint the Town" which has greatly improved the appearance of the buildings. That program has won statewide recognition, and there has been encouragement to seek national recognition. Anyone who hasn't visited Princeton lately is in for a real treat.
Routinely you see people passing through town stopping to take photos of the courthouse.

elgin said...

Wow it's a beautiful courthouse. It's unusual to see courthouses in Art Deco style. Sort of reminds me of the state house in Baton Rouge.

Genevieve said...

I received the following by e-mail from another visitor:

"I was born in Princeton & went to school there. The church is the First Baptist Church where I worshiped...the church in the picture looks like it's on West Market Street. If that is correct then that was the Barbee Memorial Presbyterian where my Daughter married.

"Court House records were saved when the court house burned because the records were not stored there. Check out our genealogy & research building on Main St. (it was the A & P Grocery)...

"Princeton was a wonderful place in which to grow up & I have only great memories."

Thanks to all for your comments and additions to this post.

Anonymous said...

A great place to eat recently opened on the South side of the court house called Memory Lane Creamory, ice cream and hot food 'till 9 PM.

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