The Sevier County Courthouse has been a landmark in East Tennessee since its completion in 1896, the centennial of the State of Tennessee.
In 1892, members of the County Court decided to build a new courthouse to replace the courthouse built in 1856, which was considered unsafe. On 30 January 1892, R. B. McMahan and his wife, Sarah, deeded the site of the present courthouse to Sevier County. The Court wanted a site away from other buildings in case of fire to keep the courthouse as safe as possible. (A major fire destroyed the courthouse and its valuable historic records in 1856.)
This magnificent structure was designed by noted architect Kenneth McDonald of Louisville, Kentucky. McDonald was known for his Beaux-Arts Classicism design. The building was constructed by C. W. Brown of Lenoir City, at a cost of $21,000.00. From its beginning, the new courthouse has been a symbol of civic pride.
The courthouse is a three-story structure, measuring 85 feet by 70 feet. The foundation is made of limestone blocks, 24 to 30 inches thick. The exterior walls up to the main floor are of hand-shaped limestone. They were obtained from a local quarry and hauled to the courthouse site by horse drawn wagons. From the main floor up, the exterior walls are brick, made at local brick yards.
The tower is the dominating feature of the Courthouse rising 75 feet above the building. It rises 130 feet from the ground and is made of wood columns 10 inches by 10 inches rising from wood trusses. Midway up the tower is a large Seth Thomas clock which cost $1,353.45. For years, the clock was wound manually but today it's electric and strikes at the top of every hour. The metal dome on top of the tower was made by George G. M. Nichols, Sevierville's "Tinner."
In the 1960's, concern was expressed over courthouse overcrowding and its age. Some wanted to tear down the building and construct a modern, contemporary building. Thanks to the efforts of county historian Joe Sharp, the courthouse was preserved by a vote of 13 to 11.
Remodeling efforts began in August of 1971. The work to be done included complete demolition of the interior of the existing building and completely replacing it with new construction; reworking of the clock tower; an elevator to serve three floors; cleaning and patching the exterior walls; a complete new plumbing and electrical system. All of the above were done in such a way so as to retain the exterior character for historic reasons, but, at the same time, providing the necessary modern facilities inside the building so that the county could function in today's world. A two-story addition was added at the rear of the existing building connected to the old courthouse by a 40-foot-wide linking lobby. The newly refurbished building was officially dedicated in April, 1975, at a cost of $1,375.000.00.
In 1976, the Sevier County Courthouse was the first courthouse in Tennessee to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1990, the commission voted to expand the courthouse by adding an annex at a cost of $1,400,000.00. The annex was completed in 1993. The domes and clock tower were restored in the fall of 1993.
Courtesy of Sevier County Heritage Museum