Courthouses should be grand affairs. Courtrooms should be stately reminders of the gravity of the business conducted therein. Ceilings should tower. Three walls should be paneled in freshly-oiled hardwood and the other wall a floor-to-ceiling skylight. Judges should sit high on massive benches flanked by flags protecting a bronze seal — either of the State or the United States of America.
Instead, courtrooms are often dimly-lit, grimy, Dickensian cinder block and plywood boxes. By contrast, Nashville’s “Historic Courthouse” is grandiose in the manner of a hammy actor like a young Olivier, or Peter O’toole at any age.
Emmons Woolwine is co-credited with the design. Construction began in 1936 as part of Roosevelt’s Works Projects Administration (WPA) effort to get an out-of-work America back in business and out of the Great Depression. The courthouse was completed in 1937 and incorporates art deco elements.
Here are a few photographs:
Inside on the mezzanine level there is a fantastic etched glass rendering of blind-folded Lady Justice holding the scales of justice in her right hand and a sword in her left. There is an owl on her right shoulder, presumably giving good counsel.
If you look closely, you will see that behind the blindfold, her eyes are open.
Photo Credits: Dee Davis. Thanks, Dee!