The Old Jefferson County Office Building Made Of Stone
The new county office building in 1903 came at a time when Watertown was flourishing with construction activity, including the remaining work on City (Thompson) Park, the new Watertown High School on Sterling Street, the Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library and the Van Brunt mansion on Washington Street, later known as the White House Inn. Each would further Watertown’s reputation as a charismatic city of which its citizens could take extreme pride in.
After much discussion, planning and approval, sealed proposals for a new county office building were due 3 o’clock p.m., May 15, 1902, to the architect offices of David D. Kieff at No. 17 and 18 Flower Building. The location chosen for the new county office building construction is in the lot adjacent to the County Court House. These initial bids were deemed too high and another round of bidding resulted in the lowest bidder of six, Brennan, Hodge & O’Brien, awarded the construction contract with an accepted bid of $47,797.99. The Watertown Times reported on the announcement, Friday, May 23, 1902—
It would appear that the cost of the proposed building, with heating and lighting included, would somewhat exceed the appropriation. However, the committee contemplates making some changes in the construction, which will materially reduce the cost of the building.
The building is to be built of marble, and by substituting random asbler work, in place of plain coursing work on the outside walls, a saving of nearly $1,500 can be made. By substituting oak window casings and frames, oak doors, jambs, etc., throughout the building, for metal window casings and doors, a saving of something over $2,000 can be affected. By substituting copper cornice in place of terra cotta cornice, as called for by specification, another marked saving in the cost of the building will result.
A strike occurred over the course of two days by construction workers over an attempt for 9-hour days in order to have the new county office building enclosed by winter. The matter was settled to a normal 8-hour work day with the pay of $8.50 per day, deemed considerably higher than the union scale of .40 cents an hour.
The first event held in the new county office building was the board of supervisors meeting on Monday, November 9, 1903. Visitors and former members were present along with architect David D. Kieff who received many compliments of the design and construction of the facility.
In the November 21, 1903 edition of the Watertown Daily Times, a lengthy article discussed the many attributes of the new county office building—
The architectural style of the building is classical in its design, of a period about the 14th of 15th centuries, and everything about the structure, both inside and out, conforms to the idea of that period. It is two stories in height, measuring 60 x 95 feet on the outside.It is built of Canton marble rock-faced ashlar with fine patent hammered marble moldings, trim and building courses. The roof is of glazed tile with copper cornice and all window frames are of calimine iron, copper-plated, so they are entirely fireproof.
The main hall is 21 x 26 and has a ceramic Mosaic tile floor and the sides are paneled to a height of seven feet with white Italian marble. From the center an iron stairway with marble treads ascends to the second floor, branching about half way up and making two landings in the upper hall.
The supervisors’ council room, pictured below, ran the entire width of the building and was lighted by four windows on each side while a large copper dome with opalescent glass was built into the 18-foot ceiling with heavy plastered beams and cornices. Between the two doors from the central hall was a large white Italian and Siena marble fireplace.
When the Governor Flower Mansion was razed in 1963, it gave room to the new county office building to be built. By 1975, the antiquated, grey stone building, as it became known as, was demolished to make room for a single-story annex to the latest county office building. The wing would house the clerk-motor vehicles and data processing offices. Despite some calls for preserving the building and instead to “add another floor to the tasteless pile of steel and glass next door,” the old county office building met the wrecking ball in July of 1975.
Prior to demolition, workers were able to remove a large brass fixture from the old county office building and relocate it to the old county courthouse next door. The fixture was valued at $800. Steel from the old building would be used to reinforce concrete columns in the new single story wing.
Today, the Jefferson County Court Complex is home to the court offices.