Although almost all small Southern cities have a
courthouse, few can match the charm of the Old Burke
County Courthouse and its well-landscaped square.
From its tasteful decorations to the delicate
dogwoods blooming in the spring, the courthouse and the square located in
the middle of Morganton are a sight to behold.
The first courthouse in 1784 was made of wood and
became inadequate fro the growing county. The North Carolina General
Assembly allocated $8,000 for a new courthouse and construction began in
1835. Work on the county's most recognizable structure was completed in
1837. It is so recognizable, in fact, that
The News Herald uses the courthouse's
Baroque style cupola in its masthead.
Scottish craftsman James Binnie completed the
masonry work using native stone - which is why the courthouse took so long
to build. A team of oxen and mule hauled the stone from a quarry five miles
away and could only make one load per day. (The native stone was later
covered with stucco in 1885.)
From 1847 to 1862, the North Carolina Supreme
Court held its August sessions in this building because summer climate in
Morganton seemed more tolerable than in Raleigh. This, plus the Superior and
County Court sessions, made the courthouse square the center of activity for
In 1903, alterations were made under the plans of
Charlotte architect Frank Milburn who designed 65 courthouses, primarily in
the South from 1889-1926.
The Confederate Memorial Monument was erected in
1910 and the bronze statue of a confederate private standing guard was
erected in 1918.
The courthouse underwent major exterior
restoration in 1977-78 and interior restoration in 1983-84. In addition to a
Heritage Museum, the courthouse now house the Historic Burke Foundation
office as well as the Burke County Travel and Tourism office. The courtroom
upstairs has been used as an auditorium and has been a frequent site fro
political candidates stumping in Burke.
Directions: Right in the center of the Town of Morganton
9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday - Friday
10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday
The News Herald, Morganton, N. C., Wednesday, September 24, 2003
Pictures by Dewey E. Fox