In 1853 the Alabama Legislature authorized construction of the St. Stephens Courthouse to serve as governmental headquarters for Washington County. When completed in 1854, the courthouse was home to the probate office and record rooms for the entire county.
The St. Stephens courthouse served the county seat for 53 years until the county seat was moved to Chatom in 1907.
The St. Stephens Courthouse is now open to the public as a Visitor Center and Museum. Admission is free! Visitors can tour the beautifully restored courthouse from 7:30-4:00 Monday through Friday. No reservations are required, and large groups can call ahead for a guided tour of the Courthouse and Museum and also the nearby Old St. Stephens Historical Park. The St. Stephens Courthouse features fully restored siding, beaded board and heartpine flooring throughout, and much of the original 1853 windowpane glass. The museum displays portraits of early St. Stephens residents Thomas Eastin, William Crawford and Temperance Crawford (painted by Thomas Sully, a well-known artist from Philadelphia, and one of the foremost 19th-century portrait painters in the US). Also on exhibit is a large dugout canoe of the prehistoric Indians, a collection of ancient fossils from local limestone deposits, and artifacts from the historic town of Old St. Stephens and Fort St. Esteban.
There is a gift shop offering books and other souvenirs for sale, such as t-shirts, mugs, pencils, and postcards.
In 2000 the St. Stephens Historical Commission undertook the restoration and rehabilitation of this historic courthouse. With funding from the Bedsole Foundation, the Sybil Smith Trust, the Thomas L. Turner Trust, and the M. W. Smith Jr. Trust, the building was restored to its original condition. Nicholas H. Holmes Jr. of Mobile served as the architect for the courthouse restoration. The work was carried out by inmates from Alabama Correction Industries.
Last Updated: Wednesday, September 28, 2011 2:37 PM