Livingston County

Livingston County

Livingston – 66th County To be Organized in State

 Livingston County Courthouse

Livingston County, located in the northeast quarter of Illinois, consisting of 1,043 square miles and 30 townships, was founded by an Act of Legislature, February 27, 1837 out of McLean and LaSalle Counties. The territory had formerly been a part of Cook and Vermilion Counties.

It is the fourth largest county in the state, being exceeded by LaSalle, McLean and Iroquois. Pontiac, seat on the Vermilion River, is 92 miles southwest of Chicago and about midway between Chicago and Springfield.

The county was named for Edward Livingston, a member of an old distinguished and wealthy New York family and was a lawyer by profession.  He served as mayor of New York City, Representative in Congress from New York and later from Louisiana, United States Senator from the latter state, Minister to France and Secretary of State under Jackson.

On September 3, 1839, the County contracted to build a Courthouse on the public square in Pontiac.  Construction was slow and it was not until July 23, 1841 that the first Courthouse, a two story frame building 30 x 22 feet was completed.  In 1848 a 240 foot oak fence and a string of hitching posts were built around it.

This courthouse was used by the county without interruption until 1856, when a new two-story brick structure, costing $14,000 was built.  The old courthouse was used for many years as a school house and in the late 60’s was used a City Hall and headquarters of the volunteer fire department, later it was transformed into a dwelling.

It was decided, on February 9, 1871, to construct fireproof vaults in an addition to be built to the Courthouse.  This addition, approximately 40 x 16 feet and two stories high, was completed at a cost of $5,262.  The county did not have the use of the improvement very long as the courthouse was destroyed by fire on July 4, 1874, together with Union Block and the Phoenix Hotel to the south; however, the vaults saved the records from damage. Pending the construction of a new courthouse, court was held in the basement of the Methodist Church, Dehner’s Hall and the Odd Fellows Hall on South Mill Street.

On August 12, 1874, the plans submitted by C. J. Cochrane, of Chicago were accepted by the county board and on October, 2, the contract for the erection of the new courthouse was awarded to Colwell, Clark & Company of Ottawa.  Work was begun shortly after the contract was awarded and was completed and accepted by the county board, November 5, 1875.

The present courthouse was built, like the two previous ones, one the public square at a total cost slightly in excess of $75,000 and was financed by an issue of bonds to the amount of $68,000, in series of $17,000, each payable in two, three, four and five years.  The remainder was raised by taxation.  The length of the building facing east and west is 145 feet and the depth is 93 feet.  The height from basement to the eaves is 55 feet and the tower is 70 feet high. Six feet of the basement is stone; above the eaves is pressed brick with cut stone corners and window trimmings, the brick work being painted and tuck pointed.  The roof is of slate.  Each of the four corners of the building is topped by a small tower with mansard roof in the center of which cluster is a large clock tower, also with a mansard roof.  At each of the four entrances are porticos with slender columns.

The Livingston County Board of Supervisors, always desirous of maintaining the courthouse in the best of condition, appropriate annual sums for repairs and improvements. Three, two-story, additions have been added, two on the east side and one on the west, fillng the vacant spaces between the small towers on the corners and entrances.  The courthouse, with its present floor layout is well adapted for governmental needs with ample room for further expansion.

Compiled by Ira L. Boyer

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