The Laurens County courthouse, located in downtown Laurens, is listed in the National Register as part of the Laurens Historic District. The town and county are named for Henry Laurens of Charleston (2), who owned Mepkin Plantation (now Mepkin Abbey). Laurens was a patriot and statesmen who succeeded John Hancock as President of the Continental Congress, he was also the first recorded person to be cremated in the country (2).
The central section of Laurens was laid out as a public square with the courthouse dominating this four acre area (2). Constructed of masonry and granite, the exterior is covered in stucco and scored to resemble stone. The central portion was finished in 1838, with the wings added in 1858. Additions were added in 1911 and 1940. The courthouse sits atop a raised basement and features two porticos with massive Corinthian columns and is an excellent example of Greek Revival architecture (1).
When planning the site, it was undecided which side of the building should be the front or the back. To alleviate this situation, advertisements were placed calling for illegal sales “in front of the courthouse (2).” The south side had a larger space to accommodate vendors so it became the front of the building (2). In the WPA Guide to the Palmetto State, it is mentioned that gatherings happened on court, election, and sale days. Andrew Johnson, who would later become President of the United States, had a tailor shop here with his brother in 1824 (2).
The Laurens County Courthouse is listed in the National Register as part of the Laurens Historic District, which says the following about the area:
The Laurens Historic District contains 111 contributing properties, most of which were built between 1880 and 1940. The town of Laurens is the county seat of Laurens County, located in the Piedmont region of the state. The district includes the public square with the courthouse and surrounding commercial buildings, and extends to the north and west to include significant residential sections of Laurens. The district is an unusually intact collection of buildings of nineteenth and early twentieth century vernacular architectural design mixed with simple high-style examples.
Although originally lined by antebellum residences (only two of which remain intact) on multi-acre lots, West Main Street experienced two periods of major development. The first period was from ca. 1885 to ca. 1915 and the second occurred between the World Wars. The buildings in the district display a wide range of architectural styles including Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Romanesque Revival, Bungalow, Craftsman, Spanish Colonial Revival, and Neo-Classical. The area is also characterized by its large trees, well-kept yards, and granite retaining walls. The town and county of Laurens are named for South Carolina Revolutionary War patriot Henry Laurens. Laurens County was one of six counties created in 1785 from a division of the old district of Ninety-Six. By 1792 Laurens was the county seat.
More Pictures of the Laurens County Courthouse
Reflections on the Laurens County Courthouse
Photographer Lyn Freeman says that she was born and raised in Laurens, but had to move away periodically with her father who was in the military. “I always felt at home once I took a spin around the square to see if everything was the same as I left it. The courthouse was comforting to me because it always was the same even when some stores had changed.”
Laurens County Courthouse: Our Sources