County Courthouse Series No. 3: Ulster County

The Ulster County Courthouse is located in the historic Stockade District of Kingston, New York. The original courthouse was located here c.1683 when the colony was transfered from Dutch to English ownership. During 1777, the courthouse hosted the constitutional convention which approved the New York State constitution, and held the first meeting of the State Supreme Court before the city of Kingston was burned to the ground by the British in October of that year. In 1789, the current courthouse was constucted.

The courthouse is also historic for its association with the struggles of Sojourner Truth, who successfully argued here for the return of her son unlawfully sold into slavery. A plaque in front of the courthouse commemorates her.

Please visit our previous installments of our ocassional series on county courthoueses: Broome County and Columbia County.

Posted by Natalie

Update: Check out Stefanie's paper on the Third Onondaga County courthouse


Stefanie Noble said...

Thanks for the link ;)

I wrote another entry, so I think I'm now ready to say the site is having its grand opening!

joe said...

natalie, how many of the county courthouses you've seen have an obelisk, -what are those pointy egyptian things? on their grounds.

Natalie said...

As a general rule, obelisks in America are monuments (the Washington monument being a famous and noteable example [obelisks are supposed to be one single block of stone, which the Washington monument is not, though it is an obelisk in form, but I digress]) The most common place to see an obelisk is a graveyard.

Historically, they are associated with empire; in Egypt they expressed religious ascendency, and when the Romans appropriated them, this meaning combined with symbolism of power and influence. Later empires (including the papacy) followed suit.

Fun fact: There are more Egyptian obelisks in Italy than there are in Egypt.

Obelisks are also associated with the Freemasons.

Perhaps one of our more well traveled readers can provide some upstate examples of obelisks near courthouses, but I doubt there are many, for two reasons, the first being that imagery of power and influence are not what courthouses are designed to project. They are about balance and empirical rule of law (which is also part of the reason why there are so many in classically influenced styles.) The second is that most of the current courthouses and their grounds around upstate were erected/remodeled in the 1890s-1920s, when the mid-1800s obelisk fashion was on the wane.

I still have a lot of courthouses to visit, and I'll try and make better notes of the grounds of the courthouse in addition to the building itself.

joe said...

Just commenting that I read your comment. Good architecture info. Lots of ameri. legions have them outside, probably cuz there's plenty of room on them for the names of the dead.