Historic Jackson County Courthouse and Library

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Photo credit by AbeEzekowitz on Wikipedia

The Most Photographed Courthouse in North Carolina

The Historic Jackson County Courthouse, located in Sylva, North Carolina, is a notable landmark known for its architectural beauty and historical significance. Built in 1914 by C.J. Harris, a prominent local industrialist, this iconic structure is set on a hill overlooking Main Street and is renowned as the most photographed courthouse in the state. Surrounded by the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains, the courthouse is now part of the Jackson County Public Library Complex, which opened in June 2011. The building served as the county courthouse for over 80 years but faced an uncertain future after becoming vacant in 2003. Recognizing its historical value, county officials and community advocates transformed it into an interactive center for Jackson County history​​​​.

The courthouse’s history is intertwined with the development of Sylva as the county seat. From 1853 to 1913, the county seat was in the village of Webster, but its distance from the railroad posed growth challenges. C.J. Harris, a key figure in local industry, advocated moving the seat to Sylva, which was better positioned for economic growth due to its proximity to the railroad. Following a vote in 1913, Sylva became the county seat, and Harris oversaw the construction of the courthouse, which began promptly after the move was approved. This move was crucial in shaping the town’s future, turning Sylva into a thriving hub in the heart of Jackson County​​.

Architecturally, the Jackson County Courthouse is a testament to the Classical Revival style, featuring large stately pillars and red brick construction. It was inspired by the Madison County Courthouse in Marshall, NC. The building features a 16-ton cupola with a working clock and a statue of Lady Justice, symbolizing the judicial history of the site. Following its closure as a courthouse in 1994 and a period of vacancy, the historic building underwent extensive remodeling between 2009 and 2011. The courthouse now houses the Jackson County Public Library, Genealogical Society, Historical Association, and Arts Council, serving as a center for local performances, lectures, and community gatherings. The building, now fully ADA-accessible, includes a new two-story library addition and outdoor spaces, making it a blend of modern amenities and historical charm​​.

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