Spring at the Old Court House

Bill Seratt

April 3

The Old Warren County Court House has stood as the architectural icon of Vicksburg since it was constructed high atop the bluff overlooking the growing city and the surrounding hardwood forests and Mississippi River bottoms.  Construction on the Greek Revival structure began in 1858 on land that was donated by the city’s founder, Newitt Vick.  The Weldon brothers from Rodney, Mississippi, were hired and the project was completed in 1860 at a cost of $100,000.  The building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1968 and a Mississippi Landmark in 1986.  The landmarked area comprises the entire courthouse square which includes the courthouse and four adjacent buildings that were originally cistern houses for catching rainwater to fight fires.  Today these buildings are used as privies and for storage.

Exterior aerial shot of Old Court House Museum in Vicksburg, MS

The impressive silhouette was the definitive symbol of Confederate resistance during the Civil War.  During the Civil War the building was one of the main targets for Union gunboats but only suffered one major hit.  Both Union and Confederate wounded soldiers were hospitalized on the second floor of the building.  After a 47-day siege, on July 4, 1863, the Stars and Bars were lowered, and Stars and Stripes were raised as Confederate General John C. Pemberton surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant.

In the mid-1940s a new Warren County Court House was built across Cherry Street in the Civic Art Deco style that was popular at the time.  When it came time to decide what to do with the outdated “old” court house it was decided that demolition was the modern and progressive thing to do – a “pave paradise put up a parking lot kind of deal”.  But, Eva Whitaker Davis, founder of the Vicksburg and Warren County Historical Society, would hear none of that nonsense and set forth to protect and preserve the iconic structure for generations to come.

Ms. Davis took on the Board of Supervisors armed with little more than a mop and unstoppable courage and determination.  Without the aid of running water or electricity, Ms. Davis, began cleaning the decades of dust and debris.  Yep, don’t mess with Eva Whitaker Davis.  On June 3, 1948 the Old Court House Museum opened its doors to over 15,000 square feet of exhibits that chronicle the history of Warren County and the surrounding region.  If not for the determination of Ms. Davis this national treasure would not exist today.

On Saturday, April 14, 2018 over 150 vendors will surround the Old Court House Museum bringing a host of arts, crafts, antiques, plants, local food and much, much more.  The Old Court House Flea Market is great entertainment for the entire family and is the museum’s largest fundraiser.  Booths are open from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.

FLEA-4

FLEA-5

The Old Court House Museum is located at 1008 Cherry Street and is open Monday – Saturday from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. and Sunday from 1:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. (open until 5:00 p.m. during daylight savings time)