The year 1896 was not only the centennial of the State of Tennessee, it was the completion date of Sevier County’s courthouse.
The former courthouse, built in 1856, was considered unsafe in 1892, so members of the county court decided that it would be best to build a new courthouse. The current site, owned R. B. McMahan and his wife, Sarah, was deeded to Sevier County that year. Due to previous fire, officials wanted the new courthouse to be built in a location away from other buildings in order to keep the courthouse safe.
Kenneth McDonald of Louisville, Kentucky designed the new courthouse and the building was constructed by C. W. Brown of Lenoir City, at a cost of $21,000.
Measuring 85 feet by 70 feet, the courthouse is 3 stories tall, with a foundation made of limestone blocks, 24 to 30 inches thick. Hand-shaped limestone makes up the exterior walls to the first floor. In those days, the blocks were purchased and brought in by horse drawn wagons. Local brick masons made the bricks that make up the walls ab0ve the first floor.
Of course, once you see the courthouse, your eyes go immediately to the tower, which rises 75 feet above the structure. It rises 130 feet from the ground and is made of wood columns 10 inches by 10 inches rising from wood trusses. The tower’s large Seth Thomas clock carried a price tag of $1,353.45. Once manually wound, today it’s electric and is struck every hour. George G. M. Nichols, aka Sevierville’s “Tinner”, constructed the courthouse’s metal dome.
Age and overcrowding became an issue again in the 1960’s with some voicing a desire to tear it down and build a newer, more modern building. County historian Joe Sharp spearheaded the effort to preserve the current structure and won by a vote of 13-11.
However, the building did take on remodeling work in August of 1971. Complete demolition of the interior of the existing building, a reworking of the clock tower, installation of an elevator to serve three floors, cleaning and patching the exterior walls, and a complete new plumbing and electrical system were a few of the major renovation items. Still, the exterior character of the building was left intact, but renovations provided for the necessary modern needs the insides required in order for it to serve a modern world. It was officially dedicated in April of 1975 and cost nearly $1.4 million.
In 1976, the National Register of Historic Places recognized the Sevier County Courthouse. It was the first courthouse in Tennessee placed on the register.
An annex was added in 1990 at a cost of $1.4 million followed a passing vote and dedicated in 1993. The dome and clock tower were also restored that year.