Livingston County Court House

Courtesy of Bud Prince

Livingston County was created from parts of Genesee and Ontario Counties by an act of the State Legislature in 1821 and named for Chancellor Robert R. Livingston, eminent jurist, statesman, promoter of agriculture, and signer of the Declaration of Independence. Due in part to its central location, Geneseo was selected as the County seat or “shire town.” At first courts were held on the upper floor of the brick academy building standing on the site of the present cobblestone museum. William and James Wadsworth deeded 1.79 acres of land for county buildings; and a brick Court House and a two-story wooden jail to the northwest were completed in 1823. A few years later, a cobblestone building was erected to the east of the Court House to house the County Clerk's office.

In 1886 a brick addition was made, perpendicular to, and at the rear of the Court House for Clerk and Surrogates offices and a Supervisor’s assembly room.  The architect for this work was John R. Church and the contractor was Benjamin Long. The old County Clerk's building was demolished. In 1889 the old wooden jail was taken down and a new one erected on its site by Colwell and Gray contractors using 82,000 pounds of iron.

c. 1880
Courtesy of APOG

In 1897 the original (1823 section) Court House was found to be unsafe and it was deemed advisable to tear it down and rebuild it using as much as possible of the old brick.  Plans for this new building were drawn by Rochester architect Claude Bragdon and the contractor for the construction was Edward Forbes of Geneseo. The masonry work was done by Marion and O'Brien, also of Geneseo.

It is believed that the cupola from the old Court House was saved and used on the new building. The large wooden columns weighing a ton apiece were the work of William Napier of Rochester and were the largest ever made in that city. The same care was given to the interior and to the selection of furniture. The firm of Wilson and Altmeyer of Dansville was awarded the contract for supplying the furniture, having successfully bid against firms from Rochester and Buffalo. It is of mahogany following the pattern of that used in the United States Senate.

A new jail was erected in 1907 and this was replaced by the present structure in 1964.  Another addition to the rear of the Court House was made in 1957 to house the County Treasurer’s office, etc.

The Court House is an important and imposing building of classic design and detail, and has remained in good repair, although parts of the interior have been altered.