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Marion County Courthouse, Hannibal

Yes, there are two Marion County courthouses! As we continue down the Mississippi River Valley, we come to the largest city in Marion County, which is Hannibal. Due to the fact that the city was so much more dominant, a second courthouse was constructed in Hannibal to deal with the larger caseload. I’m sure there’s somewhere else in America where this has happened, but I don’t know where that would be. I’m surprised the county seat was not actually moved from Palmyra, to be honest.

Regardless, this is one of the best courthouses I’ve seen in America; it’s a pure Beaux-Arts masterpiece, with a Palladian-inspired dome and pediments reminding me of the Villa Rotonda of Vicenza in the Veneto. Perhaps what is also amazing is that the one addition was done sensitively out the back, and there is no ugly asymmetrical wing sticking out the side, as in the words of Princes Charles, looking like a “a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend.”

The building must have underdone a cleaning recently, as well, as the stone is looking great. It dates from 1901 and was designed by James Hogg of Kansas City.

3 Comments

  1. Arkansas has ten counties that have two county seats. They stem from the difficulty of travel before paved roads or railroads or, later, from one town becoming more dominant.

      • Mississippi also has ten counties with dual seats. Yet Alabama, with some of the largest counties east of the Mississippi River, only has a couple of dual county seats. Tennessee counties are generally quite small and arranged so that travel anywhere in the county to the courthouse was unimpaired by major geographic obstacles, so there are no dual county seats in that state. The same with Kentucky with the exception of the Cincinnati-adjacent counties of Campbell and Kenton. Just about all the other dual-seated counties are in New England, where county governments are arranged differently.

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