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Memphis, Scotland County

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The county seat of Scotland County, Memphis, sits high on elevated ground looking out over the farmland of northeastern Missouri. It is a pretty town, with a dramatic setting.

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It has at least one National Register property, Downing House, which began as a Federalist house and then was transformed into an Italianate villa. I like these houses, preserved out in the countryside, since St. Louis once had many of these that have now been torn down or destroyed by tornadoes.

The above photograph, from the early Twentieth Century, says the following: “W.G. Downing House, built in 1858, probably designed by Solomon Jenkins who was the architect of the Scotland County Courthouse (since replaced by the courthouse below).”

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The town square is well preserved, with a large number of original buildings with slipcovers from the 1950s and 60s.

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The courthouse is a stunner, even if renovations have been a bit too liberal with the white paint on the original copper.

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Most of the courthouses in northeastern Missouri seem to have St. Louis architects, but this one was designed by an Alabamian, W. Chamberlain. Perhaps this accounts for the slightly unique design, particularly in the cupola, whose articulation takes a different form in this area. It was completed in 1908.

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This is actually a church below, despite looking like a school.

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2 Comments

  1. The firm was W. Chamberlain & Co. (though variations on that name are seen), which was let by titular Walter Chamberlain. The firm spent most of its existance in Knoxville, Tennessee and did most of its work in Georgia (moving to Birmingham, Alabama later). Chamberlain’s work is profiled extensively in “The Courthouse and Depot: The Architecture of Hope in an Age of Despair: A Narrative Guide to Railroad Expansion and Its Impact on Public Architecture in Georgia, 1833-1910.” Although his designs were somewhat rote, Chamberlain was a pioneer in concrete block construction. Based on the construction date, that is probably what the Scotland County Courthouse is constructed with.

    • Ah yes, the “stone” has a surface to it that looks like it may be concrete. Good way to save money.

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