Historic Vernon Parish Courthouse

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HISTORIC VERNON PARISH COURTHOUSE
A Love Your Parks Tour Law & Order Story by Lisa D. Smith and Nancy J. Reid, assigned by San Diego employment attorney Ward Heinrichs

On this episode of Big Blend Radio, Marci Cook of the Vernon Parish Tourism Commission discusses the region’s fascinating history of being part of Louisiana’s Legend Country and No Man’s Land, its outdoor recreation opportunities in Kisatchie National Forest, and much more.

Located in west-central Louisiana, Vernon Parish has a fascinating history that swirls with myths and legends and is part of Louisiana’s final frontier known as No Man’s Land. Our initial experience in this beautiful region, that’s also home to Fort Polk and Kisatchie National Forest, was in historic downtown Leesville where we met Marci Cook, our gracious tour guide for the day.

Our first stop was at the grand and historic Vernon Parish Courthouse. Standing tall and proud with its giant Corinthian columns and as the only Beaux-Arts building in the parish, the courthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1909.

It all started back in 1871 when Vernon Parish was established and named after George Washington’s home, Mt. Vernon. Dr. Edmund E. Smart, “The Father of Leesville,” served in the Louisiana House and Senate and also served the new city as treasurer. He donated a block of land for the very first courthouse, which was at that time, just a simple wood-frame structure. The building served the parish until 1889 when the Police Jury stepped in to build a more substantial structure. Unfortunately, due to the artesian wells on the site, this second building suffered several structural problems which eventually caused the tower to split away.

Built in the shape of a Greek cross, the third and now historic Vernon Parish Courthouse boasts two full stories and a third story cupola which houses the original Seth Thomas clock with four faces. The cupola once held a large bronze bell that you can now see hanging in the gazebo out on the lawn area. There’s also a buried time capsule, and historic markers highlighting the Vernon Parish Founding Fathers, and the history of the Great Louisiana Maneuvers during WWII. We even saw an old sign marking the courthouse as a fallout shelter from back in the days of the Cold War.

As you enter the building you’ll see a wonderful collection of paintings that tell the stories of the region’s past. Much of the interior is modernized with offices, including the Vernon Parish Visitor Center, but you can still see historic elements like the staircase’s decorative iron balustrades, the blue and brown tiled floor, the paneled wainscoting in the main hall downstairs, and the decorative balustrades and woodwork on the legal bench.

The current courthouse is just a block over, and is also in a restored and renovated historic building that dates back to 1907.

Take a listen to our radio chat with Marci Cook who discusses the historic courthouse as well as other regional highlights, and learn more about Vernon Parish at https://www.vernonparish.org/.

 

 

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