Knox County Court House (39)


300 Main Street

The fourth courthouse built at this intersection since the 1790s, this 1886 building has proven by far the most durable. The original building (the central part) was built by Swiss immigrant David Getaz, based on a plan from the New York firm of Palliser, Palliser & Co., who were best known for their mail-order plans for cottages. A 1920s expansion of its wings is still visible in different-colored brick. During celebrated murder cases early in the century, hundreds would throng the yard hoping to catch a bit of damning testimony through the open windows. Though most of its functions, such as criminal court cases, have been moved to the 1980 City County building, the old building still hosts some court functions. On the 100th anniversary of the construction of the courthouse, in 1985, restoration began, concluding in 1990.

Soon after the courthouse’s construction, the few remains of John Sevier, who died on an expedition into the Alabama wilderness in 1815, were exhumed, packed into a modern coffin, paraded down Gay Street, and reburied here before a reported crowd of more than 10,000. Sarah (Sadie) Hawkins, Sevier’s first wife, died in early 1780, and her grave has never been found. A monument to her memory was placed beside the grave of Sevier and dedicated on June 3, 1946, the 200th anniversary of her birth. Sevier’s second wife, Catherine (Bonny Kate) Sherrill, was also reinterred here.

The statue depicts a Spanish-American War soldier. The large cannons in front are made of fiberglass, added in the 1990s to represent the Spanish cannons, presumably captured at Manila Bay, that adorned the yard until they were surrendered for scrap during World War II.

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