Jefferson County Courthouse designated as National Historic Landmark

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — The Jefferson County Courthouse in Charles Town, West Virginia now joins the over 2,600 National Historic Landmarks across the country, and Jefferson County Circuit Judge David Hammer says the courthouse’s new standing opens up a lot of opportunities for the area.

“It’s just terrific news for tourism, for research, for really the whole history of the county,” Hammer said on MetroNews ‘Talkline.’

The courthouse is among the 16 new NHLs Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland recently designated, along with two new National Natural Landmarks.

As the highest federal historic-site recognition, NHL designations reflect not only the historical significance of a location, but their rich architectural, archeological, and cultural components, as well.

Hammer said the Jefferson County Courthouse holds a lot of history within its walls, but the most famous is the 1859 trial of a prominent abolitionist leader John Brown. He said Brown and his raiders were convicted for trying to end slavery by attacking the armory at Harpers Ferry.

“They were charged with treason and murder, and John Brown was convicted in this courthouse of those charges, and then hung a couple blocks over to the east,” Hammer said. “So, that’s a monumental trial in history.”

He said they still use that particular courtroom to this very day.

“We use it everyday,” he said. “I mean we’ve enhanced with some technological features like some microphones and speakers and the like, but you will get the authentic feel of that courthouse, it’s the 1872 courtroom built after the Civil War, and it feels a lot like it did in 1872.”

Hammer said another famous set of trials to take place there– the Coal Miners’ Treason Trials of 1922, when coal miners sought to address poor working conditions in Southern West Virginia mines.

He said they continue to discover daily just how much history the courthouse holds.

“We’re a courthouse full of records going back to 1801,” Hammer said. “Just the other day we uncovered a bunch of records we hadn’t seen before, still wrapped in cloth and tied in twine, and they are of a lot of juvenile delinquency petitions from post-Civil War.”

Hammer said the courthouse has already attracted many from all over the country even before the new designation with the draw of Harpers Ferry and Jefferson County, as a whole, but now they expect to attract even more to come see the courthouse’s unique history it holds within its walls.

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