Tillman County Courthouse in the 1920s
New County Courthouse was
Point of Pride in 1921
“Grand. Magnificent. Awe-inspiring.” Those were the impressions of Tillman County folks in 1921 when the county’s new courthouse was completed in Frederick.
There’s no doubt that the new county courthouse was the most imposing building that had been constructed in the area up to that point.
Tillman County had been created at Oklahoma Statehood in 1907, but county offices had operated since that time in rented spaces above downtown buildings.
The new courthouse in Frederick occupied one square block between South Main and South 9th street – Block Six of the original Townsite. The land was purchased at a cost of $14,250. Several homes and businesses, including one of the city’s early mule barns, had existed on the site but were cleared in 1920 for construction of the grand new building.
Cost to construct the new courthouse was $250,000.
The four-story building included three levels of spacious county offices, a courtroom and judge’s chambers on the third floor, and a jail on the top level.
The building featured an exterior of Bedford limestone, shipped at great expense by train from Bedford, Indiana. Interior finishes were in gray granite and marble, designed for beauty and durability.
The building was designed in Classical Revival style by the architectural firm of Tonini and Bramblet. It featured a kind of foursquare arrangement, with wide hallways that crisscrossed the first floor, open to four entrances – on the south, east, north and west. It was a clean, highly efficient design that focused on efficiency over ornate detail.
Although the building is similar on all four sides, its “front” was positioned to the south. A wide granite and marble staircase greeted visitors who entered from the south entry, leading to the upper floors. In its earliest days, a skylight above the staircase flooded the area with natural light.
All parking was at the perimeter of the courthouse square. The building was surrounded on four sides by landscaped grounds and the new courthouse was often the site for “Kodaking” –photo-taking by couples and small groups.
The architectural firm of Tonini and Bramblet was known for design of public buildings in Oklahoma and Kansas. They designed seven Oklahoma county courthouses, all of which bear some similarities of design to Tillman County’s.
The courthouse was built by Charles M. Dunning Construction Company of Oklahoma City and Norman. The Dunning Company erected many public buildings throughout the state.
Construction of the Tillman County Courthouse began in 1920. Concrete work of the building’s superstructure proceeded quickly through that winter, bolstered by mild winter weather conditions.
A cornerstone was set on the southeast corner of the grand new building in a Masonic ceremony that was held on Monday, February 21, 1921. A large crowd attended in spite of blustery weather. T.O. Davis, the county superintendent of public instruction, had declared a school holiday for students and teachers from all county schools who wished to attend the ceremony.
The cornerstone itself was blue polished granite that was quarried from near Mountain Park. In keeping with tradition, numerous items were set in a time capsule beneath the cornerstone. These items included newspapers from every newspaper throughout the county.
Finishing work and furnishing of the courthouse extended through most of 1921. All county offices moved into the grand new building in early December 1921.
Fabrication and installation of metal cells, however, slowed work on the fourth floor jail, which was completed in mid-January 1922.
Following are numerous photos of the Tillman County Courthouse taken throughout its many years of service to citizens of the county.
Note: These photographs come from numerous sources including Tillman Historical Society Files. Several are used with permission from the website CourthouseHistory.com.