History of Westchester County Courthouses


The current courthouse is the eighth courthouse built for Westchester County. The first was actually located in Bedford Village circa 1720 and destroyed by fire in 1758.

The second courthouse was erected in 1759 in the hamlet of White Plains at South Broadway and Mitchell Place. This is the current site of the State Armory. This courthouse, too, was destroyed by fire in 1775. There is an interesting footnote here. Many viewed the courthouse as a symbol of the British establishment and it is thought that an arsonist burned it down for this reason.

In 1787 two new County courthouses were built, (numbers three and four) one in Bedford and one in White Plains. Westchester County used both of these courthouses for the next 83 years. This arrangement lasted until 1870 when a law mandating that all terms of court were to be held in White Plains.

Courthouse number five was built on the block surrounded by Main Street, Martine Avenue, Grand and Court Streets in 1855. This complex included a jail and offices for County departments.

In 1909 the sixth courthouse called the "Supreme Court Building" was completed. The County was experiencing much growth at the time creating much more County government business. These County departments were also located within the courthouse. This growth spurt within the County was not foreseen by the planners of this courthouse. The end result was that the courthouse was not spatially adequate from the day it opened.

The seventh courthouse was six stories in height and "architecturally severe" so that it would be possible to raise the roof and add two more courtrooms or two floors of office suites. It is important to note here that courthouses five, six and seven were all built adjacent to each other in the block surrounded by Main Street, Martine Avenue, Grand and Court Streets. This courthouse was occupied early in 1917.

Courthouses were an integral part of the community prior to World War II. When the Declaration of Independence was going around the country to be ratified, it was read aloud to the people of the area from the steps of the courthouse. In 1916 people went to the steps of the courthouse to hear the early returns of the Presidential election which were read from the Western Union ticker.

In 1954 there were seven judges housed in the courthouse (5 resident Supreme Court Justices of the Ninth Judicial District, one County Court Judge, and one Surrogate.) By 1966, there were fourteen Supreme Court Justices, official referees and retired Supreme Court Justices qualifying for retention to age 76 thanks to a new law enacted in the early sixties.

A new "Site Committee" was once again formed in February 1960 to plan a new courthouse. The eighth courthouse was built between March 1970 and December 1973, when it was dedicated. This is the current courthouse now under renovation.