71-75 Main Street (Hunterdon County Courthouse)

Flemington Historic Walking Tour - Main Street North

71-75 Main Street (Hunterdon County Courthouse)

Flemington, New Jersey 08822, United States

Created By: Flemington Historic Preservation Commission


Dating from 1791 and 1828, this is an early example of the Greek Revival style, with some Italianate elements added. A broad staircase, the full width of the facade leads up to a truly massive portico, two-and a half stories high, set behind four huge Doric columns. The street-facing pediment completes the temple-like façade. Above the stone foundation, the rubble stone building was faced with stucco, scored to look like more expensive cut stone blocks. The plain round columns are finished in stucco as well, applied to a brick core. Despite the buildings overall Greek Revival design, the tall cornice has decidedly Italiante paired brackets, as well as more Greek Revival modillion blocks. The tall octagonal and arched cupola seems more Georgian in style, while the elliptical arched front door transom is a Federal element.

The first Courthouse on this site was constructed in 1791 when Flemington was little more than a crossroads village at intersecting roads between Trenton and Easton, Philadelphia and New York. The current structure dates from 1828 with some elements from the previous building salvaged from the fire that destroyed it that year. Under the direction of Superintendent Thomas Capner (see 13) work was completed in exactly one year for a cost of $13,513.86.

The building was central to the Lindbergh trial in 1935. The victim, Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr. was only 20 months old when he was kidnapped in 1932 and later found dead. The defendant Bruno Richard Hauptmann never stopped swearing his innocence but was found guilty and executed after admitting having handled the ransom money.

During the trial, the town was packed with reporters and celebrities, many of whom stayed at private residences as the hotels were full. Each day a race took place to get the latest trial developments out to the country as quickly as possible. Telegraph wires were installed, radio stations were set up and dispatch riders took print stories to local airports.

There are a lot of fascinating stories around the trial, and these are well documented in “When the Circus Came to Town” by James Davidson. George K Large (see 2) was the Lead Prosecutor with local attorney Lloyd Fisher acting for the defense assisting out of towner Edward J Reilly who spent much of his time in town in the local bars. He only met with the defense team for less than 2 hours and took a different lady to the trial each day as his wife. The demand to attend the trial was so high that Sheriff John H. Curtiss introduced a ticket system but was reprimanded for attempting to sell these for ‘donations’.

This point of interest is part of the tour: Flemington Historic Walking Tour - Main Street North


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