The large dome (twenty feet in diameter and thirty feet high) has twice been threatened with removal for security reasons. The first time was during original construction in 1856, and the second time was during remodeling in 1925. Both times the women of the town were successful in protecting it by insisting that “beauty prevail over reason.”
The Courthouse has also served as a gathering place to welcome the railroad, send soldiers off to war, as a Court of Justice and the Seat of county offices, a polling place, an early library, a theater, and a hospital during the yellow fever epidemic.
In 1994-1995 a new Courthouse was built one block north of the Square and the beautiful old Courthouse underwent a $2,000,000 renovation. The 1855 cornerstone was opened and re-laid by the Masonic Order. The first floor is currently home to the Madison County Economic Development Authority, and the old courtroom, on the second floor, is used for official city and county meetings only.
The very center and glory of the town is the beautiful Greek Revival Courthouse. Members of the local Masonic Order laid the cornerstone to the Courthouse in July 1855. The Board of Police paid $26,428 for it, as well as $65 per month to a commissioner to supervise proper construction – a magnificent sum at that time. The brick used were salvaged from the old Courthouse that had been condemned in 1840 because of the deterioration of the mortar. The new Courthouse was the scene of a huge Fourth of July celebration in 1857, but was not legally accepted until 1858. The beautiful iron fence was added later at a cost of $5,250.