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Top 10: Downtown stands in legacy of the Courthouse

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“The Pride of Tennessee,” an original portrait painted by Tennessee’s artist-in-residence Michael Sloan, was installed in the courthouse for Tennessee’s Bicentennial. TMP/M. Willard

Generations of Rutherford countians have stood in the shadow of downtown Murfreesboro’s most distinctive building, the county courthouse.

As the Heritage Partnership of Rutherford County prepares to honor the building’s 150th anniversary in October, the building itself is a monument to the people and history of Rutherford County.

In honor of the anniversary, here are the Top 10 (11, because there are that many reasons to celebrate) monuments surrounding the courthouse on the Public Square in Murfreesboro.

1. Completed in 1859, the courthouse was built for $50,000, and originally consisted of a square building with classical columns on the east and west sides.

The building underwent many changes over the years, with wings added and alterations to the interior. The interior was restored to its 19th-century appearance in 1998.

It is one of only six antebellum courthouses in the state to survive the war and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970s for its architectural, historic and political significance.

2. On the southwest corner of the courthouse lawn, a monument erected in 1949 memorializes Murfreesboro’s tenure as Tennessee’s state capitol.

Murfreesboro was capital from June 1, 1818 to April 30, 1826 and the General Assembly met in the courthouse until the building partially burned in 1822.

On the west side of the courthouse, another tablet erected in 1921 by the Col. Hardy Murfree Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution commemorates Murfreesboro’s status as former state capitol.

“Patriotism is kindled in the hearts of a people by the flaming torch of history,” the tablet says.

3. Another plaque at the west entrance commemorates a 1908-remodeling project.

The renovations saw the ceiling lowered in the courtroom to create offices on the third floor and a change to the cupola.

The original cupola was designed to reflect the Tennessee State Capitol building in Nashville, which was built in 1854.

4. Uncle Dave Macon Days founder Jesse Messick donated the Bible that stands on the northwest corner of the courthouse lawn as a memorial to the Square he grew up with, UDMD organizer Gloria Christy said.

In the early part of the 20th century the Square was the hub of life in Murfreesboro and on the weekend evangelical preachers would preach the gospel around the courthouse.

Messick donated the Bible in 1984 and the Good Book stands as a memorial to those by-gone days.

5. A monument to Rutherford County’s namesake, Gen. Griffith Rutherford stands on the northwest corner alongside the Bible.

Erected in 1946, the monument details Rutherford’s military career during the Revolutionary War.

6. “For those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the love of their community,” the Hendon-McClanahan Lodge 54 Fraternal Order of Police memorial stands next to the Rutherford monument.

It lists all Rutherford County law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty since 1946.

7. A replica of the original town well stands on the north side of the courthouse.

It was erected by Main Street Murfreesboro in the late 1980s after the organization completed at redesign of the streetscape, Executive Director Richard Gabel said.

The original town well was uncovered by the renovations and Mainstreet Murfreesboro recreated the well with the help of local businesses.

8. Several monuments and plaques are dedicated to the events during the Civil War, including several dedicated to the memory of Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Two such plaques were erected to the memory of Forrest’s Raid on Murfreesboro, when, on July 13, 1862, the Confederate general recaptured Murfreesboro from Union troops and released Confederate prisoners that were being held in the Courthouse.

9. Another such monument to the Civil War stands on the northeast corner of the courthouse lawn. The monument to Confederate causalities remembers soldiers lost in the Battle of Stones River.

“In commemoration of the valor of Confederate soldiers who fell in the great battle of Murfreesboro Dec. 31, 1862 and Jan. 2, 1863 and minor engagements in this vicinity this monument is erected,” says the most imposing marker on the Square.

10. In 1948 Veterans of Foreign Wars erected a memorial on the southeast corner of the courthouse lawn to the men and women of Rutherford County who served overseas in World War I and World War II, since then pillars for Korea, Vietnam and the first Gulf War have been added.

Those who lost their lives in these foreign wars have their names inscribed upon the monument’s face.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy also mounted a plaque next to the east entrance of the courthouse to the “memory of the Rutherford County boys who gallantly served in the World War,” the plaque says.

11. The most notable monument to Tennessee history is actually inside of the courthouse.

“The Pride of Tennessee,” an original portrait painted by Tennessee’s artist-in-residence Michael Sloan, was installed in the courthouse for Tennessee’s Bicentennial in 1996.

The painting portrays notable men and women – like James K. Polk, Andrew Jackson and Ida B. Wells-Barnett – who were instrumental in the state’s history, several of whom have connections to Murfreesboro.

Michelle Willard can be contacted at 615-869-0816 or mwillard@murfreesboropost.com.

Read more from:
Civil War, Generations, Gloria Christy, Heritage, Historic Courthouse, Mainstreet Murfreesboro, Richard Gabel, Top 10
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