TRENTON, N.J. - Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes said today the County is working toward obtaining historic landmark status for the century-old County Courthouse, a designation that would ensure the building's future.
The grand, sandstone Courthouse dates to around 1900 and an addition was built in 1938. The structure replaced the original Mercer County Courthouse, which also stood at the corner of Market and Broad streets and served residents for the last half of the 19th century after the formation of the county in 1838.
Hughes said even as the County is making plans to construct a new courthouse to fit today's needs, the historical significance and integrity of the old criminal courthouse must be preserved.
"The Courthouse has served the Capital County and its residents well beyond what could have been predicted when it was built," Hughes said. "Even as we phase our court facilities and other important functions into the new courthouse, we cannot neglect this historic building."
"We will work with the State Historic Preservation Office to ensure this building will last another hundred years," he added.
The County is beginning the process necessary to list the courthouse on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.
To be eligible for the Registers, a building, structure, site, or district must be significant in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, or culture at the national, state, or local level. It must also possess integrity of location, design, setting, and material.
Of the four criteria used to evaluate structures, the old courthouse will fall under the category of "distinctive characteristics of type, period, or method of construction representing the work of a master or possess(ing) high artistic value or representing a significant or distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction."
Hughes said his Administration has made a commitment to maintaining the integrity of the building, including making repairs to the courthouse roof. Inclusion on the State and/or National Register of Historic Places also makes Mercer eligible for funding through the New Jersey Historic Trust, which could help the County's efforts to preserve the building.
In 2005, the Trenton Historical Society named the Courthouse the third-most endangered historical site in the city.
"The old Courthouse has earned its place in Mercer County's history. We will push hard for this special designation, not only to protect the building's future but to celebrate our rich past," Hughes said.