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Historic Alabama Courthouses: A Century of Their Images and Stories

Delos Hughes

NewSouth Books
$25.95 paperback
7x 10
176 pages
145 black and white images
February 2017

Alabama’s oldest courthouses have witnessed a panorama of history. Historic Alabama Courthouses resurrects historical facts and images of buildings that were the centers of much of the state’s public life during its first century. Photographs of more than 120 buildings, the earliest that the author could find for each structure, are gathered in this significant volume along with historical, architectural, social, legal, and political accounts of their contributions to the landscape of Alabama.

Historic Alabama Courthouses also emphasizes architects and builders. Although the names of many of the principals are unknown, those who can be identified play large roles in the stories told in the book. Not only are the architects’ personal histories important, but also the history of the architecture profession in the state can be observed through the relationships and projects they created. Finally, the stories of Alabama’s courthouse builders and contractors are accounts of technical innovation, entrepreneurship, and sometimes imitation, revealing that fashions spread as widely and rapidly in building design and construction as in any other endeavor.


"Reading this book is like taking a private tour of Alabama’s historic courthouses with a good friend who is exceptionally adept at architectural history and telling the stories of architects and builders and townspeople alike. The images are exemplary and worth poring over separate from the text, but the interplay of words and pictures is even more informative and entertaining. The explanations of style and local history are witty and pungent, and if you ever wanted to know what that odd doohickey on a turret or staircase is called, Hughes will tell you, without fuss or condescension.”
--Frances Osborn Robb, author of Shot in Alabama: A Photographic History, 1839-1941
"Delos Hughes’s copiously illustrated Historic Alabama Courthouses: A Century of Their Images and Stories is a significant and much needed visual archive of an important, but neglected, part of early Alabama’s built environment--the county courthouse. Professor Hughes’s short, but witty and insightful, essays accompanying these images provide the reader with architectural information including design sources for each building as well as other interesting facts about these early courthouses. This pioneering study will undoubtedly become a standard reference tool in any well stocked Alabama library."
--Robert O. Mellown, Associate Professor of Art History Emeritus, The University of Alabama

"From far corners of the state, from private hands and from public collections where some have lain all but forgotten, Delos Hughes has pulled together a remarkable array of vintage Alabama courthouse images. All sixty-seven counties are represented, and often multiple generations of courthouses. Accompanying each entry is a brief but meticulously researched interpretive text. Here we see the rustic as well as the refined, embodying in architecture the public contours of one state's history. What a fitting publication as Alabama prepares to celebrate its bicentennial!”
-- Robert S. Gamble, Retired Senior Architectural Historian, Alabama Historical Commission
"In Historic Alabama Courthouses, Delos Hughes leaves no doubt that he understands and appreciates our architectural heritage. American county courthouses have a universal appeal; they speak for their entire communities. Built to represent all the people, they are sources of civic pride. Hughes wants his readers to feel in our souls that the world did not begin when each of us was born and that we are linked to those who have gone before and who will come after. Historic Alabama Courthouses offers us the gift of a richer, broader, deeper understanding of life, and of life connected to others.”
-- Jeffrey C. Benton, author of Through Others' Eyes: Published Accounts of Antebellum Montgomery, Alabama