Alamance County first met at the site of Providence Meeting House, near what is today Providence Christian Church in Graham, NC, near the railroad tracks. The original building was torn down some years later, but the markers of the original building can be found in the cemetery next to the church.
At the first county court meeting on June 4, 1849, the commissioners (Chair Michael W. Holt, George Garrison, Jr., Absalom Harvey, William Harvey, and Abraham Tarpley discussed the construction of the county courthouse. On July 17, 1849, the contract was awarded with instructions to spend $8,000 to construct a courthouse.
Since the exact center of the county was too marshy to allow a courthouse to be built, a 75-acre site was selected and purchased short distance north of the center. The land was subdivided into lots, which were sold to local investors to help fund the building of the courthouse.
The original courthouse was constructed for $6,400, or around $163,000 in 2009 money. It was a small, cube-shaped 2-story building that met the needs of the small population of Alamance County at that time. It featured a roof made of either tin or zinc, although there are some indications that it may have been copper at some point during its lifetime. It also featured a cupola with a large 400-lb bell at the very top. That bell, believed lost for many years, was recovered in the 1990’s and is now the featured attraction at Sesquicentennial Park in the Courthouse Square in Graham.
The original courthouse opened in 1852 and served as the focal point for elements of local, state, and federal government and historic events. It also served as a town center in the new, growing county seat. All roads in Graham, whether they were dirt, plank, or macadam, led to the original courthouse.
In the 1880’s, having survived 30 years of progressively heavier use, a Civil War, occupation by troops, and a host of other local events, the courthouse was beginning to show its age and space limitations. $7,500, or around $177,000 in 2009 money was spent to add 2 wings to the east and west ends of the courthouse and to stucco the entire building. The increase in size made each story of the building about the size of a modern, small fast food restaurant.
The next major addition to the courthouse grounds was a memorial statue to Confederate soldiers added and dedicated on May 21, 1914. The name of the soldier at the top of the statue is “Conrad” (pronounced koon-rahd). This would be the last major addition to the courthouse grounds before space limitations forced the county commissioners to approve the demolition of the original courthouse and the construction of a new, larger facility.
The original courthouse was demolished in 1923.