By: Matthew E. Becher
Originally published: May 25, 2006 in the Boone County Recorder
The Old Boone County Clerk's Building in Burlington is a striking historic structure with a unique past: it is the only Government building in Boone County that has ever been moved and it has been moved twice. For much of the 19th Century, a Courthouse, Jail, and Clerk's Building stood at the center of Burlington's “Publick Square.”
The Old Clerk's Building was built for about $1,500 in 1853-1854 of “fireproof construction.” The Clerk's Building was designed in the then popular Greek Revival style and constructed by movers and shakers of the day: Milton Hamilton, Nathaniel E. Hawes and Edmund H. Parrish. All three were successful businessmen: Hamilton was known as a “power in politics for many years.” Hawes was elected Boone County Judge in 1870. The day after the inauguration his predecessor Judge Washington Watts came into town. Judge Watts was “stricken with apoplexy” [stroke] in the middle of Washington Street and was taken into the Clerk's Building. Unable to speak, Judge Watts was gently laid upon a table in the building, where he passed away. Hamilton, Hawes, and Judge Watts are all buried in the Old Burlington Cemetery.
Upon completion of a new courthouse in 1889, the Old Clerk's Building was sold to the Boone County Deposit Bank. In 1903, the bank was described as “one of the strongest and most prosperous inland banks in the state,” housed in a “substantially constructed building on Court Square, the interior equipment being adequate to every demand of such an institution.” This 'equipment' was “a massive time-lock Hall burglar-proof safe, set inside of – virtually speaking – an impregnable fire-proof vault.” The historic Hall vault still graces the interior of the Clerk's Building. The bank eventually outgrew the Clerk's Building and began building a new facility on the site in 1924. The Boone County Recorder reported that the Clerk's Building was jacked up and rolled on logs across Jefferson Street but that “the moving of the building did not interfere with the bank doing business, as they continued to receive and hand out money as they moved along.”
The Old Clerk's Building served as Burlington's Post Office from 1925 to 1959 and later became an auto repair shop. By 2001, the building was vacant and slated for demolition. the Boone County Fiscal Court learned of the structure's rich history and decided to move and restore it. The 150-ton brick building was once again jacked up and moved to a new site. Today, this place where a Boone County Judge breathed his last, itself a survivor of two rescue efforts, again serves the public.