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The Brennan Court House

The Brennan Court House, located at 595 Newark Avenue, served as the seat of Hudson County’s judicial system from its opening day on September 20, 1910, until 1966, when the courts and offices moved next door to the Hudson County Administration Building, leaving the courthouse empty and neglected. Impelled by the beauty of the building, some county employees began restorative work in the mid 1970's, slowly bringing the courthouse back to life.

Today, the Brennan Court House stands once again as the pride of Hudson County. After you enter it at the main Newark Avenue entrance, turn around to see the small lion heads carved in marble over three arched doors. As you ascend a few steps you will approach the great court of the rotunda. The floor is gray, orange, and black marble surrounding the Great Seal of the State of New Jersey executed in bronze. Look upward, and you will begin to see the scope of the interior artistry; paintings of the symbols of the zodiac encircling the glass dome, representing the length of a year and the passage of time. The most striking murals are Blashfield’s triangular pendentives that represent the Four Fames, beautiful winged women in white, each bearing a trumpet and shield.

The semi-circular shapes of the marble arches of the rotunda are repeated in the four large lunettes that adorn the walls. Two are the work of Francis D. Millet: “The Repulse of the Dutch, September 13, 1609" on the Newark Avenue side of the building and “Paying for the Land, January 30, 1658" on the opposite Pavonia Avenue side.

The lunette on the Summit Avenue side, “General Washington at Fort Lee, November 16, 1776, Watching the Assault Upon Fort Washington”, is the work of Charles Yardley Turner as is the companion piece opposite, “First Passage of the Steamer Clermont to Albany on the Morning of August 17, 1807".

The corners of the fourth floor corridors are decorated  represents one of the judicial virtues and is mounted on a dark circle surrounded by scrollwork in white, green, and orange on a golden background. The fourth floor also houses four courtrooms. Francis D. Millet believed that the design of the courtrooms should be plain so as not to distract from the workings of the court. Nonetheless, by contemporary standards, they are ornate and richly appointed. Each is illuminated by a stained glass skylight. The court on the Administration Building side bears a plaque acknowledging that Justice Brennan presided in this room when he was the Hudson County Assignment Judge.

Designed in the Roman style, with Province Claire pilasters of gray marble, its stained glass bears the word LEX (Latin for law). The court facing Newark Avenue, also Roman in spirit, has pilasters cut from East Indian mahogany. The bench rests upon green marble. The court facing Baldwin Avenue was designed in the Italian Renaissance style with marble columns, pilasters, and wainscoting. The room marked Superior Court facing Pavonia Avenue, is executed in the Greek style with twenty marble Ionic columns against a background of pearl gray marble.

The original cost of the courthouse, with its rich materials and furnishing and its superb workmanship, was $3.3 million dollars. An investigating committee, named in 1910, thought this sum was outrageous. Today, such a public building could not be built at any price.

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