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WARREN COUNTY COURT HOUSE: A Narrative History

The town of Belvidere stands as a testament to the vision of Garrett D. Wall.  In 1825, Wall, a wealthy landowner who later became Governor of New Jersey, had the foresight and the funds to divide his land into tracts surrounding a public square and donate it all to the newly formed County of Warren.

A court house and other public buildings were focal points of his plan to develop the fledgling community of Belvidere.  In 1826, they were built at a cost to the taxpayers of $10,000.  The court house had several additions added through the years.  In 1953, the structure was completely renovated by Louis Hajdu of Alpha.  Without Wall's vision and generosity, Belvidere most likely would not have been named county seat.  And it certainly would not have experienced the building boom of the last half of the nineteenth century that resulted in the Victorian style it displays today.

Today, the same Warren County Court House that Garrett Wall saw dedicated almost 175 years ago, looks out upon a scene that he might have envisioned.  The public square named in his honor boasts three churches and numerous professional offices.  The court house itself is little changed.  Its two-story brick structure originally 40 by 60 feet now extends back an additional 40 feet.  The jail situated in the lower story is gone...also the gallows out front.  (The last public hanging in Warren County took place in 1892 in the jail yard with only legal witnesses present).

Inside, the original court room retains its appearance.  High profile murder trials once took place in court room # 1, playing to packed galleries of spectators.  Although the balcony is gone -- offices have taken its place -- a part of the original railing is still visible.  The handcrafted wood railing in the front of the court room is the original.  Even the benches represent a link to the past.

The Warren County Court House is, however, more than a symbol of the past.  And it is more than a symbol of one man's vision.  Its steadfast countenance, unchanged through the years, represents the enduring nature of the justice system... particularly the justice system in Warren County, where it has served a diverse citizenry continuously for almost 175 years.  Although the nature of the services it provides continues to change, the standards that are its framework have not.  They, like the town of Belvidere, will continue to thrive not only as links to the past but also to the future.

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