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ROUTE 66

Pulaski County Courthouse
Waynesville, Missouri

 


Pulaski County Courthouse
photo by Gene Gamble

The historic roadbed of Route 66 runs through downtown Waynesville where the most prominent building in town is the Pulaski County Courthouse. The building has a museum inside where visitors can see exhibits about the Civil War, both World War I and II, and Desert Storm.  Even better, the original courtroom complete with wooden jury box remains.  Before going inside, visitors can take a look at the courthouse exterior. For heartland Missouri, the detailing is more than a little unusual.  Built in 1903 in the Romanesque Revival style with Italianate features, the two story red brick courthouse is an illustration of undeniable civic pride and optimism on the part of the citizens of none-too-large, turn-of-the-century Waynesville.

Henry H. Hohenschild, State architect at the time, designed the courthouse, one of many public buildings he designed in Missouri. The irregular shape of the courthouse is interesting, especially the distinctive, square Italianate tower, or campanile, with arched windows on each side. The east façade is dominated by the main entrance where a double door is topped by a molded and paneled hood decorated with wooden medallions and supported on giant wooden brackets. Six windows with rounded arches flank the door. These same arched windows are repeated on all sides of the courthouse. If you look up, you’ll notice that exposed rafters edge the bell tower’s roof. They are supported by a decorative corbel table - pieces of protruding, decorated stone provided to carry the weight of the roof above. This is worth noting for its lovely Italianate aspect right there in the middle of Missouri, the Show Me State.

The south entry to the courthouse is the one most commonly used and the most elaborate.  An open portico porch supported by brick piers is topped with a Queen Anne-style arch and a hard-to-miss decorative grill of wrought iron. Two stories up, the brick date stone is projected at the center of the attic level.  Designed like a shield and showing the building’s construction date, 1903, the date stone is decidedly diagonal, as if standing against a stiff breeze.

Pulaski County Courthouse
photo by Seth Gaines



Inside, look for the original wooden frames around the windows and doors and the original Stromboli fan with wooden blades hanging in the old county clerk’s office. On the wooden stairway leading to the second floor, the original decorative spindle balustrade is just like it was in 1903. Once upstairs, visitors can see the original oak ceiling with exposed rafters and joints in the courtroom--an example of superb craftsmanship.

The courthouse is the fourth in Waynesville’s less than two-century history.  Built in two weeks in 1839, the first courthouse was a log structure with only one window.  Only four years later, Waynesville became the county seat, necessitating a larger courthouse, one with more logs and bigger windows. That courthouse served the country through the Civil War when it became a hospital for Union troops. Soon after, the county condemned courthouse number two, because it was “unfit for the county and no longer safe due to damages during the war.”   Built in 1872, the third Pulaski County Courthouse was two stories, brick, built at a cost of about $8,000, and barely used before being struck by lightning and burning to the ground in 1903. The current substantial Romanesque courthouse is the centerpiece of the square today. In January of 1990, Pulaski County moved government operations into a new building alongside the historic courthouse. The historic Pulaski County Courthouse was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 now houses the Pulaski County Courthouse Museum.
Plan your visit
The Pulaski County Courthouse is located on Old Route 66 on the Courthouse Square, between Benton and North Lynn Sts. in Waynesville, MO. The Pulaski County Courthouse Museum in the building is open April-September, Saturday, 10:00am to 4:00pm.  Admission is free.  Private tours are available at other times with advance arrangements for a $25 minimum donation. The first floor is wheelchair accessible. Call 573-774-5368 or 573-774-6566 for information or visit the Pulaski County Courthouse Museum  website.  The National Register nomination form for the building can be found here .
 
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