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Rockdale’s Constitutional Corner: A brief history of the Rockdale County Courthouse and a view of the future

Ruth A. Wilson | Rockdale Clerk of Courts

Written by Rockdale Clerk of
 Courts Ruth A. Wilson

The Legislature created Rockdale County from Newton and Henry counties on Oct. 18, 1870. A law to raise money to build a courthouse was passed soon after the county was created. The original courthouse cost the citizens $500. The facility was a two-story, brick Georgian structure (Colonial Revival style) with a center hall and adjoining rooms. Construction was completed on June 29, 1872. It was one of three courthouse buildings erected in the county.

Also in 1872, the Board of Commissioners had a jail built for $2,490. This was a rock building completed in March 1872. In 1897, a red brick jail was built on Milstead Avenue, and that jail served for 71 years. The Olde Jail is now a museum listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1939, the original courthouse building was demolished (after 67 years of use) and replaced by another brick building on the same lot. In the 1930s, numerous county courthouses across the nation were built by the Public Works Administration (PWA) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA), two of the New Deal agencies of the Federal Government under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Following the phenomenal growth of Rockdale during the 1960s, it became apparent that existing facilities were inadequate, and plans were made for a larger courthouse building adjacent to the 1939 structure. Rockdale County voters

approved a bond referendum in excess of $1 million dollars for a new courthouse. This three-story brick building was erected in 1974, and is connected to the existing courthouse, which still stands in Olde Town Conyers.

Our courthouse is a piece of living history which should be preserved and protected. There is a wealth of vital public information available for free inspection during business hours. The public has access to a number of free resources offered by the courts and the Clerk’s Office. In many respects, the courthouse is both the face and the heart of any community.

The population of Rockdale County in 1974 was 26,648. Today, it is approaching 90,000, tripled growth in 43 years. And we will continue to grow. We, in the Clerk’s Office, believe in “Preserving the Past While Preparing For the Future.” The future is now.

Throughout each month, Rockdale County’s constitutional officers— sheriff, clerk of courts, tax commissioner and probate judge—discuss topics relevant to their respective offices.

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