Davidson County Public Building and Courthouse – Nashville TN


The Davidson County Public Building and Courthouse on the Public Square in Nashville was constructed in 1936 to 1938 with funding from the Public Works Administration (PWA).  This enormous, 8-story building covers an entire city block and was built to house county and municipal offices, plus several courtrooms.  The county jail was originally on the 7th floor. 

Short & Stanley-Brown (1939) put the cost of the project at $2,167,000 but no not give the share provided by the PWA.  Paine (1984) says the project cost $1,595,000 and that the city raised $400,000 for it in a public bond issue.  We have gone with the higher figure for cost and the last as the local share.

The design is simple classical Moderne sheathed in Indiana limestone, with minimal exterior decoration; it features a massive central bay with classical columns and recessed windows behind.  It was designed by architects Emmons H. Woolwine of Nashville and Frederic C. Hirons of New York, who won a competition.  According to Short and Brown (1939): “This is one of the few PWA projects for which an architect was selected by competition.”

The courthouse is located at Public Square, where there can be found several carved displays documenting its construction.  It still houses Nashville’s mayor, city council and government offices (Wikipedia). It used to be surrounded by 19th century commercial and residential buildings, until they were cleared in the 20th century for parking lots.

The building was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986 (see Paine 1984). The nomination to the National Register says that the interior of the building was still largely intact, but it was renovated in 2007 and we do not have up-to-date information on the interior.

Project Details

Federal Cost Local Cost Total Cost Project #'s
$1,767,911 $400,000 $2,167,911

Source notes

C.W. Short and R. Stanley-Brown, Public Buildings: A Survey of Architecture of Projects Constructed by Federal and Other Governmental Bodies Between the Years 1933 and 1939 with the Assistance of the Public Works Administration. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office (1939).

On site historic markers.


Paine, David. Nomination form for Davidson County Public Building and Courthouse, National Register of Historic Places, approved 1986. https://npgallery.nps.gov/NRHP/GetAsset/50dfa3ab-beef-487f-8fc2-8e374eabc7d0


Project originally submitted by Shaina Potts on January 16, 2012.
Additional contributions by Richard Walker.

We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.


Location Info

1 Public Square
Nashville, TN 37201

Coordinates: 36.166792, -86.778324

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