Ontario County Courthouse

Ontario County Courthouse

Main Street, Canandaigue, NY

Built: 1858, expanded and renovated 1908

Houses: Supreme, County, Surrogate and Commissioner of Jurors

Judicial District: Seventh

Ontario has two buildings of historical importance, both of them in Canandaigua; the original county courthouse built in 1824, now used as the Canandaigua City and Town Hall and the present county courthouse built in 1858, diagonally across the street from the original. The more modest 1824 building shows both Greek Revival and Georgian influence in its tall lonic portico, tall circular domed cupola, and various details, while the larger 1858 courthouse, also of Greek influence boasts a large gold colored dome, visible for miles around as its most prominent feature. Inside the newer building at the second floor lobby is a most interesting civil war wall memorial of intricately carved marble showing superb craftsmanship.

This more recent courthouse was the scene of a most publicized trial involving Susan B. Anthony, the leader of the woman-suffrage movement, who in 1873 was put on trial here for illegally voting in the 1872 Presidential election. The trial received national attention and despite Ms. Anthony's articulate defense, she was convicted.

The present county courthouse underwent a major expansion and renovation in 1908 and has remained basically unchanged since then.

The original portion of the Courthouse was constructed in 1857 at a cost of approximately $57,000 including the furnishings. In 1908, a third story was added to the structure, and the building was extended outward on both the north and south sides at an approximate cost of $126,000.

In 1987 and 1988, the Courthouse was extensively renovated at a cost of approximately $6.5 million. The renovation added three additional floors of office space from areas previously used for storage. The architectural firm of Mendel, Mesick, Cohen, Waite, Hall from Albany was hired to oversee the renovation as their specialty was in the preservation and refurbishing of historically prominent buildings. The general contractor was Frank Marianacci, Inc. of Bloomfeld.

Over the years, the Courthouse has remained a symbolic structure of justice in Ontario County. It's visually prominent dome and Statue of Justice is a site to behold for all travelers entering the City of Canandaigua from all directions.

The Statute of Justice, referred to as "Lady Justice" or "Justicia", is the third to be placed on the dome, and was drafted by Dexter Benedict of Penn Yan. On August 13, 1983, Lady Justice was lifted to the top of the dome with a 12-inch copper time capsule being placed inside containing information relative to local happenings in 1983. The scales held by Lady Justice are the original scales from the first statute erected in 1858. The sword and helmet symbolize power and authority, and her eyes are blinded by swept back wings of an eagle to signify that the individual(s) on trial will not be judged by their appearance.


PURPOSE

The courthouse serves two purposes as the focal point of the electorate . . .

Local Government

The County Administrator is appointed by the Board of Supervisors to oversee and coordinate the activities of approximately 40 departments in Ontario County, including, for instance, the Public Works Department which manages roads and highways, the County Treasurer's Department which manages the finances and taxes, Solid Waste Department which manages the recycling and garbage disposal, etc.

The County Administrator also provides the 21-member Board of Supervisors with assistance in performing their role as legislators in their town or city, by providing background information and recommendations on projects and issues so that they can make informed decisions.

The elected Board of Supervisors meets in the Sessions Room for their meetings which are held the third Thursday of each month. The Board members serve on several of the ten different committees, and render decisions involving all aspects of the county budget, county government, and reconstruction of facilities.


Judicial System

Court rooms are located on the first and second floors. The Courthouse houses four courts known as County and Supreme Court which hear criminal cases of individuals who did not obey the law, Family Court for cases involving families having problems, including child support and custody cases, and Surrogate Court for cases regarding property of deceased persons.

The Grand Jury meets on the third floor and consists of citizens chosen to hear evidence presented by the District Attorney about certain criminal offenses. It is their obligation to decide if a person accused of a crime should be held over for trial.

An optional video entitled "Justice on the Public Square - A history of the Ontario County Courthouse" narrated by the County Historian (approximately 45 minutes) is available for viewing in the Waiting Room located on the first floor.


Source: "Survey of Court Facilities in New York State", NYS Office of Court Administration...1981 pg 354; pamphlet entitled: "Ontario County Courthouse - Self-Guided Tour".