court of Harford County met for the first time in March of 1774 in the "house
wherein Thomas Miller now keeps store." No effort was made at the time
to undertake construction of a courthouse. It wasn't until 1791 that the first
courthouse was built on two and five-eighths acres of ground purchased in Bel
According to Walter W. Preston's History of Harford County Maryland, Baltimore,
It had wings to the north and south. The wing on the north was used for
the clerk's office, and that on the south for the office of the register of
wills. The courtroom was down stairs, and the floor was made of bricks. Within
the rail where the lawyers and jury sat the floor was raised, and the bench,
or judge's seat, was high above like a pulpit. There were two immense open fireplaces
in the room, in which hickory of cordwood lengths was burned.
The two wings were not an original part of the building. Their construction
was authorized by the General Assembly in 1830. The
Act specified that the two wings would be built adjoining the courthouse. This
was a recognized hazard for the records, but safeguards were taken when it was
also ordered that the wings be fireproof. When the courthouse burned in 1858,
the central building was totally destroyed while the two wings were saved.
Fortunately, the General Assembly was in session at the time of the fire and
a bill was quickly introduced and passed authorizing the construction of a new
courthouse. A new brick courthouse was ready for occupancy in 1859.
The courthouse has been expanded several times over the years
yet much of the original grand building is unchanged. The ceremonial courtroom
on the second floor of the courthouse is an historical treasure. Curved walnut
benches provide seating. The benches where the judge and clerks sit and the
large oval table where attorneys face the bench are from the original courthouse.
The information is adapted from The County
Courthouses and Records of Maryland, Part One: The Courthouses, Annapolis:The
Hall of Records Commission of the State of Maryland, 1960.