The Windsor County Court House, opened in 1855, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Thomas Silloway, a former pupil of Ammi B. Young, was the architect.
Until 1980, the court in Woodstock was a full-service court hearing criminal, civil, family and probate matters. But by 2011, only the Civil Division, Vermont Superior Court, was housed there. The outdated building needed many upgrades.
The most urgent was handicapped accessibility. Access to the courtroom was via a winding staircase. There was no elevator. The front door was the only way to enter and exit the building. In case of a second floor fire, there were two window exits to a fire escape, accessed by short sets of stairs. The weight capacity of the fire escape was fortunately never tested.
There was little security for judges, court staff and the jury. The building was hot in the summer and cold in the winter – there was no central air conditioning,
Also, the 19th century building did not meet the 21st century programmatic needs of the court and staff. The floor plan downstairs was obsolete with its warren of small offices and six tiny rest rooms, none of them assessable to the handicapped.
Th4 Assistant judges are the county officials responsible by statute for providing a “suitable court house” for the Judiciary. Working with Architects Smith and Vansant, they came up with a rehabilitation plan. The largest component of the plan was a two story addition at the rear of the builing for an elevator and rear egress.
The cost of the project was an estimated two million dollars. The Judges decided to bond the cost of the rehabilitation, with the approval of the voters in the 24 towns of Windsor County. The bond vote was scheduled for Town Meeting Day, 2013.
In January and February of 2013, Judges Singer and Anderson visited with the Select Board in each and every town in the county to promote support for the bond issue. Voters approved it 59% to 41%.
With funding assured, the work began. Civil Division had to move out of the court house and into the former County Jail down the street. At considerable expense that building was reconfigured and improved into a large office space, a temporary courtroom, and judge’s chambers.
Groundbreaking for the addition occurred on December 29, 2013. The goal was to be finished in August, and be back in and operating by September 2.
During construction the painted ceiling of the original Woodstock Town Hall was uncovered downstairs. Several historic features were preserved such as the tin ceiling in the judge’s chambers. Wooden trim such as doorframes and wainscot were taken down, stripped, and reused. The faux grained doors and the bench in the court room were cleaned and re-shellacked.
On schedule, a ribbon cutting and open house was held on September 2, 2014.
Because of the hard work and perseverance of the Windsor County Assistant Judges, and the generosity of the voters, this rehabilitation was completed.