The Bergen County Court House: Hackensack, New Jersey
10 Main Street
Hackensack, NJ 07601
*Call about touring the facility when court is in session.
The Bergen County Justice Complex (including the Bergen County Court House) was placed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic placed on November 22, 1982 and January 11, 1983 respectively. The Register nomination referred to the building’s significance as “important to the judicial of the Bergen County Justice Complex-the Court House, the Jail (now called the ‘Old Jail’), and the Administration Building-were the work of important architects and all possessed architectural quality and interesting examples of early 20th century technology.
Designed by James Riely Gordon, in the Beaux Art style reflecting monuments of classical Rome and Italian Renaissance, the Court House incorporated rich materials including marble and bronze. With a dome modeled on the U.S. Capital, it incorporated other art forms including painting, sculpture and stained glass. The exterior contains many sculptures including the female statue of “Enlightenment Giving Power” on the dome’s cupola. The dome’s interior is decorated with Tiffany stained glass panels. Three of the courtrooms have elaborate stained glass skylights fabricated by the famous Lamb Studios. Some of the courtrooms also contain large murals painted in the 1930’s by artists working for the Federal Art Project of the Works Project Administration.
The symbolic value of the Court House was recognized when it was built in 1910-1912. A local newspaper, The Hackensack Republican, wrote on July 7, 1910 that the courts “stand for the protection of rights, for the redressing of wrongs and for the punishment of crime. There are the great safeguards of the freedom of the people…Hence we build these courthouses as temples of justice-substantial, ornate and commodious as the appropriate form for the great duties which are here to exercised”.
Bergen County Court House 1715-1912
First Court House 1715: The Court House was combined jail and courthouse built on the site of three blocks south of the present County Administration Building. It was located in an area known as Quacksack, later becoming part of the southern portion of Hackensack. It was built of stone laid up by two of the freeholders, John Stagg and Ryer Ryerson.
Second Court House 1734: This Court House, built on “land near the Dutch Church by Hackensack River.” was probably on or adjacent to the Green in Hackensack and closer to the river than the site of the current courthouse. It burned in 1780 during the Revolutionary War in the British raid of Hackensack.
Third Court House 1780: The 1780 Court House was something of a temporary structure built during the Revolutionary War away from Hackensack. It was a log building with the courthouse and jail housed under one roof, erected at “The Ponds” (Present day Oakland) in northwest Bergen County.
Fourth Court House 1786: The fourth Court House was built on a site “about 100 feet east of Main Street,” Hackensack where present day Bridge Street connects with Main Street (southern side of Bridge Street) fronting on the river. It was built on land bought from Peter Zabriskie, who lived in the magnificent Mansion House which faced the Green.
Fifth Court House 1819: The Fifth Court House was a brick structure built on the site of the present courthouse on land deeded to the county by Robert Campbell, a prominent Hackensack attorney and son of Archibald Campbell, whose tavern on the west side of Main Street faced the Green. Campbell specified that the land was deeded for the use of the county. If used for any other purpose, it was to revert to Campbell’s heirs. It was torn down in January 1912 when the present courthouse building had been completed on the side behind it and to its west.
Sixth Court House 1912: The present Court House was designed by James Riely Gordon (1863-1937), a prominent architect responsible for the design of about 70 courthouses and two state capitals. The cornerstone was laid July 6, 1910 and was built by John T. Brady & Company of New York. Completed in February 1912 at the cost of $1,617,000, it was the subject of considerable investigation and lawsuits due to charges that there was overpayment of funds as well as added costs, which became the basis for political battles.
For Justice Center information: contact http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/bergen/
2015 Bergen County Division of Cultural and Historic Affairs
The Bergen County Division of Cultural & Historic Affairs received an operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.
*Disclaimer: This information was taken directly from the Bergen County Division of Cultural & Historical Affairs pamphlet. Please refer to the website for tours and other information on visiting the site as it is a working courthouse. Please check the website and email or call before you visit.