The Franklin County Courthouse was built in 1893 by George P. Washburn, one of the best known 19th century Kansas architects, and is regarded as one of Washburn's most outstanding works.
Courthouses were one of Washburn's specialties and his symmetrical courthouse designs gave unique character to 13 Kansas county seats. The Franklin County Courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the second courthouse Washburn designed, Johnson County's being the first, now demolished.
Much of the work was done by local craftsmen and workers. Limestone for the basement walls was shipped from Strong City; pressed red-faced brick manufactured by Ottawa Brick and Tile; and sandstone shipped from Warrensburg, Mo. The interior trim was hand oil-rubbed natural oak and door and window trimmings are of solid bronze.
George Putnam Washburn
George Washburn served in the Union Army during the Civil War. He came to Ottawa, Kansas in 1879 working as a carpenter, architect and contractor. In the spring of 1882 Washburn set up an architecture office located on Main Street which would serve the people of Ottawa for almost 60 years.
In 1885, he began his service as architect for the State Board of Charities. Six years later, he built the first of 13 courthouses he would provide for Kansas. That same year Washburn went to work designing the Franklin County Courthouse, a project which was dedicated in October 1893. The project cost including vault doors, oak interior trim and solid bronze window and door trimmings was $66,939.25. The architect spent the next 26 years designing courthouses.
Washburn also designed the Santa Fe Depot, the Forest Park Gates, and the Ottawa University Administration building.
Washburn's work was not limited to public property. He created hundreds of private residences some of which contained Washburn's work as a carpenter as well. His furniture was "obviously the work of a skilled craftsman." His work defines Ottawa Architecture. He used many styles and techniques to make each creation unique. Ottawa is comprised of many houses and buildings well over a hundred years old.
Washburn died May 16, 1922, and was buried in his family's mausoleum, a structure he constructed after the death of his first wife, Alice.
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