Osceola County Courthouse
2 Courthouse Square, Kissimmee, Fl 34741
The Osceola County Courthouse is the oldest Courthouse in the State of Florida that is still being used as a Courthouse. Osceola County was formed in 1887, from portions of Orange and Brevard Counties. The County Commissioners had an immediate task of determining a County seat and ordered an election held on February 6, 1887. Kissimmee City received 421 votes, Runnymeade received 30 votes and Hell or Hades received 1 vote. Once it was determined that Kissimmee City would be the County Seat, a committee was formed to locate a piece of land on which to build a Courthouse and Jail. After much debate and rejection of suggestions, the land on which the Historic Courthouse Building now stands was purchased from the D. B. Stewart family in 1888 for $2,205.32.
In August of 1888, Courthouse design plans prepared by F. C. Johnson were accepted and adopted. A special Referendum election was held on March 23, 1889, for the purpose of authorizing the sale of bonds for the construction of the Courthouse and Jail. The results of that election were extremely close with 193 votes for bonds and 191 votes against bonds. An opinion from the Attorney General's Office stating that the election had been conducted "free and open" allowed the County Commissioners to proceed with the Bond Issue on April 10, 1889. Thirty bonds were issued on July 1, 1889, in units of $1,000 each at 7% interest. These bonds were sold to Captain George H. Frost from Massachusetts. The final bond payment on the construction of the Courthouse was paid in July, 1909.
On June 3, 1889, bids to construct the Courthouse and Jail were received and the bid in the amount of $23,879.00 from the Pierce-Torrey Investment Company of Orlando was accepted. Actual construction of the building began in July of 1889. In January, 1890, a portion of the tower collapsed when the supporting timbers were removed causing a temporary setback in construction as well as in finances, but the Courthouse was finally completed by May of that year. On May 6, 1890, at the 1:30 p.m. County Commission meeting, the Commissioners received the keys and formally accepted the new Courthouse. The final cost for construction of the Courthouse and Jail came to $25,031.70. Once the construction was complete, it became apparent due to wandering livestock that a fence was needed around the Courthouse. "The Sheriff was ordered to keep all livestock out of the Courthouse yard and to not permit anyone to hitch to the fence. He was requested to install several hitching posts on the exterior perimeter of the fence."
As with any facility, maintenance of the new Courthouse was a constant problem and by 1892, cracks in the plastered walls were being repaired and J. F. Willson was paid an outrageous sum of $21.00 to repair the tower and roof. In 1901, the County Jail was wired by the city light plant crew and the County paid it's first electric light bill of $1.64 on April 2, 1901. On March 3, 1902, the County purchased it's first typewriter for $175.00 and in January, 1905, the Kissimmee Telephone Company installed the first telephone in the Courthouse. The rent for the telephone equipment was $2.50 per month and that month's electric bill for the Jail was $2.79. In February, 1907, the Kissimmee Electric Company was paid $131.16 to wire the Courthouse and the electric bill rose to $8.65.
The Historic County Courthouse has been "home" to numerous Judges, eight Clerks of Circuit Court, Probation & Parole, County Commissioners, the Sheriff and hundreds of employees. All types of cases, from chicken thievery and the selling of moonshine, to high profile murder cases have been heard in the Historic Courthouse building. On August 16, 1977, the Osceola County Courthouse was added to the Historic Register. The Historic Courthouse is currently being restored to it's original design except we are keeping the indoor plumbing and electricity due to the fact that surrounding residents objected to the original water closet (out house) in the Courthouse Yard. Although Osceola County has built a new and larger Courthouse building, the third floor courtroom in the Historic Courthouse building will still be used as an active courtroom, allowing Osceola County to continue to claim the honor of having the oldest Courthouse still in use in the State of Florida .
Information for this short history of the Osceola County Courthouse was gathered from the book 100 Years of Justice by Robert D. Dietrich. For more information on the Osceola County Courthouse, this book can be found in the public library.