In December 1861, John Kellum won the commission
to build the “New County Courthouse.” Kellum
designed a rusticated basement, monumental
Corinthian portico, and a dome, which was never
built. On the interior, Kellum created neoclassical-style
courtrooms and offices as well as the first
two floors of the rotunda. After Kellum’s
death, the City commissioned Leopold Eidlitz
in 1874 to complete the interior and design
a new south wing. Rather than following Kellum’s
neoclassical style, Eidlitz incorporated elements
of Romanesque architecture, including on the
interior polychromed brick and richly-carved
stonework as well as a spectacular laylight
over the octagonal rotunda-one of the most
impressive public spaces in New York City.
Tweed Courthouse is the legacy of Tammany
Hall boss William M. Tweed, who used the construction
of the building to embezzle large sums from
the budget. Boss Tweed was tried in 1873 in
an unfinished courtroom in this building and
was convicted and jailed. After the Tweed Ring
was broken up, work stopped on the building
from 1872 to 1876. Construction progressed
slowly after the Tweed years, and it was not
until 1881 that the building was finally completed.
In 1999, a comprehensive restoration began
to return Tweed to its original grandeur.
The front staircase, which had been removed
1940 to widen Chambers Street, was reconstructed.
The restoration also included the reapplication
of the historic paint scheme, which includes
faux brick painting and gold leaf appliqué.
Today, Tweed is home to the Department