Courthouse Square serves as the center of Sandersville and Washington County. Downtown Sandersville houses city and county government offices as well as a mix of retail and service-oriented businesses. The downtown storefronts are populated by restaurants, antiques, salons, law offices, accounting firms, and more. Courthouse Square also serves as an epicenter of historic significance and houses several important structures and sites.
Washington County was settled around 1793 by Revolutionary War Veterans, who were awarded grants to Creek and Cherokee lands. Once known as “White Ponds,” our town grew around the intersection of two Creek Indian trails, including a trading post owned by Mark Saunders for whom the town was later named. On February 25, 1784, Washington County was named Georgia’s 9th county in honor of U.S. President George Washington. In 1796, the Georgia legislature named Sandersville the county seat. Mr. Saunders donated part of his plantation to the county as a site for their first courthouse.
The settlement grew around his store. At one point, it was home to a relay station for the stagecoach route to the new capital in Milledgeville. It grew and prospered. By the early 1800’s, it was a bustling community. Incorporated in 1812, Sandersville celebrated its 200th birthday on November 27, 2012.
The Courthouse, built by J.W. Renfroe, dates back to 1869. However, the county courthouse was lost once, along with much of the town, in the fire of 1855, and it was lost again in 1864 when General Sherman burned it on his March through Georgia. Currently, a Victorian-style red-brick courthouse stands proudly over the town square, reminiscent of times past. While strolling the courthouse grounds, listen for the sounds coming from the bell tower as the original brass bell installed in 1899 by L.F. Goodrich strikes the time. The West Annex was added to the Courthouse in 1939 as designed by architect H.L. McCaskill. This structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Various monuments honoring and memorializing Washington Countians who served our country’s military are located near the courthouse. Recently added is a monument to Willie Duckworth – a Washington County native who wrote “Sound Off,” the chant currently used by the United States Army.
In the center of Courthouse Square lies an obelisk-shaped monument, which is a tribute to Jared Irwin, American Revolutionary Brigadier General, state legislator, and former two-term Georgia Governor who lived most of his life in Washington County. He is remembered for his fight against the Yazoo Land Fraud, which involved the illegal sale of some of Georgia’s western land. During his tenures as Governor, Irwin oversaw the move of Georgia’s capital twice, first to Louisville and then to Milledgeville. The monument still bears bullet scars from Sherman’s March.
The Gazebo, though not a historical structure, was rebuilt in 2012 to model the original open-air Gazebo constructed in 1898 by banker and businessman Louis Cohen in honor of his daughter Florence. The structure was built as a bandstand and was later enclosed to house the first office of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce.