This courthouse was the third on the Carlisle Public Square. The first Cumberland County courthouse was a temporary log structure on the north-east corner of the square built in 1753. In 1766, a new brick courthouse was built on the south-west corner, running north to south, with the clock-tower and entrance facing High Street. An office annex was added in 1802. Both burned to the ground on the night of March 23-24, 1845. While court proceedings were housed temporarily in the Education Hall nearby, a new courthouse was constructed at a cost of around $50,000.
The new building was brick with four Corinthian columns of sandstone on its front and was completed in 1846. It remained in use until the modern courthouse opened across the street in 1962 and now houses county offices. It was the site of several celebrated events in the years before the Civil War, including the Kaufman Trial, the McClintock Riot, and the public meetings held in the weeks before hostilities broke out. Well-kept, it remains a fine example of nineteenth century public building and houses one of the best preservations of a nineteenth century courtroom in the United States on its upper floor.
At least one shell struck the columns of the structure’s front during the Confederate bombardment of the town on the night of July 1, 1863. Remnants of the slight damage remain visible.