North Carolina Architects and Builders - A Biographical Dictionary

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Bruce and Morgan (1882-1904)

  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Architect
NC Work Locations:
  • Murphy, Cherokee County
  • Cherokee
  • Fayetteville, Cumberland County
  • Cumberland
Building Types:
  • Public
Styles & Forms:
  • Romanesque Revival

Cherokee County Courthouse [Murphy]

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Cherokee County Courthouse [Murphy]


Bruce and Morgan, architects, of Atlanta (1882-1904), Georgia's leading architectural firm of the late 19th century, designed at least two courthouses in North Carolina, both of them large and elaborate brick edifices: the Cherokee County Courthouse in Murphy and the Cumberland County Courthouse in Fayetteville. Like most of the imposing late 19th century courthouses in the state, they stood for only a few decades before being destroyed in the 20th century.

According to Georgia architectural historian Richard Funderburke, the firm of Bruce and Morgan was "the most successful architectural business in Georgia" in its day. Established by Alexander Bruce (1835-1927) and Thomas Henry Morgan (1857-1940), it was the successor firm to the firm of Parkins and Bruce in Atlanta. Bruce and Morgan advertised that they specialized in planning courthouses, colleges, churches, libraries, and other public buildings. Their courthouse designs were typically eclectic in style and dramatic in form, featuring large towers and irregular rooflines, and combining styles including the Second Empire, Italianate, Romanesque Revival, and Eastlake modes in a single building. They also built many public schools and after 1895 Morgan designed some of Atlanta's first tall buildings.

Bruce and Morgan's Cherokee County Courthouse of 1891 was the first of their known buildings in North Carolina. When that building burned in 1895, the firm planned its replacement, evidently quite similar (see below). Meanwhile, in Fayetteville, in 1893, the county building committee considered plans by various architects for a new Cumberland County Courthouse, and the committee selected the plan of Bruce and Morgan of Atlanta.

The Fayetteville Weekly Observer of April 20, 1893, noted, "This firm are noted for their court house work throughout the state and have two of their buildings in North Carolina—the one at Monroe and the elegant house at Murphy." The Monroe building has not been identified (the 1887-1889 Union County Courthouse is credited to architect Thomas J. Holt), but the "elegant house at Murphy" was certainly the courthouse of 1891-1892. The Cumberland County Courthouse, constructed by Hickory contractor J. D. Elliott, was a towered, brick edifice, with equally strong facades facing the two streets that framed its corner location.

In 1895 the Manufacturers' Record of December 27 reported, "Bruce and Morgan, of Atlanta, will prepare details and specifications and advertise for bids to rebuild the burned courthouse at Murphy." The Cherokee County Courthouse of 1895 was built of brick in a generally Romanesque Revival style and featured two massive and dramatically unequal towers. It was a stunning centerpiece of the small, long-remote county seat of Murphy, the westernmost in North Carolina.

For the citizens of Murphy, the choice of an Atlanta architectural firm made eminent sense. After the completion of the Marietta and North Georgia Railroad (1888; later the Louisville and Nashville or L&N) from Atlanta and the Western North Carolina Railroad (1891) from Asheville, the long-remote mountain county seat was tied by rail to the larger world, with Atlanta (less than 120 miles away) by far the largest city within easy reach by rail. The large brick courthouse of 1891-1892 and 1895 offered a bold statement of the newly arrived railroad era.

Author: Catherine W. Bishir.

Published 2009. Updated 2018.

Building List

Cherokee County Courthouse (Murphy, Cherokee County)

Cherokee Murphy


Dates: 1891-1892; 1895
Location: Murphy, Cherokee County
Street Address: Peachtree St. and Central St., Murphy, NC
Status: No longer standing
  • Public
Images Published In:
  • Michael Ann Williams, Marble and Log: The History and Architecture of Cherokee County, North Carolina (1984).

Cherokee County Courthouse

Cumberland County Courthouse (Fayetteville, Cumberland County)

Cumberland Fayetteville


Dates: 1893
Location: Fayetteville, Cumberland County
Street Address: Corner of Gillespie St. and Mumford St., Fayetteville, NC
Status: No longer standing
  • Public

The brick courthouse, which is shown on the Sanborn Map of Fayetteville of 1896, presented strongly composed façades to both of the streets it faced.

Cumberland County Courthouse

Bruce and Morgan's Work Locations


  • Catherine W. Bishir, Michael T. Southern, and Jennifer F. Martin, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Western North Carolina (1999).
  • Richard D. Funderburke, "Thomas Henry Morgan, Bruce and Morgan" (2002), New Georgia Encyclopedia,
  • Manufacturers' Record, Dec. 27, 1895.
  • Michelle Ann Michael, "The Rise of the Regional Architect in North Carolina as Seen Through the Manufacturers' Record, 1890-1910," M.H.P. thesis, University of Georgia (1994).
  • Michael Ann Williams, Marble and Log: The History and Architecture of Cherokee County, North Carolina (1984).

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