The Rensselaer County Courthouse, a classic grey granite building designed by renowned architect Marcus F. Cummings and his son Frederick, is the third courthouse to be built on the site. The courthouse was completed in 1898 at a cost of $346,000. The County added an annex between 1912 and 1914, when it purchased and renovated the adjacent Second Street Presbyterian Church (circa 1833). These two buildings, joined in 1915 by an architecturally unique cupola-covered passageway, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1996 the County embarked on a $20 million restoration project that included the relocation of all Family Court operations to the nearby former Rensselaer County Jail building (circa 1912). The old jail, which was completely renovated and adapted into a spacious, fully equipped Family Court facility, is a fine example of the creative transformation of an existing historic building to a completely different use. Today, the fully restored courthouse complex is truly magnificent in both function and beauty, with highlights ranging from the restored ceremonial courtroom, formerly the nave of the Presbyterian church, to the spectacular rotunda in the main Courthouse. The rotunda mirrors the interior of an Italian palazzo, capped by a beautifully restored stained glass lay light ceiling. The County and the project”s architect, John G. Waite, have received a number of architectural and preservation awards for this ambitious undertaking.
In November 2002 the courthouse complex was named in memory of the late Federal and State jurist Con G. Cholakis. The main ceremonial courtroom was named in honor of retired Associate Justice of the Appellate Division, Third Department, John T. Casey, who continues to work at the courthouse. The Supreme Court Library has been named in memory of the late Supreme Court Justice F. Warren Travers. Source: Hon. Edward O. Spain, Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Department.
The John T. Casey Ceremonial Courtroom has been the site of many great trials, one of which involved the notorious Jack ‘Legs’ Diamond, who was charged with kidnapping and torturing two men from the Catskills. On Thursday, December 18, 1931, after what the local newspaper described as ‘brilliant summations,’ by chief defense counsel Daniel H. Prior of Albany, assisted by Abbot H. Jones of Troy, and the prosecutor, assistant Attorney General John T. Cahill, assisted by Deputy Attorney General Henry Epstein—the jury acquitted the infamous defendant of all charges. Eight hours later, in the early morning of the next day, Diamond was murdered as he slept at a rooming house on Dove Street in Albany. His wife, who sat through the entire trial in Troy, was murdered 18 months later in Brooklyn.
Source: Hon. Edward O. Spain, Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Department