City History

article-Main Avenue1920The City of Gastonia was incorporated in 1877, the year reconstruction ended. The impetus for the early development of  Gastonia, which began in 1873 as a small railroad depot, was the combined effect of the realignment of the Atlanta & Charlotte Airline Railroad (now Norfolk Southern) from its original intended path several miles to the north of the City, the charter of the Chester and Lenoir Narrow Gauge Railroad (now CSX) which crossed the Atlanta & Charlotte railroad and the introduction of the steam-powered textile mill. The crossing of these two railroads and the beginning of the City's textile industry brought opportunities for employment and social life. The initial population of the town was approximately 200 people and the land area was less than one square mile.
The City's original population was reflective of the surrounding county and was comprised of English, German, Scotch Highlander, and Scotch-Irish citizens, with a few African American residents also moving into the settlement. Voted the county seat in 1911, Gastonia today has a population of more than 72,000 and land area of approximately 51.99 square miles. It is the largest of Gaston County's  15 municipalities and is the economic engine of the county. Gastonia is also one of the 15 largest cities in North Carolina. The City has operated continuously under the Council-Manager form of government since its adoption in 1919.


Garland Building History


After several years of heated debate and hotly contested elections, a referendum in 1906 on a new county seat settled the issue and moved the county seat from the Town of Dallas to the City of Gastonia. Shortly thereafter, in June 1909, the Board of Commissioners contracted with a Washington, DC architectural firm, Milburn and Heister, to begin design work on a new courthouse and jail. Construction contracts were let to a firm from Columbia, S. C., in November of the same year, to build the facility at a cost of $51,747.00. After several years of construction, the new Gaston County Courthouse open, and the Board of Commissioners held its first meeting in the new facility on January 2, 1911. 
The new facility replaced the one-courtroom Gaston County Courthouse in Dallas, which was built in 1848.  With its buff-colored brick exterior and ornate columns, the new facility was the envy of many and was said to be one of the loveliest courthouses in the South. Through the years, the building has seen numerous renovations and additions, brought on by growth in the court system and the County services required by the public. In 1941, a bond issue was passed in the amount of $100,000 for additional office space, but the addition was never constructed due to a material shortage caused by World War II, with the construction contracts being canceled in 1946. The year 1954 saw the Board of Commissioners again discussing the need for renovation and additions. Although, the Board explored the feasibility of replacement of the facility, it was determined that an addition to the existing facility would meet the needs of the public. The 1954 major renovation of the facility remains evident in today's structure. Additions to the existing facility were again conducted in 1961 and 1966. This facility housed the courts and related functions, the County offices, the jail and other agencies. As time passed through the decade of the 60's and 70's, extensive growth in the Court system and Court-related activities placed a tremendous strain on the facility. By the mid 1970's, with the space requirements by the Courts, the County and the State continually expanding, the Board of Commissioners were again faced with the dilemma of the existing courthouse and jail facility not being adequate to meet the needs of the public.
In 1976, the Board of Commissioners employed the firm of Henningson, Durham and Richardson, Charlotte, to study the existing facility in light of the existing space usage, parking needs, building code deficiencies and then to project the needs through the year 2000. The study showed that the 1976 space requirements were more than currently existing in the facility. Further, the study found that the building was deficient in a number of the code issues and those would have to be addressed in any renovation or addition, with the main problem being the inadequacy of the circulation of people which was brought on by the numerous renovations to the structure. The study further concluded that the renovations and building additions would cost over one-half the cost of a new facility and in a number of cases would not solve the existing problems of needs.
The year 1996 saw the beginning of the construction phase of the new courthouse located at the corner of North Marietta Street and Long Avenue, two blocks north of the existing courthouse and opened its doors to the public on Monday, June 15, 1998.  As a companion project, the Gaston County Jail was to be replaced with a new facility also and was scheduled to open in 1999.
On Sunday night, November 22, 1998, the top floor of the 87-year-old Gaston County Courthouse building, located on South Street, was consumed with fire.  The fire caused major structural damage to the building, but it was limited to the top level.
Through the commitment of the Gastonia City Council and the citizens of Gastonia, the building underwent a $5 million restoration. On Tuesday, December 3, 2002, the City Council voted to dedicate the rebuilt county courthouse as the James B. Garland Municipal Business Center.  James “Jick” Garland, a former City of Gastonia mayor, gave countless hours to the City and received his final honor from the Gastonia City Council.  Renovations on the building’s shell were completed in 2004.  


Gastonia, N.C., just minutes west of Charlotte, is one of the area’s best places to live and work with an ideal combination of location, size and livability. Gastonia is the largest of Gaston County’s 13 municipalities and one of the largest cities in the Charlotte metropolitan area. Selected as an All-America City three times, Gastonia’s desirable quality of life is the result of its beautiful natural surroundings, friendly neighborhoods, responsive government and vibrant business environment.


✆ 704-866-6714

⟟ 181 S. South Street
Gastonia, NC 28052