Because of the difficulties inherent in reorganizing
the Court system, the judiciary article provided that
the change in the system would become effective on January
On January 6, 1896, at one o’clock in the afternoon,
the first session of the Appellate Division of the Supreme
Court, First Department, took place at 111 Fifth Avenue
in New York City.
The Justices seated at that first session were Presiding
Justice Charles H Van Brunt, and Justices George C.
Barrett, Morgan J. O’Brien, Edward G. Patterson
and P.C.Williams. They faced a dignified and notable
body of spectators, including Joseph Choate and Elihu
Root, whose political skills and organizational abilities
had shepherded the revisions of Article VI through the
Convention. Root, in addressing the new tribunal, expressed
his belief that “the Court would be second to
none in power, honor and dignity.”
In June, 1896, the justices of the first department
approved plans for the construction of a courthouse
suitable for the sort of court that Elihu Root had envisioned.
The architect commissioned to prepare plans for the
new courthouse was James Brown Lord, who was given complete
control of the artists and their work. Lord turned to
the high classical tradition’s use of columned
porches and statues, drawing on the style and tradition
of Andrea Palladio, the famous architect of Vincenza.
To fund this courthouse, the City of New York budgeted
$700,000, a large sum for such a building in those days.
The courthouse in fact cost only $633,768, and was completed
in tie for its scheduled opening in 1900.
On January 2, 1900, the Court took formal possession
of its new courthouse at 27 Madison Avenue.
The Appellate Division, First Department, has remained
at this 25th Street location since that time.