Monroe County Completes 3-Year Courthouse Restoration

8:36 PM, Dec 21, 2010   |    comments
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Video: Monroe Co. Courthouse Renovated

  • Monroe County Courthouse courtroom view from the balcony.
  • A copy of a drawing of Monroe County's planned courthouse, published in 1895, before construction began.
  • Exposed brick walls inside the Monroe County Courthouse.
  • Monroe County Courthouse courtroom view from the balcony.
  • A photograph of the courtroom taken before restoration began.

Original wood planks line the courtroom floor and 13-inch thick exposed brick walls, rather than paneling, divide offices in Monroe County's 114-year-old courthouse.

Construction wrapped up this month on a three-year project to preserve the courthouse's history and integrate it with today's needs, restoration committee member and county commissioner Larry Evans, said.

"This building to us, to Monroe Countians, is the same thing as the Empire State building is to New Yorkers," Evans said. "It is a marvel of architecture."

The building on Courthouse Square in Forsyth houses Monroe County superior court, the superior court clerk's office, civil and juvenile cases, probate court and judges' offices. It was built in 1896.

Renovations include a new $500,000 copper roof, that Evans said is estimated to last about 150 years, before the county needs to replace it. Crews also removed plaster and paneling that covered the building's original brick walls.

County maintenance workers completed most of the work on weekends, Evans said.

"The county workers that did the work did an excellent job," Lynn Ham, Superior Court Clerk, said. "I'm just so proud to be working in a place that's this beautiful, this historic, and functions as a courthouse."

Ham said county citizens need a place that protects their public documents and preserves their history.

"People's lives have been changed in this building," Ham said," everything from murder cases where people are sentenced to death, to marriage licenses being issued, to people becoming first-time homeowners."

Evans said crews restored the courtroom's original wood plank floors and benches. New energy-efficient windows in the courtroom block sound from outside traffic.

During construction, Evans said workers uncovered papers that had been hidden in ceilings. Ham said they also found a doorway that had been covered with paneling.

"We had to feel our way through this restoration one step at a time," Evans said.

"What we've done so far has really preserved a lot of the features of it for years to come and I think it will be here 100 years from now," Ham said.

The county paid for the project using $1 million collected in a special purpose local option sales tax, or SPLOST, voters passed in 2002. Evans said the county also used $100,000 taken from general funds to complete the restoration.


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