The Georgia Trust

2006 PLACES IN PERIL: TERRELL COUNTY COURTHOUSE

The Story: Since 1892, the Terrell County Courthouse has watched over the city of Dawson, a town of 5,000 people just 20 miles northeast of Albany. Local preservation groups have completed minor restoration work on the High Victorian brick courthouse, which was designed by William H. Parkins, one of the state’s leading post-Civil War architects. Yet the 25,000-sq.-ft. courthouse has not been continually maintained since government offices moved to the outskirts of town and is suffering from advanced deterioration.

Threat: Terrell County’s courthouse is just one of many across Georgia faced with a threatened future existence. According to a 2002 survey, 139 historic Georgia courthouses comprising 3.16 million square feet risk endangerment, through lack of maintenance. An estimated rehabilitation cost of $336 million is needed to stabilize the state’s courthouses. Terrell County’s is in a state of advanced deterioration and needs nearly $5 million for repairs, making it one of the most threatened. Lack of funds for rehabilitation and maintenance, particularly in rural counties, is compounding the problem. Without additional sources of funding to preserve the historic integrity of these buildings and provide modern systems that meet 21st century needs, Georgia is in danger of losing some of our downtowns’ most irreplaceable resources.

Solution: Courthouse rehabilitations serve as catalysts for downtown revitalization, contributing to a town’s economic development and spurring additional public and private investment in the town center. To further that goal, The Georgia Trust is supporting a county courthouse rehabilitation project, which would provide communities funding and technical assistance to rehabilitate courthouses and city halls. The project would also help build a team of architects, contractors and craftsmen skilled in both restoring historic courthouses and updating them for today’s needs. Still, community involvement is key to these buildings’ survival, and without local support, many may be lost forever.

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