While other counties have abandoned their historic courthouses for new county office buildings, Haywood County is opting to remodel the historic courthouse to serve county functions. Keeping the building in use is seen as the best way to ensure it does not fall into disrepair from neglect and remains a focal point in the community.
The building will be modernized to accommodate computer systems needed in today’s world, as well as bring the air, electrical and plumbing up to date. A comprehensive analysis of county departments and the space each needs will dictate the lay-out of rooms within the building. An elevator will also be added to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act. Rather than tear up the building’s insides, however, a vertical column containing an elevator will be added to the backside of the building and will compliment the historic architecture as much as can be hoped for.
The project also includes an historic restoration of the grand courtroom, known for its majestic arched windows and stone fresco of Lady Justice and the Ten Commandments above the judge’s bench. A second floor balcony was once part of the historic courtroom, but was enclosed over the years for office space. It will be restored as a balcony.
The county commissioners plan to hold their regular commissioner meetings in the historic courtroom. It will also be used for various civic meetings.
“The public will be encouraged to use that beautiful room,” said Commissioner Mary Ann Enloe. “It is going to be absolutely gorgeous.”
The plan also calls for a public courtyard and gathering place between the historic courthouse and new justice center, including a small amphitheater. Dirt will be hauled in to create a natural bowl to accommodate amphitheater style seating facing Main Street. It will be located toward the back of the property closest to the parking deck. The courtyard and amphitheater will be tackled if there is enough money left over.