Courthouse rehab continues

Published 9:15 am Tuesday, March 18, 2014

GATESVILLE – The next phase of the ongoing repair/remodeling of the historic Gates County Courthouse will soon be underway.

At their meeting here March 5, the Gates County Board of Commissioners approved a $93,723.88 contract to perform work on the west wing of the late Federal style courthouse, completed in 1836. The building is showing its age with cracks to the foundation as well as work needed inside, which is nearly complete. It is one of a small number of ante-bellum courthouses remaining in the state and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

Clearscapes, the Raleigh-based architectural firm hired by the county two years ago to design and oversee the project, has subcontracted this particular phase of the work. That work includes repair to the west wing of the old courthouse, which is currently propped up with wood beams on the exterior. Steel beams will be placed in the structure, to refortify that wall.

“This is a multi-prong operation,” said Gates County Manager Jon Mendenhall. ‘The other contractors (doing the rehab and remodeling work) inside are different types of vendors – carpentry, plumbing, electrical. That was step one; that work will be finished before the new subcontractor begins step two. That subcontractor was invited to bid on the work because this is the type of repair they specialize in. The final piece of the work is to clean and paint.”

Clearscapes will oversee the work.

“I would suggest sending a letter to Clearscapes to notify us of when the subcontractor arrives to begin the work so we will know that we’re getting our money’s worth,” said Commission Vice Chairman Jack Owens. “That notice can also be beneficial to allow our Building Inspector to accompany them while the work is being inspected.”

Commissioner Linda Hofler noted in the contract that it called for the work to begin in January with completion in four months.

“We know that’s incorrect because it’s already March and we’ve just approved this contract; the work has not yet began,” Hofler said.

Mendenhall said the company was ready to go to work in January; however, the other work inside was not finished at that time.

“I think they’re now looking at a May timeframe to begin their work,” Mendenhall stated.

The motion to approve the contract was amended to reflect the new start-up date with a completion date no later than Aug. 30.

Gates County’s old courthouse, located on Main Street in Gatesville, was the center of County Government during the Civil War and continued to be used until 1983 when the new courthouse was constructed. Since the 1990’s, the old courthouse has been used as the County’s Public Library, Historical Museum, and an overflow provision to hold court when the new courthouse is unavailable. The Gates County Public Library vacated the building in February 2013 when a new library opened across from the Gates County Community Center.

An effort was formally launched in 2012 by the County Commissioners and concerned citizens to restore the old courthouse, but it must be done in accordance with the Historic Preservation Society’s requirements and guidelines.

The old courthouse is rich in history. It has a unique two-story floor plan and multiple spaces that lends itself to multiple uses, and it is full of historical artifacts.  These attributes make the old courthouse ideal for serving as a museum, community college satellite campus, rental office spaces, senior center, gift shop, wedding chapel, cultural arts center, and a host of other distinctive potential uses.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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