The people have spoken, and a brick courthouse in northern Georgia fell this week.
Built in 1898 as a Hyatt Hotel, the neoclassical building in Ellijay, Ga., was converted to the Gilmer County Courthouse in 1934. The county fire marshall condemned the ailing in 2003, and in November 2006, voters in the county of 28,000 passed a referendum to raze the old courthouse and build a new one.
"Counties that have lost their historic courthouses are always sorry about it afterwards," says Jack Pyburn, FAIA, director of Atlanta-based Lord, Aeck & Sargent's Historic Preservation Studio. "Gilmer County's historic courthouse was unique as Georgia's only courthouse not originally built for that purpose. Fortunately, the overwhelming number of counties in Georgia consider their historic courthouses to be a significant definer of their community's identity, past, present and future."
The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, which named the courthouse to its 2007 list of Places in Peril, is working with its partners to save the state's other historic courthouses.
Other states have struggled to maintain their historic courthouses. A decade ago, after the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Texas' courthouses to its 1998 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, then-Gov. George W. Bush formed a plan to save the state's 234 structures.
"Not only has this project restored the original character of community centers across Texas, it also generated a resurgence of economic development, jobs and heritage tourism in surrounding areas. With more than $145 million in grant funds so far, 4,500 jobs have been created and nearly $177 million in gross state product," according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which in June announced that the state's courthouses were "saved."
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