The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

January 8, 2013

Local historian says courthouse stairs walked by Judge Horton should remain

(Continued)

Not initial plan

Renovators initially planned to build a new elevator next to the current elevator so the old one could operate until the new one was finished. However, Moore, president of Martin & Cobey Construction of Athens, said the architects’ plan used the original courthouse drawings on which to base its renovation plan, and that plan incorrectly reflected the actual location of a wall where the current elevator stands. That means there was less area in which to work than expected. Thus, the old elevator would have to be dismantled before a new one could be installed in the same location.

This would prevent people with disabilities from using the courthouse for three or four months or it would force the county to move court services elsewhere temporarily, which Menefee said would be disruptive and expensive. Lack of an elevator would also mean prisoners would have to be walked up to the second and third-floor courtrooms, which might require additional security.

The only alternative, Moore said, is to begin building the new elevator elsewhere in the building while the old elevator is still operating. He believes the far staircase is not only the only place the new elevator can go without impinging on office space, it is also the most practical because there is already a hole through three floors for the staircase.

“Historic renovation is different than just building a soulless strip mall,” Paysinger said. “The implications of changing the dynamic and meaning of a historic building are dangerous. Limestone County arguably has a poor record in protecting our historic buildings. By removing a beautiful marble stairwell, it ultimately is killing the building by degrees. And when the implications of history are stripped away, what is really left? What will we become if we don’t value and save what we have historically? We will become a place of no heritage, no history, and no direction.

“Communities all around us would love to have our Square. You can feel something special there. Being from Limestone County we often take that for granted. Our leaders need to take a step back and weigh what is lost by removing those stairs just to make a renovation go faster. Judge Horton was brave enough to stand up for fairness and justice. My hope is that our elected leaders today can exhibit similar bravery and insight.”

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