Saturday was an exciting
day for people in Chatham County. The county's courthouse re-opened, three years after
fire destroyed the iconic symbol of their community.
Fire burned almost
everything except the brick walls. To many in the area, it was heartbreaking.
"We watched in horror
as our iconic edifice disappeared right in front of our eyes," recalled
Architect Taylor Hobbs
said accepting the project to rebuild was difficult at first. He said there was
a lot to consider about what was salvageable and what was destroyed.
"It took about two or
three months, and then the light bulb went off one day," Hobbs explained. "We
said, ‘I know we have a burned building, but we also have a partially
After lots of work,
Saturday was a celebration with the unveiling of a new painting of the county's
namesake and the rededication of the building's cornerstone. The painting will
be displayed in the courthouse.
While the building will
never be used again for criminal trials - maybe just an occasional civil court
case or two - it will also serve as the county commissioners' chambers and a
multi-function meeting room for the community.
"We expect it to be
used," said resident Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour. "The historic society
has a really neat museum downstairs as well. So we expect this to be a vibrant
part of downtown Pittsboro."
While there were serious
discussions about not rebuilding, community leaders said the building was just
too important. They could not imagine Chatham County without the courthouse.
"It is important to
all of us - especially those of us who are interested in history - to maintain
and preserve what we have," Harris said.
Hobbs said he thinks the
county commissioners were wise with their decision to rebuild. He believes not
rebuilding would have left a void in the community.
"What's started out
as a tragedy has a happy ending," Hobbs said. "It doesn't always work that way,
but it did here."
Brandon is a North Carolina native and UNC alum who lives in Fayetteville, and covers Cumberland County and the Sandhills. Returning to North Carolina to work as a journalist is a dream come true for Brandon.More>>