Chatham County Courthouse reopens after destructive fire - WNCT

Chatham County Courthouse reopens after destructive fire

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PITTSBORO, N.C. -

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 Walter Harris.

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 constructed building.'"

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 Herring

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>>

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