The city of Cartersville's efforts to restore the 1869 Courthouse have been recognized again, this time with a Georgia Downtown Association Sensitive Rehabilitation Award. One of three presented to outstanding design projects across the state, the award honors improvements and reuse of existing downtown resources with concern for historical significance and adherence to downtown design guidelines.
For Councilman Dianne Tate -- who along with Councilman Lori Pruitt and the city's project manager Ron Goss Jr. in April accepted the Excellence in Rehabilitation award from The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation -- the building's original construction during a post-war recession and its recent revitalization in a down economy is emblematic.
"We're in a recessionary time right now, this country. I think it's so symbolic that the 1869 Courthouse was built four years after the end of the Civil War and this community came together to make sure that it was a good, solid building," Tate said. "To me, it's pretty significant that that's happening again -- that people are contributing to the Bartow History Museum and making sure the historic displays are correct. I just think it says a lot about a community -- for this many years, we've paid attention to those kind of things.
"[The award] is a reaffirmation of what we all thought and that is that not only would the community be appreciative of restoring the 1869 Courthouse but that we would be recognized statewide and I think we have been not only with this award but through Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation. It's just an honor and I think all of council feels that way."
More than 140 years after financial difficulties delayed the completion of the original structure at 4 E. Church St. below the Church Street Bridge, Bartow History Museum is working to secure funding to erect exhibits and displays.
BHM's move into the restored structure, renovated with Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax and Transportation Enhancement Activities dollars, is expected at the end of the year. The revitalization of the Italianate courthouse, the last remaining in Georgia, began with planning in 2004.
"It's going to mean a lot as far as tourism," said Liz Hood, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority, which nominated the 1869 Courthouse for the most recent award. "There are just so many possibilities that we see in the future with that building -- school groups, small meetings inside the building, work preservation groups that are looking for ways to develop and reuse a courthouse that might be in disrepair in their own communities. If you look at the old photos of downtown, that end of the block was an anchor and to even think about the possibility of losing that building is really kind of scary because it does mean a lot to our history downtown to have that anchor building on that block.
"It's also a way to showcase Bartow County history."
Leaders expect the 1869 Courthouse and Bartow History Museum, which will be within walking distance of the Booth Museum, to draw more visitors to downtown Cartersville and boost sales in downtown shops and restaurants.
"I think we've always thought if our downtown area was not thriving that it affected neighborhoods around and vice versa," Tate said. "Thriving neighborhoods of course affect our downtown area and when you have a building as significant as the courthouse right downtown, then I think it's a shame not to be very proud of it and restore it and it's a beautiful restoration project and I think it will help our businesses."