Harvest matches federal grant to stabilize uptown courthouse

August 24, 2008

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Grants and matching funds totaling more than $190,000 have been awarded to stabilize the old Henry Courthouse.

Revitalizing the courthouse will help spur more interest in re-establishing uptown Martinsville as a place where residents and visitors can shop, eat, socialize and share an appreciation for Martinsville and Henry County’s unique history, said a news release from The Harvest Foundation.

Harvest announced Friday it had pledged $93,069 to match a federal grant over the next 13 months to enhance and secure the structure from deterioration while a community effort can be organized to plan more work.

Virginia King, president of the Martinsville-Henry County Historical Society, said the Harvest grant will match a $98,000 federal Save America’s Treasures grant. Additional “work-in-kind” by the city and county, including administration of the project by the county, which owns the courthouse, have been pledged, she said.

“We’re going to be able to save it (the courthouse) and make it possible to rehabilitate it” for reuse, which will be an asset to the community economically and aesthetically, King said. She hopes the stabilization project will get under way in about three months after paperwork is completed and the project is put out for bid. She estimates the work may take about three months to complete.

Work on the 10,000-square-foot building will include such things as installing a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, which involves removing the existing air conditioning system and removing the heating radiators and related piping; repairing sections of ceilings that have collapsed because of previous roof leaks (for example, in one first-floor room an estimated one-fourth of the ceiling has collapsed); repairing ceilings, walls and window frames or structures that have deteriorated because of roof leaks; and painting ceilings and walls.

If there is enough money left over, some flooring repairs may be done, such as replacing the carpets in the courtroom and refinishing the floor and installing some more cosmetically pleasing wiring, King said.

Other possibilities, now or in the future, might include refinishing other floors; installing emergency exit lights, a security alarm system and smoke detectors; installing some historically accurate doors; and painting exterior trim on the back and sides of the building.

The roof was replaced several years ago so it no longer leaks, King said. Some work that has been done more recently includes replacing the floor on the upstairs exterior porch, replacing basement doors that had deteriorated, repairing some basement drainage problems and replacing a section of flooring that had deteriorated on the main floor, King said.

The next phase for the courthouse, as envisioned after stabilization, would be a fund drive to raise money to rehabilitate the building, which means to restore the building for reuse, not just restore it as it was. Rehabilitation work might include such things as dividing the existing rooms into smaller rooms, installing handicapped accessible bathrooms, installing lowered ceilings to reduce energy costs, using existing lights where they exist but installing new lights where they don’t exist, and developing and implementing a plan for use of the grounds, say, for a park, King said. She did not have an estimate of how much the rehabilitation work would cost.

King said the stabilized or rehabilitated courthouse could be made available for public use, such as public meetings, or private events, such as wedding receptions or reunions.


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