Special events planned for reopening of 1881 Courthouse

Mar. 17, 2013 @ 04:59 AM

Chatham County invites residents to attend one of many activities happening on Saturday, April 20, as part of the grand reopening of the 1881 Chatham County Courthouse, including the public opening of the Chatham County Historical Association’s Museum and a special ceremony.   

“A planning group has been hard at work on this special day for several months,” said County Commissioner Chairman Walter Petty. “We are all excited to see the restored courthouse and to honor its return with such a special day.”

Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour, who has participated in the planning, said, “I was in the courthouse on the day of the fire and recall the great shock and sorrow we all felt that day. From those ashes, I am thrilled to see a grand, modernized facility that preserves what we all loved about the old courthouse.”   

At 10:30 a.m., the Historical Association will open the doors to its new museum with extensive displays on many aspects of the county’s history. The museum is housed on the first floor of the courthouse and will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. that day.

Barbara Pugh, president of the Historical Association, said, “We are confident that visitors will enjoy the new museum, while also learning a great deal and gaining a renewed pride about our county’s rich history. We are excited to have a museum that Chatham’s school children can visit, but it is a place where anyone of any generation can learn more about this unique place we call home.”   

Those who want a guided tour of the courthouse by the project architects should meet at the north entrance under the portico at either 10:30 a.m. or 11:30 a.m. Taylor Hobbs and Grimsley Hobbs of Hobbs Architects, PA will serve as tour leaders. No reservations are required.

For those who just want to walk through the courthouse on their own can do so between 10:30 a.m. and noon and between 3 to 5 p.m. during the open house periods.   

A brass ensemble, Brassissimo!, will play from the portico from noon to 1:15 p.m. leading up to the main ceremony at 1:30 p.m. Brass bands were quite popular in the 1880s and often played for special events.

The reopening ceremony is at 1:30 p.m. in the second floor courtroom. It will feature: 

• The unveiling of the new portrait of the Earl of Chatham, which was painted by artist Luana Luconi Winner from Raleigh with the financial support of Luck Stone Corporation in Moncure.

• A special video tribute produced by UNC-TV videographer Mike O’Connell and sponsored by the Chatham County Bar Association. 

• Ringing of the clock tower chimes.

• Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard. 

• Rededication of the Cornerstone, Columbus Masonic Lodge 102.

“We know that space for the ceremony is limited by the size of the courtroom, but we will do our best to accommodate as many folks as possible,” said County Manager Charlie Horne. Those wanting to attend can line up no earlier than 12:30 p.m. and doors will open at 1 p.m. Those with limited mobility should use the north entrance facing downtown Pittsboro.   

“A very generous donation from Fitch Creations, Inc., developer of Fearrington Village, will help provide commemorative item for attendees,” said Debra Henzey in the County Manager’s Office. “Carolina Meadows also helped pay for a nice printed program that folks will want to keep.”

Light refreshments on the lawn will be provided by Walmart and will be available from 1-3:30 p.m. “As you can see, our local community is pitching in with funds and volunteers to help us make this be a truly special day,” Henzey said.   

The Historical Association will provide a special Earl of Chatham character who will announce events from the portico throughout the day. The courthouse chimes also will ring at specified times.

The Town of Pittsboro will host a Street Fair in honor of the reopening that will begin at 5:30 p.m.