Hancock County Courthouse Burns

August 11, 2014 10:40 am

by Charlie · 11 comments

WAGT reports that the Hancock County Courthouse in Sparta Georgia burned overnight:

Georgia arson investigators are currently are on the scene of a fire that has destroyed the Hancock County courthouse in Sparta. The call came in around 3:30am. No injuries have been reported. The courthouse holds the public records for the entire county and it was currently undergoing restoration.

While those of us in metro Atlanta may no longer view the “county seat” or our courthouse as much more than the hub of legal activity, courthouses in more rural areas still signify much more than a place where legal proceedings are held.  It’s the anchor of the town, and in many ways it represents “where we are from”.

I remember when the courthouse in Fayetteville burned back in 1982 (+/-).  It was a true loss for the community that went well beyond the legal community.  Luckily for the people of Sparta the important thing is “no injuries were reported”.  Now they’ll have some rebuilding to do.

Ed August 11, 2014 at 10:59 am

The loss of these courthouses and other stately government buildings are a loss for all of us. They are usually architectural treasures that won’t be replicated.

bgsmallz August 11, 2014 at 11:33 am

If I’m remembering correctly, there are/were drawings of rural courthouses throughout GA hanging in the law library at UGA. The Hancock Co. Courthouse was always my favorite. Just from searching the web, it sounds like they had records about Sparta and Hancock Co in that building that dated back to the 18th century. Such a shame.

saltycracker August 11, 2014 at 11:13 am

Sad – sure hope the records are backed up somewhere.

blakeage80 August 11, 2014 at 11:14 am

The only county where this might be celebrated is Jeff Davis county, where most of the residents detest it because of its turd brown clock tower and how its been added on to over the years.

greencracker August 11, 2014 at 11:18 am

I have the nerdy hobby of visiting courthouses. Last time I went in this one, maybe five years ago, it was very sad. The courtroom upstairs had once been a glorious room, which you could just see, as the room had pretty much escaped modernization. A dubious accomplishment for a court room, I guess; though I don’t know if it was still in use. The the galleries held a jumble of office furniture and dusty unfiled-looking papers. The downstairs had been redone in … maybe the 50s? … in marble that was very nice if out of keeping with the original structure, but that was the last apparent major update. (i.e., no 70s/80s wood paneling on display.) It’s a shame that a beautiful building was allowed to crumble; and that it’s burned. But what to do otherwise? Who’s going to pay to modernize a building in Georgia’s poorest county?

Ellynn August 11, 2014 at 1:57 pm

The building was schedule for a needed reroof the last I heard and was listed as endangered by the Georgia Historical Trust do to lack of basic up keep.

The records vault was in use, but if no one locked it down on Friday at the end of the day… . Vitals for birth, marriage, divorce and death are reported to the state, so they will have a record on file (not orginal or even a copy, just a data entry of facts). No idea if the tax and title records are vaulted. I know the board of elections and probate were not as of two years ago. I hope they don’t have the evidence locker there. Most people secure the lockers, they don’t fire rate them. Lots of court cases could be dismissed.

Very sad when a building dies.

Ed August 11, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Dude… That’s frightening.

Sistie’s page is full of support and some dramatic photos.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10203299635670122&set=a.1723942656854.2089045.1187001041&type=1&relevant_count=1

Ellynn August 11, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Dudette… it’s Dudette.

How many times do I have to remind you Ed…

Ellynn August 11, 2014 at 5:17 pm

Per WMAZ, “Property deeds, birth and marriage certificates and many other vital records dating back to 1795 were destroyed…” The only records noted to be intact were the County Financal Records held off site.

The many professional hats I wear; Researcher, Architect, Code Specialist, Genealogist and Art Historian – all mourn what is lost.

ricstewart August 11, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Hancock County Chairman (and longtime former state representative) Sistie Hudson has put so much work into the Hancock County Courthouse. Restoring the county’s crown jewel has been her baby, and I know this is devastating for her and the rest of the community.

saltycracker August 11, 2014 at 11:29 pm

Hancock Co. Loosing population since the 1800’s, less than 3,000 households left. Why is it a county, stubborn pride ? There might be options this side of letting public buildings rot and not backing up vital stats. Merge with neighbor county and donate the courthouse to a non-profit promising to restore, give it to the college in Milledgeville……?

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