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Artifacts salvaged from fire-hit Chatham County courthouse

Posted March 28, 2010
Updated March 29, 2010

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— Since it appears that the structure of a 129-year-old North Carolina courthouse might be saved, officials have turned toward trying to save documents and artifacts inside the building.

There were hundreds of criminal case files in the district attorney's first-floor office at the Chatham County courthouse, and a museum had photographs, books and historic county records.

Crews remove items from Chatham courthouse Crews remove items from Chatham courthouse

Crews went inside the courthouse Sunday to see what they could save. They pulled out two courtroom benches from the second floor.

"I was amazed that there were two (benches) that were in that good of condition,” said Kenneth Crabtree, a board member with the Chatham County Historical Association.

Crews on Sunday took everything out of the Chatham Historical Museum that was housed in the bottom floor of the courthouse. Water damage was found on some items, but no fire damage.

“We are hoping for smoke damage and maybe a little water damage,” Crabtree said.

The fire started Thursday and raged for hours. The courthouse's clock tower fell and the upper floor collapsed, but fire officials said the debris might have protected documents and artifacts on the lower floors.

"Fortunately, all of the court records are kept in the vault in the clerk's office, so the court records are almost 100 percent intact,” former Superior Court Judge Wade Barber said.

Contractors were renovating part of the courthouse, but investigators have yet to determine a cause for the fire.

An engineer surveying the damage said the building's structure wasn't damaged as bad as it first appeared.

Workers spent Friday installing computer systems and phone lines in the new temporary offices for the district attorney. State computers have basic information on cases, but items like witness lists, warrants, and interviews are in files in the rubble of the courthouse.

County officials haven't decided what to do with the courthouse, which was built in 1881. Chatham County already had plans to start building a new justice center in a few months.

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  • irishale Mar 29, 2010

    "There is? Haven't been there in a while. Doesn't matter. tax dollars do not need to be spent for (re)building something useless. Sell the property."

    Ah, ok... so you really have no 'dog in this fight'. Move along.

    As it was said, tax money won't have to be used, either insurance money from the policy or the contractor's insurance will pay, so tax money (not yours even if it was since you don't live in Chatham) won't be used.

    And since you haven't been there in a while (bypass has been around since July 2001), let me refresh your memory... the spot is too small to be viably sold.

    The building may be useless to YOU (especially since you obviously haven't been there in almost 9 years), but it's pretty important to Pittsboro.

    Amazing how people come out of the woodwork with knee-jerk opinions about something that doesn't affect them in any way shape or form, and that they haven't bothered to inform themselves about. Typical GOLO!

  • seankelly15 Mar 29, 2010

    Yankee - As I commented last week, Edwards has nothing to do with the hearing regarding the ownership of the tape. The hearing pits the mistress and the ex-aide. Had the tape burned, it would not have benefitted Edwards. But, to imply that Edwards had something to do with the partial destruction of a landmark is what I would expect from your ilk.

  • seankelly15 Mar 29, 2010

    Hans - First, there will be insurance money that will cover repair of the facility (not building a brand new building somehwhere else). Second, if there was negiligence that caused the fire (yet to be determined) then the county won't even use their insurance money or any tax money (which shouldn't matter to you anyway, because I suspect that you do not live in that county).

  • Hans Mar 29, 2010

    "ou know, Hans, there's a bypass around Pittsboro now so if you're coming from Raleigh/Cary, you don't have to go through the center of town any more when headed towards the zoo. Maybe you could get a newer map?"

    There is? Haven't been there in a while. Doesn't matter. tax dollars do not need to be spent for (re)building something useless. Sell the property.

  • whocares Mar 29, 2010

    I agree, turn it into a visitor center and museum for Chatham County. The Court House was the landmark of Pittsboro and it would be a shame to tear it down.

  • Billfisher Mar 29, 2010

    Pittsboro has charm?

  • Bendal1 Mar 29, 2010

    You know, Hans, there's a bypass around Pittsboro now so if you're coming from Raleigh/Cary, you don't have to go through the center of town any more when headed towards the zoo. Maybe you could get a newer map?

  • mjjunk Mar 29, 2010

    I sure hope they rebuild that beautiful historic building. Without it, Pittsboro will lose almost all of its charm.

  • irishale Mar 29, 2010

    "Tear it all down, build a modern, accessible and green building, and put it someplace else so it doesn't slow us down on the way to the zoo. That's my opinion."

    Build it back, it's an historic building that can be saved... expand the museum, make it a visitor's center, etc. Use the bypass, that's what it's for.

    And, if you read the article, they are building a new courthouse somewhere else. Are you advocating they get rid of the circle entirely and go to a regular intersection? I think you'll find, once people get over their ignorance as to how a traffic circle works, traffic flows much better than a regular intersection.

  • Hans Mar 29, 2010

    Tear it all down, build a modern, accessible and green building, and put it someplace else so it doesn't slow us down on the way to the zoo. That's my opinion.

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