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'The bones of the building, it’s just so well made' - County to assess future for 1936 courthouse
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Gainesville's 1936 courthouse isn't used much these days and will need renovations if it is to be used again. The two story white colored stone and concrete structure was the sixth courthouse constructed in Hall County. - photo by Scott Rogers

Sitting in the State Court courtroom, Marty Nix recalled hearing stories from the judge about the courthouse and the “historical value” of what is known as the 1936 courthouse.

One story that always stuck with Nix, now assistant county administrator, was the “goat in the marble,” or at least what looks like one on the first floor of the historic courthouse.

“I’m sitting there: What is he talking about?” Nix recalled. “And it went several years … I was talking to (Sheriff Gerald Couch) a few years back and I’m like, ‘You know, there’s supposed to be a goat in here somewhere.’ So the sheriff took me to where he said … the goat is in the marble.”

Nix revisited the spot in the old courthouse while touring the building with The Times last week to discuss the future for the building.

The main courthouse now houses Superior Court, State Court and Magistrate Court. The annex, which stands in front of the 1936 courthouse at 116 Spring St. SE, houses Juvenile Court and Probate Court.

Other than new windows being installed and roof replacement decades back, the 1936 courthouse has been well preserved.

“This building and the bones of the building, it’s just so well made,” Nix said.

The heating, ventilation and air conditioning, however, are “basically nonexistent,” Nix said, and there are issues with plumbing and electrical to boot.

“As we go through the process of assessing the county’s needs and the court’s needs throughout the coming months, we’ll be taking the data from this building and plugging it into what is the best use for this building," he said.

The old courthouse was used for State Court. Current Chief Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin was a State Court judge from 1987-1998, and Superior Court Judge Bonnie Oliver was appointed to the State Court judgeship in 1998. Gosselin moved to the Superior Court bench in 1998, with Oliver joining her the following year.

“To the best of my knowledge, after we moved into the current courthouse in 2002, there have been no official events in that ‘36 courtroom since,” court administrator Jason Stephenson said. “… That ‘36 courtroom hasn’t been used since May 2002, (as) best I can tell.”

There is still a letter in a courthouse display case from producers of “I’ll Fly Away,” a show featuring Sam Waterston as a Southern lawyer handling civil rights cases, which used the main courtroom of the 1936 courthouse in 1992 for filming.

Nix said he was unfamiliar with any recent requests by companies in the film industry to use the courthouse.

Nix said a roof study was conducted on all of the county buildings a few years back, and the 1936 courthouse was one building that needed to be addressed. The county is in the process of an envelope study to assess the exterior of the old courthouse, and Nix said there is money in the capital improvements project to address the roof.

Though the work hasn’t started yet, Nix said the idea would be “working with an architect to help try to define office space and what’s usable space, what’s historic space.”

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