GEORGE CANTY, Miss. (WKRG) – Renovations to the historic George County Courthouse roof and cupola are nearly complete. The interior of the structure, 30 feet in the air, reveals a unique craftsmanship that has lasted more than 100 years.
The courthouse was built for about $12,000 in 1911, one year after the county was incorporated. In the 111 years since then, it has undergone several renovations.
The dome’s stained glass was added in the 1970s. The brickwork and windows on the second floor were repaired after Hurricane Katrina, and the Spanish clay tile at the very top of the dome was replaced in 2012.
Hurricane Zeta in 2020 blew out several windows on the dome and damaged the roof and weather vane above, necessitating additional repairs that began in June. Structural damage remained minimal.
“It’s very strong. I mean, this thing has weathered every storm since 1911,” said District 2 Supervisor Kelly Wright. “I was amazed when I took office, went in and climbed through the ceiling and the dome. The craftsmanship, it was amazing what they did a hundred years ago.
The entire roof is being replaced while the dome is inspected, cleaned and repainted. All 432 stained glass windows are new, each cut by hand. Hanco Corp. of Hattiesburg is the contractor for the $689,000 project.
Inside the dome, the frame is octagonal in shape and rounds as it tapers upwards, creating smaller and smaller octagons towards the top. The wood is more than 200 years old. The original contractors built the metal brackets underneath with rivets and without power tools or modern scaffolding.
The dome extends over most of the main courtroom. A skylight brought light from the dome. Prior to air conditioning, windows in the main courthouse and dome will be cracked to allow drafts.
The courthouse has received updates six times since Wright took office in 2004. The process each time can be slower and take longer than other county projects. The building was designated a Mississippi Landmark in 1989. All updates must be approved by the state Department of Archives and History.
Wright shares the department’s vision. When the clay tiles on top of the dome were replaced, he found the exact clay pit owned by an Italian family in New Jersey from which the originals came in 1911. He ranked the courthouse as one of the three best in the state.
“I became interested in wanting to keep it as close to the original as possible and keep up with things so it doesn’t go bad and go into disrepair,” Wright said. “We want it to look good and be attractive to the city of Lucedale and George County, and we hope people will continue to come and look and take pictures and be happy with what they have here.”
The current stage of the renovation is expected to be completed by the end of September. New LED lighting and a second phase of the project will begin in the coming months.
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