I am so excited.
First of all, I’ll tell you why I feel that I have a personal stake in this, just like every other person that’s lived in my hometown for more than a generation. My great grandfather, George Washington Elliott, was born in 1890 and was a long time Lamar County resident (Marion County back then), back before Purvis was even a town. He and his brother owned a sawmill in Lumberton and he drove oxen for logging. I do not know if George was born here because I haven’t researched the family tree back that far yet but I know that my grandmother grew up in Lamar County, my father grew up in Lamar County and I grew up in Lamar County. That’s a hundred years of being in one place.
Back a few years ago, I discovered that Hattiesburg had a Wikipedia page which just blew my mind. For some reason, I thought only large cities had them but then I got to thinking…if Hattiesburg has a page, Purvis might have one. We did but honey, it was pitiful! No photos, no history, no dates, no nothing except information about the Climate and the Tatum Salt Dome. So, I fixed it. Photos, history, viola! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purvis,_MS That’s when I got really interested in our old buildings.
Our poor courthouse, the old one built in 1905, not the new one, was just in deplorable shape. It was in great need of a huge, ripped-it-down-to-the-studs renovation and what county has the money for that these days? I started foaming at the mouth back in 2010 when I saw an article in the Hattiesburg American about Lamar County receiving a grant for renovations for it. The grant was for less than $500,000 and the total would be MUCH more than that but…I love old things. I love This Old House. I love antiques. I love renovations and before and afters. I love history so I hoped. They scraped up enough money to get some preliminary scouting done. Guess what! ASBESTOS, that’s what! Three millions dollars to do the complete renovations and to do them right, that’s what!
Needless to say, progress has been slow going due to money issues and the county has decided to spread the renovations over a few years so they would have more budgets to work with. They moved everybody out of the leaking ramshackled place, tented it and removed the asbestos then it sat empty. And sat, and sat, and sat.
This is our Lamar County Courthouse kinda from the side, back before they started doing anything to it.
The original building was an octagon shaped Art Nouveau glorious thing with a clock tower, hardwood floors, hand-carved moldings and double curving staircases. Then life happened. A tornado, a fire, two wings, drop ceilings with Styrofoam tiles, fluorescent lighting, a gawd-awful red metal roof, bushes so big you can’t see the front windows, etc. *sigh* I scoured the news each day searching for information about what would happen to it as it sat there empty and lonely. Then, in the fall of 2011, I started seeing articles. “Courthouse is on track for renovations in 2012”, “Courthouse project moving forward”… YES YES YES!! According to the articles, they’ve hired an historical architect to renovate it and not only will all of those drop ceilings never come back, the hand-carved moldings will be refinished, the wings will be removed and the clock tower will be rebuilt.
So now I’m driving by it every morning and I’m noticing the magnolia trees coming down (Hallelujah), construction fencing going up around the building, a couple of trailers being moved onto the lawn. I’m getting so excited!!! This morning I drove by and work had begun on the roof so I, being your Roving Reporter, stopped to take a few photos.
I’m thinking I need to take Betty Stevens up on her offer of joining the Lamar County Historical Society now because I need an excuse to give when they ask me why I’m photographing them on a daily basis and for when I accost Chuck Bennett, County Administrator, for permission to go inside when they start working on it. I’m way too nosy to not have a title of some sort.