I thought long and hard about an outfit for climbing around a construction site in a hard hat at 7 a.m. that would also transition to work in a bank without having to change clothes. I settled on black pants and a not-too-elaborate-top but didn’t know that they are working on plaster in the Courthouse right now. Just to let you know, plaster + black pants + moi (Grace Personified) = One Hot Mess. It looked like me and Martha Washington Self-Rising Flour got into a fight and Martha was declared the winner. There are no photos of The Mess.
Anyway, I arrived before the supervisor even got there as I thought all construction workers’ eyes automatically sprung open at the first rays of sunlight. I was misinformed about that and it won’t be the only thing I was misinformed about in this blog entry.
So while I was looking around outside, waiting for the sup, I ran into a guy who asked me how old the building was. I responded with a quick rundown of dates, rebuilds and additions to which he responded, “My gosh, it’s went through some stuff, hasn’t it! Well, I’m gonna get to work rebuilding y’all’s clock tower.” Carry on, my good man!
I found the supervisor, a shiny new hard hat, an invite to photograph the building at night and some ghost stories. It seems that there have been 3 instances of spookactularness, all at night, involving three different solo workers since reno/demo started. The first was just some random noises, rustlings and thuddings, which continued long enough to spook the lone worker into bolting since he knew nobody was there but him. The second was a very loud crash in the next room where there was nothing to fall because most of these rooms have been demoed down to the original brick walls. Skedaddle. Thirdly, the electrician, before the mirrors had been removed, saw something in one of them that he couldn’t see with his eyes. He left the lights burning and hightailed it outta there. Since I’ve had experiences with creepy crawlies myself, I won’t be taking photos at night. Thanks anyway.
I asked about my gleaned information from Parts Unknown (since I talk to too many people and have a horrible memory) about the removal of the wings that were added in the 50’s. This is the second piece of misinformation I had. The supervisor said the wings are staying but they are adding onto them to make entrances on all four sides of the building again to closer match the original 1905 building which had north, south, east and west entrances. Each entrance had two columns with Ionic capitals. I can only hope they’ll have columns to exactly match the front and back.
Right now, there are about 6 or 7 different projects going on in the Courthouse. The two main ones are rebuilding the elevator shaft between what was once a double staircase (you can click on any of these photos and make them larger):
Above: Elevator shaft from the second floor and back side of the elevator shaft from the second floor.
And the second main one, setting up scaffolding and beefing up the roof trusses and support beams to start on the clock tower:
For perspective, here is the photo the MDAH took before renovation started of the back wall of the courtroom (http://www.apps.mdah.ms.gov/Public/prop.aspx?id=16451&view=facts&y=738):
Here is my shot from this morning of the same wall:
The opening down below on my photo is the same door opening you see in the middle of the MDAH’s photo. They have torn down all of that moldy plaster from above the molding and exposed the stairs up to the rafters. Quite a difference.
Other projects are priming/painting:
Removing/rebuilding window sills and sashes:
While looking around, I found the demo blueprint for the second floor hanging over an old interior window opening.
I was very glad to see all of the demo notes mentioning “salvage/protect” but that poor hard wood flooring on the second floor courtroom… It was probably already ruined because of the leaking roof but it hurts my heart for the flooring to be in this shape.
I had forgotten all of the marble wainscoting all around the first floor and staircases since I haven’t been in there in a good 15 years. It’s nasty but undamaged.
I also have never been to the second floor of the building so I had no idea there was a GREAT old set of iron stairs that led up to what certainly looked like a previous balcony area for the courtroom. This was not open as a balcony in the photo the MDAH (see above) took so it may never have been a balcony and may have always just be extra storage space. That seems like a waste of great light, view and space to me.
There is a rickety staircase going up to the area where they’re building the clock tower but I did not venture up there since only part of the area is floored and I could also see through the floor joists for what I wanted to see anyway.
Photo MDAH took of rickety staircase before renovation (http://www.apps.mdah.ms.gov/Public/prop.aspx?id=16451&view=facts&y=738):
My photo from this morning:
In this one, the staircase is off camera to the right and you can see the rest of the windows:
There are metal beams in the “attic” which have been there for years and there are lots more outside to be added up there before they’re done.
I found the plaques marking original construction, rebuilding after the fire and addition of the wings in the first floor hallway. The original construction plaques are marble and a little hard to read. There was a third plaque beside the addition plaque that has been removed. I have no idea what that one was.
The thickness of the wall around the doorway always fascinated me as a child. I remember going in here for taxes, titles, licenses, etc with my mom and every time I would pass through, I would wonder, “WHY is this so thick?” It seems odd now because the other 3 walls of this room are normal thickness. If this was some sort of safe, fire proof or otherwise, where are the other three extra thick walls? There is another “safe door” catty cornered from this one across the hall on the first floor with the same one thick wall/three regular thickness walls. Your guess is as good as mine.
This is some original hardware still in place to activate the transom windows over the first floor interior doors.
Another fireplace surround with a hole in the brick above for the pot bellied heater pipe. First floor.
The concrete floor had been dug up here the last time I looked inside but I didn’t know why. They ran electrical conduit under the floor and repoured the concrete, that’s why.
This room must have been in the worst area of the fire in the 1930’s, as all of the visible bricks in here are still stained black. The fireplace surround is also painted black where all of the ones I’ve seen around the building other than this one have been white. Perhaps it was smoke stained beyond the point of light colored paint being able to cover it up in the 30’s? The room directly behind this is also part of the original construction and it has soot stained bricks too. The fire must have been contained to this side of the building as the other original bricks in the building are much lighter in color.
This was the one of the men’s bathrooms on the second floor and this was what they were chiseling pieces of brick from and filling up 5 gallon buckets with when I came last Friday. They’re trying to get down to the pipes and drains in the floor. There are more fire scorched visible bricks in the wall in this room as well.