Hancock County Courthouse

The Hancock County Courthouse in Sparta was rededicated this month after a devastating fire in 2014 burned all but the exterior walls. Does it look familiar? It’s similar to the Historic Walton County Courthouse in Monroe. Both were built in the early 1880s.

When making plans for a holiday weekend at the newspaper — any newspaper — the hypothetical event that necessitates scrapping all the work you’ve done is the courthouse catching fire.

That, of course, is because the courthouse in any county is the center of government and the heartbeat of the community. Here in Georgia, many of our courthouses also are architectural treasures.

That’s true in Walton County, and it’s true in Hancock County to the east.

Hancock County got its courthouse back this month, two years after a devastating fire burned the historic building in downtown Sparta.

Only the outer walls survived the fire, according to news reports at the time.

Of particular interest to people in Walton County is the similarity of the building in Sparta to the Historic Walton County Courthouse in Monroe.

The Hancock County Courthouse was built in 1881, and the structure in Walton County came along a couple of years later.

Around the same time, a similar courthouse was built for Hall County. It was lost in a tornado. (A tornado also hit the Walton County Courthouse in 1885, destroying the clock tower.)

It seems the Bruce and Morgan architecture firm designed several courthouses in Georgia, and I think there’s even another “twin” courthouse to Walton’s in North Carolina.

ACCG, the state county commission group, insured the building. In all, it took more than $7 million to rebuild.

The rededication was Aug. 11 and it apparently won rave reviews.

“The way they brought it back, the quality and the time they put into this, that’s a symbol,” Ocmulgee District Attorney Stephen Bradley told Macon television station WMAZ.

“That tells folks about the commitment to justice.”

It also tells people about the commitment to preserving history that counties like Walton and Hancock have maintained their historic courthouse sites.

They really are the heart of the community, and in Walton County, we’re fortunate the “modernization” push didn’t sweep ours away years ago.

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