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Mayor wants to show off courthouse

September 16, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Charles Town Mayor Peggy Smith asked the Jefferson County Commission on Thursday for permission to start offering tours of the historic Jefferson County Courthouse again.

Tours of the courthouse used to be offered in the mid-1990s and were a big success, Smith said.

Smith said interest in the courthouse has not waned.

Now that the city has established the Charles Town Visitors Center, many tourists are coming to the center along George Street and are asking about tours of the courthouse, Smith said.

Commissioner Jane Tabb said the commission and the city will work together on the idea. Tabb said she wants to make sure someone will be at the courthouse during the tours to make sure the building remains secure and that it is locked at the end of the day.

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The commission consulted with Jefferson County Clerk Jennifer Maghan about the tours.

Maghan said she encourages tours of the courthouse, although she said someone would have to watch the premises while tours are being conducted since the building has no cameras or alarm systems.

In the mid-1990s when tours were held, up to 200 people a weekend were passing through the building at the corner of George and Washington streets.

At the time, tour organizers said many visitors were from Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

Tourists would go through the courthouse to hear what tour organizers called the other half of the Harpers Ferry story.

Harpers Ferry was the site of abolitionist John Brown's 1859 attack on the federal arsenal as tension built toward the Civil War. The attempt failed and Brown was taken to the courthouse to face charges of murder, treason and conspiring with slaves to create insurrection.

The commissioners' chamber is part of the courtroom where Brown was tried.

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