Commissioners want to take courtroom back to 1859

October 22, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- John Brown's spirit might never leave Jefferson County.

The Jefferson County Commission wants to convert the first floor of the Jefferson County Courthouse so it resembles the courtroom where the fiery abolitionist was tried, convicted of treason and sentenced to hang in the fall of 1859.

The commission seized onto the idea as soon as Kirk Davis, capital projects manager for the county, introduced it at the commission's Thursday morning meeting.

"It will be a bonus to historic tourism," Commissioner Jim Surkamp said.

"This could work well. There's a lot of Civil War history here in Jefferson County," Davis said.

The courtroom won't be a museum, Davis said.

Old prints of the courtroom depicting Brown's trial, lithographs and woodcuts done at the time will give the historic architects hints on how it looked 150 years ago.


Initial plans call for a full-size courtroom to augment the existing courtroom, judge's chambers and offices on the second floor of the courthouse, which has just undergone a major renovation.

The new historic-looking downstairs courtroom also would serve as the commissioners meeting room and would be available for community use, Davis said.

"It would be a multipurpose room," he said.

The project will require the hiring of a historic architect to design it, Davis said.

A second courtroom is needed in the county, Davis said.

There was no discussion on how much the project would cost.

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