Halls of justice

By Regina Butler/NEMS Daily Journal

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 12th in a 16-part series about Northeast Mississippi courthouses.

PONTOTOC – The beginning of the end for the first Pontotoc County courthouse made headlines Nov. 18, 1915.
“Time ravaged the brick building of the county government on Court Square. It became necessary for a new courthouse to be built to house the running of the county business,” reads an excerpt from that day’s Pontotoc Sentinel.
The old structure, located on what is now known as the Pontotoc Court Square, needed to be revamped to the tune of $75,000.
At the time, leaders planned for the new courthouse to be constructed of white stone in a classic style of architecture. Ground dimensions of the building were set at 130-by-100 feet with three stories.
The basement was set aside for county offices with the courtroom, a jury and witness room and judge’s office on the second floor.
A feature of the courtroom was two galleries on each side of the room. Entrance to the galleries would be from the outside without passing through the courtroom.
The third floor was designed for dormitory purposes for juries in case of necessity.
The bid was let in December 1915 and the entire courthouse was built with a grand opening of the facility just one year later.
As years passed, the courthouse saw many changes. The old courtroom was closed in with paneled walls and a drop ceiling to aid heating and cooling.
But county leaders saw a need to restore the courthouse to its former beauty and began refurbishing the courtroom in 2005 with completion in April 2006.
Today, the courthouse has returned to some of the grandeur of its early days.
Even someone with little or no imagination can’t help but feel small when stepping into the expansive room.
The beams above were stripped of the gray paint that covered them for years and dark wood stain has taken its place. The lighting fixtures resembling those of the past have been installed.
The vaulted ceiling gives one the feeling of a grasshopper upon entering the floor of justice.
The balconies are returning to their luster and shine of yesteryear to take visitors back to that day in 1916 when it was first dedicated.

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