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Pat Crisp

Pat Crisp

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The Federal Building - Part 2

In early 1927 the plans for a Federal Building to provide a site for Federal Court in this district were drawn---or were they borrowed? It is difficult to imagine why a building with such strong Spanish design would be built in Marianna, where a typical Southern setting was so obvious. In the mid 1920’s, there were approximately twenty beautiful Southern homes, several dating back to the 1840’s, along Lafayette Street in the three or four blocks west of the Lafayette and Caledonia Street site. This did not include the large number of the same style homes on Madison, Green, and Clinton Streets and others, scattered throughout the residential areas. With the typical Southern courthouse in the center of town, what would lead any committee to decide on an extremely Spanish design for the new building? Over the years, many locals have speculated that perhaps there is (or was) another Federal Building located in a Spanish heritage city somewhere in America that looks exactly like this one. Were they building an especially beautiful Spanish Revival Building in Marianna, or were they building a beautiful Spanish style building built previously? We will never know!

At any rate, during the summer of 1927, the digging of the basement was begun. Our first photo taken by the contractor, Charles Weitz Sons, is dated August 8, 1927. All photos included in this series of articles were taken by the contractor and dated as proof of his progress. Today they hang in the Post Master’s office. They were loaned to the Chipola Historical Trust in 2007 to copy for their archives.

In the photo, the digging of the basement appears to have been completed, with forms extending from the foundation prepared for the next phase, which would be the walls for the other half of the basement. (You will note when you look at the current building the below ground level portion of the basement is approximately one-half the height of the finished product. The remainder of the basement height is above ground. Thus we have the series of steps going up to what would normally be “the ground floor”.) This photo would have been taken from the upper floor of the Dekle Building across Lafayette Street to have achieved the angle looking down into the basement. The work shed is located along Lafayette Street in front of the building.

The Methodist Church, completed in 1916, can be seen to the north of the building on the north corner of the block at the Caledonia and Clinton Street intersection. PHOTO NUMBER 1

The next photo, taken on September 1st, shows the basement is enclosed. The main floor’s concrete floor is being reinforced with wire, preparing to pour the floor. All plumbing and wiring to be located under the floor appears to be completed. This photograph was taken from the eastern side of the building on Caledonia Street. There was a two-story house across the street which would allow this angle to have been photographed. The service station on the left is facing Lafayette Street and is immediately west of the M. L. Dekle Building. The large frame home in this photo would be sitting where the parking lot, now owned by the Methodist Church and leased to the Post Office, is located today.

At the end of the month, on September 30th, this photograph was taken. The window frames are leaning on the left side of the building, ready to be put in place. This photo is taken from the back of the building, looking south.

We can see the new Chipola Hotel, which has just been completed. There is landscaping, and cars are parked out front. Lafayette Street has been paved and the “Plaza” area has been established and curbed.

There is a large pile of brick on the right side of the photograph, waiting to be used in the next phase of the building. There is also an open work shed on this side of the building and a picket fence running along the north side of the Federal property.

The lot north of the fence where the Post Office parking/loading area and the Methodist Sunday School Building is today appears to be an unkempt vacant lot.

If it seems to you that the building is going up rapidly, that appears to be correct! This photo was taken October 31st. The first floor exterior has virtually been completed and the windows and doors have been put in place. The brick have been used over the entire exterior of the building, and some work is obvious on the upper floor, which appears to be the exhaust or chimney for the heating system, located in the basement. Looking carefully on the right side of the building, you will notice that they are still laying brick in the area of what is now the Post Master’s office. This is the same work shed as seen in the first photo, located on Lafayette Street.

The Marianna Federal Building and Post Office

There has been a U. S. Post Office in Marianna for many years, particularly noted in photographs and written history since the turn of the century. The first one, in 1900, was housed in the area about where The Gazebo Restaurant is today and its location was obviously then, as today, marked by an American flag flying proudly.

It is also noted in Shoffner’s history that Marianna was chosen as one of the two stops between Pensacola and the Apalachicola River by the Pensacola and Atlantic Railroad Company in 1884, which was owned by the parent company, the L&N Railroad. This made the delivery of mail to t much more regular. Some of the other Jackson County communities which had a post office established between 1876 and 1900 were Graceville, Cottondale, Sneads, Grand Ridge, Cypress, Aberdeen, Alliance, Bascom, Dellwood, Parramore, Paront, Kynesville, Alford, Bumpnose, Sills, Port Jackson, Longview, Lotus, and other small groups of inhabitants who congregated into communities for the purpose of harvesting the vast virgin timberlands and working the turpentine industry in the area. Farming was a major industry, growing cotton, watermelons, poultry and some livestock production. The train personnel hanging the mail bag on a hook on a post as the train came by small communities has been depicted in many movies. Old-timers associated with the trains quickly verify that it happened every day, all along the route.

It was also reported by Milton Smith in his writings that, around 1905, the Marianna Post Office was housed in a portion of the two-story wooden building located where the Daffin Building is today. In 1926, as The Federal Building was being built, we have a copy of a letter where R. D. Daffin wrote the Postmaster General of the United States, making him aware that the lease would expire on February 2, 1926 on his building being used as the Marianna Post Office, and he would be willing to lease it further to them for another 24 months, or any portion thereof, at $125 per month. He further states, that the Government would have to repair the boxes and other post office fixtures in the building, and keep them up, and to furnish heat, lights, water and janitor services in the building. He says, “that since the present lease was made, both the streets on which the building is located have been paved, and the expenses of water, lights and heat, etc., have consumed the rental to the point that I do not realize enough out of the rental to pay the taxes on the building, which taxes are constantly increasing from year to year. I shall expect possession of the building on February 2, 1926, unless the above proposition is agreed to.” We would assume that the Postal Department continued to lease that property, as The Federal Building was under construction and was completed in the summer of 1928. (We do not know the Post Office location referred to in this letter.)

It appears that there had never been organized City delivery of mail prior to 1926, as we have a copy of a June 29, 1926 letter from the Post Office Department in Washington, giving the Marianna Postmaster six pages of directives he must follow to establish City Delivery of the mail. It appears that he was authorized to have two regular carriers hired by August 1, 1926. He goes on to state “that City delivery may not commence until at least 85% of the patrons, both business and residence, shall have provided suitable receptacles for their mail. A slot in the door will serve the purpose, and is preferable. Under no circumstances will mail be delivered to a patron who fails to provide a receptacle and all who have not done so should immediately be notified to that effect. Fifteen days prior to the date fixed for the inauguration of the service please report to this Bureau the exact progress made in this direction, giving the total number of stops and the number which have been equipped with receptacles. Failure to comply with this requirement will necessitate either postponement of establishment or complete withdrawal of authority therefor. The carriers must not deliver mail at the side or rear doors of the residences, above the second floor of office buildings not provided with elevator, or to separate suites or rooms in apartment houses.” Rural Free Delivery had been established throughout the United States in most areas by 1900, and it would be assumed that some sort of rural delivery was being undertaken in our area. By 1910 there were 41,000 RFD carriers in the country, serving 993,000 miles at a cost to the government of $36,915,000. By 1930 there were 43,278 carriers, serving about 7 million families at a cost of over $106,000,000. In 1913 Parcel Post was added to the mail service which allowed delivery of packages and the distribution of newspapers and magazines. Mail-order from catalogs became possible at this time. This was a tremendous asset for rural customers and this service added millions of dollars in sales of products nationwide from the rural customers.

It appears that the U.S. Government acknowledged a need for a Federal Court Building in Marianna and purchased the property at the corner of Lafayette (Fayette) and Caledonia Streets. In early photographs, there appeared to be a large two-story building on the property which was either a very large home or an apartment building. Since only the roof is visible in the photographs we have, which were taken from the top of the Court House, it cannot be determined exactly what building was there, but our 1917 photograph shows that there is a cleared lot at that location.

From the photograph, you are looking south. You can see the M. L. Dekle General Store and can easily understand why it had the reputation of being “the largest business in Jackson County.” South of the open area in the center of town, now known as Confederate Park, is the original Chipola Hotel. This photograph allows one to comprehend the enormous size of the two-story wooden Chipola Hotel structure, which was soon to be moved back on the Chipola Hotel property to allow for the construction of the present building, completed in 1928. To the left of the photograph one sees the building which now houses Edward Jones Investments and on the rear of that building, the advertisement for Chero-Cola, “Pure Wholesome and Refreshing”, costing 5 cents. It can be noted that at this time the buildings there were only one-storied. Market Street is immediately north of that row of buildings. Facing Market Street is a long row of business buildings, the first one now housing Hinson Insurance Agency. You can see that the electrical lines are running across the center of “The Plaza”, as that vacant property was called at that time. As has been noted previously, there are telephone wires hanging loosely from the same poles as the electrical lines.

The gentleman and lady standing on the vacant lot are unidentified, but one would assume that they had some interest in the large two-storied building which appears to have been removed from the property.

A series of articles will be continued to show the progress of the 1928 Federal Building as we share the photographs taken by the Contractor, Charles Weitz and Sons, as the building comes out of the ground to show the basement developing into becoming the front portion of the beautiful two-story building we see and enjoy today.

Note: Information for this series of articles are taken from Jerrell Shoffner’s Jackson County, Florida – A History, from Wikipedia and from correspondence and photographs found in the Marianna Post Office archives, which were shared with the Chipola Historical Trust in 2007. The over-85-year-old-photographs tell the story of the construction of the 1928 Federal Building/Post Office complex. The original photographs are currently hanging in the office of the Marianna Postmaster. The Chipola Trust was very fortunate to be allowed to add these photographs and a number of other valuable items to their historical collection.

About the Monuments on the Court House Lawn

This week I would like to highlight the signage and monuments which are all across the front of the Courthouse Square. I feel we often see them there, but do not take the time to really look at them and remember the significance of the events, and particularly, the people who are being honored in each instance.

The latest and most prominent monument, erected by American Legion Posts 42, 241, 100 and 302, is on the northwest corner of the square. It is a granite tower honoring all those from Jackson County who lost their lives fighting for America, beginning with World War I.

There are thirty-one men listed on the side headed by WORLD WAR I. Two sides of the monument hold the names of those who lost their life in WORLD WAR II. There are thirty-six names on one side and an additional thirty-seven on the second side of the monument for WORLD WAR II. The forth side holds the eight names of those who were killed in the KOREAN WAR, the VIETNAM WAR with eighteen names, and one in AFGHANISTAN, for a total of 131 people “KILLED UNDER HOSTILE FIRE”, which is noted on one side at the base of the monument. On another side of the base is stated “AND IN MEMORY OF ALL VETERANS.”

The monument is highlighted by two flag poles, one holding an American flag, a State of Florida flag and the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) flag, all flying at half-mast right now in memory of the children in Newtown, Connecticut. There are also three benches around the monument, landscaping and a walkway to the handicapped ramp at the Courthouse. Everyone is invited to sit and reflect on the supreme sacrifices made by these individuals and their families.

Nearby is a historical marker placed there in 1961 by the Florida Board of Parks and Historic Memorials. It commemorates the Battle of Marianna and states: “On Sept. 27, 1864, Gen. Asboth’s force of 700 Federal cavalry from Pensacola arrived in the Marianna area to forage and secure Negro recruits. Confederate forces of a few hundred home guardsmen barricaded the streets of Marianna and withstood the first assault but were forced to surrender when they were outflanked. Confederate casualties were 26, Federal about 55. Marianna was spared, but St. Luke’s Church, situated in the middle of the battle, was burned.” The Florida emblem graces the top of the marker.

On the east side of the square is another historical marker with the heading “JACKSON COUNTY”. It states that “On August 12, 1822, the year after the United States received possession of the Floridas, an Act of the Territorial Legislative Council divided West Florida into two counties -- Jackson and Escambia. At that time, Jackson County included all territory between the Choctawhatchee and Suwannee Rivers, an area which now encompasses land in seventeen North Florida counties. Jackson County is named in honor of Andrew Jackson, Governor of the Territories of East and West Florida. The county seat is Marianna, incorporated November 5, 1828.” This marker was erected by sponsorship of the Jackson County Historical Commission in cooperation with the Department of State in 1972.

Actually, Jackson County was the third Territorial Council County, as there were originally only two, St. Johns, with land from St. Augustine to the Apalachicola River and Escambia County, all lands west of the river. Jackson County, from the Suwannee River to the Choctawhatchee River was carved from the mass of land forming those two counties. The Florida emblem also sits in the center of the top of this historical marker.

Sitting nearer the Courthouse is a Confederate Monument erected November 30, 1881, stating “IN MEMORY OF THE CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS OF JACKSON COUNTY, FLORIDA.”

On two sides of the monument it says, “THE WARRIORS TRIED AND TRUE, WHO BORE THE FLAG OF OUR PEOPLES TRUST, AND FELL IN A CAUSE, THOUGH LOST, STILL JUST, AND DIED FOR ME AND YOU. WE CARE NOT WHENCE THEY CAME, DEAR IN THEIR LIFELESS CLAY! WHETHER UNKNOWN, OR KNOWN TO FAME, THEIR CAUSE AND COUNTRY STILL THE SAME – THEY DIED – AND WORE THE GRAY.” And on the fourth side, “IN GOD WE TRUST.”

This monument has stood through three Courthouses now. Several weeks ago, when the men finished the stucco work on the Courthouse, they volunteered to refinish the lower portion of the 1881 monument. It looks very fresh with the new coating on its base.

One other monument stands on the northeast corner of the square. It is an Eternal Flame monument. It is a tower of granite also, placed there by the Veterans and Citizens of Jackson County, stating that it is “DEDICATED TO THOSE WHO SERVED FOR OUR FREEDOM.” There are emblems of each branch of the service: Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and the Merchant Marines. There is also the POW-MIA emblem and an American flag. The flame is never extinguished. There are also benches here for people to sit and contemplate the meaning of the monument and the sacrifices made by those who serve in the six branches of service.

It is hoped that the explanation of the historical markers and monuments on the Courthouse Square will help the public to better appreciate their purpose, and perhaps encourage all of us to really look at the monuments and take them much more seriously as we contemplate the sacrifices made by so many for our American freedoms.

The 1906 Courthouse

Evidently the 35 year old 1871 Courthouse had not held up very well.

The 1905 Board of County Commissioners were G. W. McNealy, Chairman, Frank Peacock from Greenwood, James M. Barnes, S. M. Miller from Graceville and H. M. Fulgham who were receiving multiple complaints from citizens and officials almost constantly. Many were suggesting that they build an annex onto the existing building. They specifically complained that during Circuit Court days the space was inadequate for the large numbers in attendance. During Grand Jury hearings there was no way to separate the Grand Jury and the witnesses from the body of the Court; there were inadequate restroom facilities and overcrowded offices with lack of vaults needed by officials for safety. At this time all county functions were located within the Courthouse---Judges, the Clerk of Court, Supervisor of Elections, Tax Collector and Appraiser, Board of Education, Sherriff’s Department, County Commissioners, the Courtroom, etc.

On May 29, 1905, the Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) met with intentions of building a much needed annex to the existing Courthouse. J. D. Smith, W. H. Milton, M. L. Dekle, J. M. Calhoun, W. B. Wynn, William B. Farley, J. C. Davis, Dr. Theophilus West, and C. C. Liddon, representing the Board of Trade for the Town of Marianna, came before the Board and asked that the Board reconsider its order for the building of an annex to the Courthouse and “build in its stead a new building throughout and in every way modern.” The Board withdrew its order to build the annex and arranged to receive plans and specifications with the old Courthouse being “town away” and the new Courthouse to be constructed on the same location. The June 7, 1905 minutes of the BoCC show that the 1871 Courthouse was insured for $10,000 and was divided equally between three insurers.

Records show that both Greenwood and Cottondale citizens were not in favor of the new building and petitioned against the construction of such a building, but the commissioners went ahead with their plans.

On July 17, 1905, the BoCC ordered a new Courthouse be built; with a budget of $60,000 proposed by W. H. Milton, but the budget agreed upon was $45,000 which resulted in a taxation of 2 mills. Alexander Blair of Macon, Georgia, was selected as the architect, with Captain J. F. Kehoe to serve as the general supervisor of construction. The bid was advertised and on October 2, 1905, the Board awarded the bid of $46,625 to M. T. Lewman & Company of Louisville, Kentucky to build the new Courthouse. However, five days later they agreed that the new Courthouse should be “fireproof” and increased the amount budgeted to $50,000 which changed the original plans from a frame structure to a “fireproof” version with specified brick.

Note: The 1827 Courthouse had burned November 30, 1848, and the Courthouse built in 1849 was of brick construction. The plans were finalized and work was scheduled to begin on December 1, 1905. The building continued to have a very large basement area with two floors above.

J. D. Smith (remember he started Citizens Bank across the street in his new two-story building he had just completed), and W. H. Milton, of the First National Bank, (located in the 1902 First Bank Building on Caledonia Street) were asked to finance a $60,000 bond which would be repaid with the 2 mill taxation proposed. The vote concerning this taxing proposal to finance the building of the Courthouse was passed by a slim margin of 605-512 votes.

On March 15, 1906, the bricks arrived and were quickly rejected by the Superintendent representing the Board due to the “class of brick” received. The plans specified buff bricks and those delivered were red bricks. Alexander Blair, the architect, who was supposed to supervise the construction and expedite the building process, arrived in Marianna late Saturday evening, the 24th, spent a few minutes at the site on Sunday morning, the 25th, and condemned ALL the bricks, stating that the shipment was mixed with red bricks and buff bricks. However, Mr. Blair did not bother to meet with any member of the BoCC while in town.

The contractors were unable now to continue since they had no further instructions and no bricks to be used, and according to the contract, could not purchase brick from any other source other than from Mr. Blair’s selected brickyard in Augusta, Georgia. The Board instructed W. A. McRae, Clerk, to write Mr. Blair a Special Delivery letter requesting his presence at the next Board meeting on April 10th. Mr. Blair responded that he was unable to attend the Board meeting as he had “important business on hand to which he must attend.”

By now the work had been stopped for almost three weeks and on April 10th, the Board discharged Alexander Blair who had only been in Marianna two times since January 1906 and had only remained in town a few hours each time. It seems he was not too fond of the “present contractors who would not be permitted by him to complete their contract made with said Board, and if they did complete it, he would make them lose money on the same.” He was replaced by R.L. Moore.

On March 13th the BoCC had ordered that the old cistern located at the northwest corner be excavated down to the bottom and the contractor was ordered to put in 612 cubic feet of additional concrete.

May 8th saw R. L. Moore, W. H. Price and W. A. McRae appointed as the committee to decide furniture requirements for the new Courthouse. As the bids were being considered, both steel and wood, the BoCC realized that they had not allowed adequate time for fair bidding and they delayed the bid process until June 8th. Low bid for the metal furniture was $2694 from M. Bunker & Company and $3500 from J. S. Smith/Hudson School Furniture, and the bids were awarded.

On June 14th the BoCC determined that the SEWER PIPE WOULD BE 12 INCHES IN SIZE AND WOULD RUN FROM THE COURTHOUSE TO THE RIVER, WITH THE CITY OF MARIANNA HAVING CONNECTION PRIVILEGES! On July 18th the Town Committee and the BoCC selected the route for the sewer for the Courthouse and the Jail to the river. (This would have most likely been along Jackson Street since that was the most direct route, straight down the street.)

The Board decided that one of the Courthouse features in the Courtroom would include pilasters (a shallow rectangular feature projecting from the wall, imitating the form of a column.) It would also have a belt of molding above the pilasters and steel ceilings. The trim color for the Courthouse would be decided by Mssrs. Hand and Moore.

The Courthouse was now insured for $15,000 to cover the construction completed.

On September 10th the Board agreed to allow the following new extras: Two windows on the north side, and a mantle and grate in the records room, making the parapet walls 13 inches thick instead of 9 inches which was a cost increase of $154.20. They also agreed to put wire over the louvers in the eight tower windows, extra plumbing on the 3rd floor in the west end, and one pair of sliding doors in the Circuit Judge’s room.

Around October 16th, the Board realized that the Courthouse would not be completed in time for the fall term of Circuit Court and they secured the space from J. D. Smith above his store, the space above the store of George Farley and the second floor over Citizen’s State Bank. (These businesses were all on the corners of Lafayette and Jefferson Streets.)

On October 26th, the Board purchased 12,000 red brick to be used to construct a coal house for the new Courthouse.

December 12th saw R. L. Moore, Superintendent and acting Architect, notified the BoCC that M. T. Lewman & Company was in default regarding the completion of the Courthouse. He said, “They have failed to provide sufficient labor and material to property execute the work.” All work was practically suspended due to insufficient material for completion effort. Work had been ongoing for 295 working days, now 95 days past contracted completion date, and the following is an interesting list of some of the items to be corrected and/or completed:

Marble base in corridors on 1st floor, fluted columns in Courtroom on 2nd floor, venetian blinds, steel rolling shutters in record room, broken glass in windows and doors, plate glass in record room, plumbing on 2nd floor, calcimining the walls in all the rooms, and, marble tablets on the front buttresses. Rejected work included: all wood floors, all wooden base, metal ceiling in courtroom, numerous light defects in various parts of the building and a lack of a certificate from the Board of Fire Underwriters for the electric wiring.

On December 13th the Board issued a resolution claiming “failure to perform” by M. T. Lewman & Company and gave them fifteen days to resolve the conditions or the Board would have the Courthouse completed and bill M. T. Lewman & Company for all costs incurred.

On December 27th W. C. and L. D. Lewman appeared before the Board and assured the Board of their intent to complete the Courthouse to the satisfaction of the Board and they agreed to the following rather interesting list of items to be corrected or completed:

Marble base in halls re-ordered, marble tiling to be reset and left clean of cement, dirt, etc., wooden flooring on 1st floor to be re-laid with riffed flooring per specification, resin treated paper to be laid over the present floor before other flooring is laid, halls on the 2nd floor and main Courtroom be treated in same way, floors on the 2nd and 3rd floors to be planned to even out the uneven joints, and be oiled with boiled linseed oil, all face brick on building to be cleaned, Set One to have one coat of raw linseed oil, plumbing fixtures for 2nd floor to be installed and of the same quality as those on the 1st floor, redo all woodwork, all wooden bases to be replaced, vault floors to be cleaned and left smooth, calsoming to be completed, hearth strips to be put around all hearths and be property filled, secure Underwriter Certificate, overhaul plumbing on 1st floor, all vault door sills or thresholds to be in cement, overhaul all defective doors, windows and staircases, overhaul sliding door in Judge’s room, iron columns under gallery to be provided with shell bases and Corinthian caps, metal ceiling in Courtroom condemned but will be accepted if same can be put in acceptable condition, steel rolling shutters ordered and to be shipped, marble tables on front buttresses to be changed to one marble panel to be placed in the corridor on the 1st floor and to be lettered as agreed. $500 was allowed in lieu of placing venetian blinds in building.

On February 7, 1907, the BoCC accepted the new Courthouse from Lewman & Company.

One would never have known from the finished product that there was so much distress in the building of the great old typical Southern Courthouse! It certainly served Jackson County well for the next fifty-four years.

April 15th, 1909, Mrs. Howze Stone, President, and a committee of the ladies from the Town Improvement Association met with the Board to ask permission to place a “temporary but neat fence” around the grounds. They also asked the Board to make substantial walkways into and around the grounds. The Board agreed that as soon as the ladies had the fence in place and the grounds properly laid out, they would build the walks as requested. The ladies further stated they would begin at once to “beautify and improve the grounds and begin a hedge about the entire grounds and the walks.”

May 11, 1909, saw a committee of citizens from the town of Marianna who came before the Board and asked the Board not to enclose the Courthouse grounds in the form of a square as before and suggested the grounds would be too large and that many of the hitching racks used by the country people would be done away with. The Board disagreed and felt that the entire lot belonged to the Courthouse and it should be enclosed in a square form which would give the Courthouse larger and more symmetrical grounds.

The Courthouse housed all county offices for the next fifty years. The jail was nearby with the Sheriff’s offices on the second floor. The second floor Courtroom was a very large room with the typical Judge’s bench, jury box and tables and chairs on the floor below the Judge’s bench. (Many of these pieces of furniture original to the building are in businesses and homes throughout the area.) There was a balcony which allowed the room to seat a large number of people. There is obviously a third floor to the building, but it will take someone older than this writer to determine if that was storage or if other offices were housed there. Since there was no air-conditioning until window units became available, it would surely not have been a pleasant place in which to find yourself assigned to work.

The lower floors housed the Clerk of the Circuit Court and all the Public Records of Jackson County from the beginning of records being kept in the 1820’s, with the exception of those which burned in 1848. The Tax Collector, the Property Appraiser, the Supervisor of Elections, the entire County and Circuit Court system, and any other auxiliary county offices were housed in this building, sometimes including the Board of Education.

Our beautiful typical Southern County Seat Courthouse sat on the Courthouse Square in the center of town, welcoming all who had business within its walls. Its notable dome housed a clock which struck every hour, sounding the time all over Marianna. Interestingly, the BoCC minutes of April 1951 state that the Board accepted a bid to electrify the Courthouse clock. Until then, it was mechanically wound by hand.

The 1881 Confederate Memorial stood proudly in its present place throughout the history of this building as with the previous Courthouse. One other significant memorial sign was erected in 1961, about the time the building was being dismantled to be replaced by “The Monstrosity” which the latest Courthouse has been known since its dedication, until recently when the latest renovation was completed.

The 1961 sign was to commemorate the Battle of Marianna on September 27, 1864 and was placed there by the Florida Board of Parks and Historic Memorials.

At some point in time, a concrete coping, very similar to the one completed recently across the front of the block, was built around the entire block. It was a wonderful place for people to sit and visit. Particularly on Saturday, one would seldom find a time when people were not sitting on the coping just visiting.

The Southern Courthouse sat very stately until, around the middle of 1960, when the BoCC, after much complaining had gone on for several years as to the inadequacy of the building, seems to have taken some action to determine its fate. It appears from the records that a Grand Jury was convened to investigate the complaints and on June 30, 1960, the Grand Jury returned a long list of details concerning reasons for a new Courthouse. They said, among other things, “…..we find in general, the Courthouse is a disgrace for a county the size of Jackson County. We note that Grand Juries of Jackson County have on two previous occasions made presentments as to the inadequate and deplorable condition of the Courthouse facilities and that copies of these presentments were furnished to BoCC with the recommendation that action should be taken to relieve the situation…” And obviously “action was taken soon thereafter.”

Mr. J. M. Adams was the winning bidder of the demolition contract and the BoCC paid him $1.00 for his efforts and he owned whatever was salvageable (excluding the steel vault doors and the cornerstone.) The fuel stoves and the benches were also bid off. It appears that Mr. Adams sold the clocks and the dome after their removal. It has always been rumored that the clocks and possibly the dome are on a Courthouse in South Georgia, but no one seems to remember exactly where, and maybe that is just a “rumor/myth.” It appears that the demolition began shortly after August 1961.

Old-timers have told stories of the “Old Southern Lady” for many years. Perhaps we can get some of them to share some stories about life in the early 1900’s with our “Old Courthouse”. She truly was a treasure and we “older folks” have missed her! “She” could quite possibly be much more beautiful in our memories than she was in reality.

Note: Information for this article was taken from Jerrell Shofner’s History of Jackson County and from the Jackson County Board of County Commissioner’s minutes over the years by Sue Tindel, Jackson County Archivist, as she has researched minutes of many years’ meetings gleaning valuable information and interesting stories. Thank you, Sue!

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