Restoring Glory

Unwrapping the Historic 1916 Courthouse: A  time line, 1916 to present

1916: Palm Beach County builds a courthouse of neoclassical design, with three floors and a basement, in West Palm Beach, on North Dixie Highway between Banyan and Third. Its single courtroom handled all of the cases for the 18,000 or so county residents.

1927: A sister building is added 25 feet to the east.

1969: The county wraps modern addition around the 1916- and 1927-era buildings.

1995: The new county judicial center opens across the street.

2002: Palm Beach County Commission votes to restore the old courthouse ( final cost: $18.9 million)

Spring 2004: Hedrick Brothers Construction Company begins to demolish the 1969 addition. The construction company painstakingly salvages limestone, granite, marble, wainscot, windows and mosaic floor tiles from the 1927 building to use in the restoration of the 1916 courthouse.

The roofs of the 1916 and the 1927 addition can be seen jutting through the 1969 "wraparound. " Hedrick Brothers project manager Robin Lunsford said his first step was to salvage materials and gut the building's interiors: "It was an environmental nightmare - mold, asbestos, everything else. The first thing we had to do was create a clean safe environment for the workers."

Fall 2004: The wraparound and the 1927 addition are completely demolished.

December 2004: Hedrick Brothers Construction stops work on the restoration for a year until an agreement can be reached on the "guaranteed maximum price" to complete the project - $18,965,019

October, 2005: The building is designated an historic site.Finding limestone and brick to match the exterior proved challenging. The limestone was found at its original quarry in Indiana. The original brick was cream colored and made by drying the bricks in a kiln, a process that is no longer used. The construction team ended up staining 51,400 custom-made bricks ( 67% of the bricks on the building are original).

Summer 2006: The construction restoration begins to take shape, as the original columns and capitals from both the 1916 and 1927 additions (20 in all) had been moved to nearby Hillcrest Cemetery. In order to replace the columns, stone carvers and masons analyzed the columns to see where each fit, then hoisted the massive ( as heavy as 3 tons) columns back into place.

Spring 2007: Detailed interior restoration of the building is underway. REG Architects created a design for the original courtroom based on a tour of other old courthouses that were built during the same period. Restoration includes the plaster ceilings and the maple wood flooring.

December 2006: The original cornerstone is restored to the NW corner, dedicated to Henry Flagler who donated the land on which the courthouse rests to the county in 1914.

November, 2007: The awnings, grass, walkway and flagpole are finished. The courtroom restoration is completed including the judge's bench and jury box. Over the 6 years of the project, more than 400 workers were involved.

December 2007: Palm Beach County staff moves into office space in the historic courthouse and the installation process begins for the Richard and Pat Johnson Palm Beach County Museum.

March 15, 2008: Grand opening of The Richard and Pat Johnson Palm Beach County History Museum.

Click here to watch a time lapse video of the courthouse restoration.

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