Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

February 3, 2014

McDowell working on facelift for more than 100-year-old county courthouse

WELCH — The pipes of the old hot water boiler that heats the McDowell County Courthouse in Welch were rattling and rumbling as they strained to keep the antique building warm during last week’s sub-zero temperatures, the pipes held, and the iconic building remained warm — mostly. Still, venerable old courthouse that has enjoyed a ringside view of coalfield history is about due for a major makeover.

“The new courthouse is a work in progress,” Don Hicks, McDowell County clerk said. “The project will cost about $25-$27 million to complete to make the courthouse handicap accessible, modernize the court security system, and upgrade the building. The county is only going to pay a small portion of the total cost with most of the funds coming through grants.”

McDowell County residents voted to move the county seat from Perryville (now known as English) to Welch in 1891, and the move took place on Sept. 15, 1892. The court was initially located on Howard and Wyoming streets in Welch until the present courthouse could be built. The clock tower and portion of the courthouse that holds McDowell Circuit Court Judge Booker T. Stephens’ courtroom was completed on May 27, 1895, on land that Captain I.A. Welch donated to the county. The initial annex portion that houses the county clerk and circuit clerk’s offices were completed circa 1910.

C.W. Rush and Co., was awarded the bid to build the first portion of the courthouse in June 1894, and in November 1894, Rush was awarded an additional contract for $43,500 to build a jail. The contractor was required to use Berea stone to build the courthouse. In November 1908, county voters authorized the county commission to issue $50,000 in bonds to build the first courthouse annex and to expand the jail.

“We have Daniel Hart of DLH Architects PLLC., out of Lewisburg working with us on this project,” Gordon Lambert, president of the McDowell County Commission said. “Once this project is completed, we will have an entirely new building.”

Lambert said that the county commission will be opening bids for new down spouts on the old building on Feb. 12.

“That will provide us some immediate help for the mold issue and it will be one of the steps involved in the overall project,” Lambert said. “It’s an exciting project.”

According to previous reports, actual construction won’t get underway until January 2015.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

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