After more than a decade of planning, the old Jackson County Courthouse will be restored and a new library will be added. The project will cost the county $7.9 million for construction as well as an additional $1.6 million for furnishings that is being raised by Friends of the Jackson County Main Library. They are at nearly half of their goal.
“There’s just nothing more green than the reuse of an existing building like the Jackson County Courthouse, which was so important in the history of the county,” says Donnie Love, the architect for the project from the historic preservation specialist at South Carolina-based McMillian Smith and Partners. Ronnie Smith, Sylva native and a founding partner of McMillian Smith and Partners stated that, “The court house played such an important role in the past, and now it will have an important role for a long time in the future.” The new library will be built onto the back of the current building, and have similar architectural details. The main part of the building will house the Jackson County Historical Association, Genealogical Society and Arts Council, and an auditorium.
Architects call this adaptive reuse. It is a simple concept, using an old building for a new business, but it is fast becoming a popular way to use fewer resources, combat urban sprawl, and to help keep the culture of the city or town intact. The Neoclassical design of the Jackson County Courthouse was from the design of Richard Sharp Smith. Smith came to the North Carolina mountains when George Vanderbilt requested him to be the resident architect for the construction of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville. He also designed the courthouses of Madison, Henderson, and Swain Counties.
“In our preliminary studies for this project, as we were looking at what was done in the past, it was clear that the courthouse was so well planned by the local people to be the focal point,” says Love, “It’s a huge accomplishment for Jackson County that this community icon will be preserved.” The Jackson County Courthouse is one of the most photographed buildings on the East Coast. The building is scheduled to be finished sometime in 2010.