GEORGE COUNTY, Miss. (WKRG) – Repairs to the historic George County Courthouse roof and dome are nearly finished. The inside of the structure, 30 feet in the air, reveals unique craftsmanship that’s lasted over 100 years.
The courthouse was built for about $12,000 in 1911, one year after the county was founded. In the 111 years since, it’s undergone a few renovations.
The dome’s stained glass was added in the 1970s. Second-story brick and windows were repaired after Hurricane Katrina and the Spanish clay tile on the very top of the dome was replaced in 2012.
Hurricane Zeta in 2020 blew out a few window panes in the dome and damaged the roof and weather vane on top, necessitating more repairs that began in June. Structural damage has remained minimal.
“It’s very strong. I mean, this thing has withstood every storm since 1911,” said District 2 Supervisor Kelly Wright. “I was amazed when I took office and come in and climbed through the attic and the dome. The craftsmanship, it was amazing what they had done a hundred years ago.”
The entire roof is being replaced while the dome is inspected, cleaned, and repainted. The 432 stained glass panels are all new, each one cut by hand. Hanco Corp. from Hattiesburg is the contractor for the $689,000 project.
Inside the dome, the frame is octagon shaped and rounds as it tapers up, creating smaller and smaller octagons up to the tip. The wood is over 200 years old. The original contractors built the metal braces underneath with rivets and no power tools or modern scaffolding.
The dome stretches over most of the main courtroom. A skylight carried light in from the dome. Before air conditioning, windows would be cracked in the main courthouse and the dome to let a draft flow through.
The courthouse has gotten updates six times since Wright took office in 2004. The process each time can be slower and more time-consuming than other county projects. The building was named a Mississippi Landmark in 1989. All updates must be approved by the state department of archives and history.
Wright shares the department’s vision. When the clay tiles on top of the dome were replaced, he found the exact clay pit owned by an Italian family in New Jersey that the originals came from in 1911. He ranks the courthouse as one of the top three in the state.
“It struck my interest to just kind of want to keep it as close to original as possible and stay on top of things so it don’t deteriorate and get in bad shape, Wright said. “We want it to look nice and be attractive to the city of Lucedale and the county of George and hope people continue to come by and look and take pictures and be happy with what they have here.”
The current round of repairs is expected to be complete by the end of September. New LED lighting and a phase two of the project will begin in the coming months.