County should be able to tear down dilapidated buildings

Published 11:36 am Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Warren County’s former justice court building and a smaller, two-story house and former law office next door are dilapidated and need to be torn down.
The brick, yellow-trimmed former courthouse at 1019 Adams St. completed in the 1870s as a house was once a law office of John Prewitt before he became a circuit judge. In 1984, the county purchased the house to be home to its three justice court districts. In 2002, the judges were moved to 921 Farmer St. while the Adams Street building essentially became a storage bin. The smaller house, 1015 Adams St., was home to Verhine & Verhine law firm from 1991 to 2012, according to city directories.
On Monday, supervisors voted to bring requests to raze each structure to the Vicksburg Board of Architectural Review by April 22. Both structures are in Vicksburg’s historic district, where the nine-member planning board oversees alterations to property. Supervisors voted to pay $102 in application fees to submit two demolition requests, one for each building.
County Buildings and Grounds Chief Chuck Thornton said the county had secured approvals to get rid of the old law office, but not the former justice court. The city’s stance on the latter was too limited to the building’s exterior, he said.
“They’re only looking at the outside of the structure,” he said. “The roof on the south side is about to fall in. I got sick in there taking pictures in there last week because of the mold in the building, caused by water damage.”
Both buildings with Italianate styling, door bracketing, vintage transoms, original mantles and decorative corners have some intrinsic value. To rehabilitate the structures would be extremely costly. Tearing down the structures would be losing a piece of history, but all things must make way for progress. Salvaging as much as possible from the two structures would seem a viable option and would preserve some of the craftsmanship of a bygone era.
The buildings in the condition they are in pose a serious health risk to the public. Allowing the county to demolish them and address the pressing need for more parking spaces makes sense fiscally. It’s time for them to go.