Lightning strikes courthouse

Published 8:00 am Saturday, August 18, 2018

Building’s cupola damaged last week

COLUMBUS — Storms caused damage to the historic Polk County Courthouse cupola last week when lightning struck it.

Polk County leaders are now figuring out how to make repairs.

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Polk County Manager Marche Pittman said Thursday that the county has inspected the damage, and is contacting contractors to make the necessary repairs.

“It is critical to us that repairs are completed in a way that the appearance of the cupola doesn’t change,” Pittman said.

Polk County leaders are not sure exactly when the lightning strike occurred, but said it was during operating hours. The strike hit the spire and blew out of the center of the cupola.

The cupola sits on top of the courthouse. The damage from the lightning includes a few boards missing from the cupola.

The courthouse is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The county has renovated the courthouse twice since 2000, spending at least $1 million each time.

The Polk County Courthouse is the second oldest courthouse still in use in the state, with construction completed in 1859, just four years after the county was formed.

The builders were Ephraim Clayton and George Shackelford, who were reportedly paid $16,836 to construct the building.

The courthouse bricks were made from native clay, and were baked nearby. The design of the courthouse is a Greek Revival style, which was popular in North Carolina in the 1830s, 1840s and 1850s.

The courthouse once housed all county offices, and still houses court offices and the courtroom upstairs, which holds court at least once per week.

Some of the features of the historical building include matching spiral stairs in the entryway; the cupola, which is made of hand hewn lumber; and a cast bronze bell, which dates back to 1858.

There are no estimates yet on what the repairs to the cupola will cost or when the repairs can be made.