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Historic courthouse renovated to its original beauty

Coweta Court HouseAdded to the National Register of Historic Places
in 1980, the 106-year-old Coweta County Courthouse in Coweta County, Ga., is the state's most iconic symbol and the site of filming for screenplays and television movies. Built in 1904, the Classical Revival style courthouse was recently renovated in keeping with its historic character. Designed by James Wingfield Golucke, who designed 25 courthouses in Georgia, the approximately 25,000-square-foot (2,323-m2) is said by "The New Georgia Encyclopedia" to be the "most ambitious" of Golucke's works due to its building mass, porticos and the strong vertical projection of its clock tower.

The $7.5 million restoration project, funded by a
special-purpose local-option sales tax approved by
Coweta County citizens, was led by the Historic Preservation Studio of Atlanta-based architecture firm Lord, Aeck & Sargent. Overall, the project comprised of the selective demolition of non-historic building features, exterior restoration and interior rehabilitation that included the restoration of historically important features. Although the project was completed in late September 2010, elements of the exterior restoration had already won the courthouse a 2010 North American Copper in Architecture Award from the Copper Development Association, New York.

Located in downtown Newnan's commercial historic
district, which is also on the National Register of
Historic Places, the building is now home to Coweta
County Probate Court and to the Coweta County
Convention & Visitor's Bureau.

"While there are many Classical Revival style courthouses across Georgia and the U.S., the courthouses of the early 20th century are significant and distinctive for several reasons," said Jack Pyburn, head of Lord, Aeck & Sargent's Historic Preservation Studio and principal in charge of the project. "The Coweta County Courthouse has two very interesting modern features clad in its classicism. Four very large built-up steel girders in the attic that support the clock tower represent an early use of structural steel in an otherwise traditional load-bearing masonry building. Another example of modernity in this outwardly traditional structure was the use of cork, a material just coming into general use at the time."

During the selective demolition phase, the Lord, Aeck & Sargent team identified and removed
materials added through a cumulative series of 20th century "modernizations."

"We removed concrete ceilings and walls that had been intrusively added to expand Courthouse
vault storage. This and other similar reversals facilitated the restoration of the courtroom's original pressed metal ceiling, plaster detailing and the stunning wood molding and transoms over the doorways and windows," said Courtney Swann, project manager and project architect for Lord, Aeck & Sargent. "Following the demolition we engaged a paint conservator to determine the historic paint colors and faux wood graining used so that they could be replicated."

The outmoded HVAC system was replaced with a modern, energy-efficient system for the threestory
building. Heating and cooling for the first floor is supplied from the basement and crawl space, and
from the attic for the second and partial third floors. Additionally, the building was sensitively fitted with a state-of-the-art fire suppression system to avoid damage to historic features.

The pressed metal ceiling in the building's crown jewel, the second-floor courtroom, was restored to
its original appearance. While most of the metalwork on the 4,000-square-foot (372-m2) ceiling did not need to be replaced, approximately 200 square feet (19 m2) of aluminum tiles were purchased from MBoss Inc., Cleveland, that were field-painted to match the existing tiles.

Particularly challenging was the restoration of the building's distinctive and ornate copper clad clock
tower, both outside and in. The project, carried out by Steinrock Roofing and Sheet Metal, Louisville,
Ky., began with the removal of every piece of copper from the tower walls, ceiling and roofing.
"Over the years, the original copper had suffered from less than ideal waterproofing details, hail
damage and stray bullet holes," Swann said. "It also suffered from corroded attachments made of incompatible metals. As much as we would have liked to salvage the original copper, it just wasn't an option."

Nevertheless, each piece of the ornamental copper was carefully removed, catalogued and sent to
Steinrock's sheet metal shop, where wooded forms were constructed and thousands of new, hand-cut
20-ounce copper pieces were fabricated to replace the original decorative details. Steinrock manufactured, fabricated and installed 13,500 pounds (6,075 kg) of copper, equal to approximately 10,800 square feet (1,003 m2), to replace the tower's walls, ceiling and roofing.

No one anticipated the extent of the structural damage to the clock tower. "We knew there would
be damage, but once we removed the copper cladding and got to the exterior sheathing there was a
lot more water damage and wood rot than anyone had envisioned," said Eddie Whitlock, Coweta
County assistant administrator. "The structure itself was slightly racked on its axis from hurricane-force winds that came through the county, and the sill plates had collapsed so that the tower actually lost some of its elevation."

New shoring and wood framing were required to stabilize the clock tower before the new copper
cladding could be installed. "The tower still leans slightly, but it's hardly noticeable, and then only
when the building is approached from the south," Whitlock said.

Other projects taken to restore the courthouse exterior include patching and repairing much of the
copper ornamentation and banding on the symmetrical porticoed exterior elevations to address more than a century of accumulated oxidation, staining and debris; replacing the shingles on the roof gables, and installing new modified bitumen low slope roofing to produce a watertight building; cleaning the brick and limestone masonry along with some repointing and minor patching on the limestone base; rehabilitating all of the windows, including the removal, repair and reinstallation of the sashes, while making the weights and pulleys operable; removing overgrown ornamental
trees that had no relationship to the historic square, and recreating lawns surrounding the building
to produce the historical openness of the square; restoring the brick perimeter walls, whose perpendicular corners had been altered; and rehabilitating the four main building entries, including doorway refinements and hand railings.

Headley Construction Corp., Newnan, Ga., was the general contractor; Willett Engineering Co., Tucker, Ga., was the structural engineer; NBP Engineers, Macon, Ga., was the MEP/FP engineer;
and The Jaeger Co., Gainesville, Ga., was the landscape architect.