By Matt de Simone
Last week in Daleville, the Botetourt County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved plans to reconstruct a new courthouse in Fincastle.
The county previously appointed an advisory committee responsible for coming up with a conceptual plan for the courthouse. The research and study called for a new courthouse building constructed on the site of the existing Circuit Courthouse. The project includes:
- A public gathering area
- A larger parking lot
- Relocation of the Botetourt Historical Museum
According to the county’s press release published last week, the advisory committee worked with Architectural Partners of Lynchburg on designing a new building and courthouse square.
Fincastle Mayor Mary Bess Smith spoke in support of the plan following the committee’s presentation last Tuesday’s meeting. The mayor recently took some time to talk at length about the goals and the future of Courthouse Square moving forward.
“[The Town of Fincastle] appreciates being included in the team that makes the decisions about what to do with the courthouse,” Smith stated. “We don’t own any of those buildings or the land they sit on, but, of course, what happens in Courthouse Square—that’s the heart of Fincastle—it puts [the decision-makers] in a weird position.”
Smith feels that because Botetourt County owns the buildings, the idea of the county spending $25 million to rebuild the courthouse and beginning the process of renovating and revitalizing the Courthouse S will help generate interest in Fincastle opening up new opportunities.
“I think that if you look at the bigger picture, having all this interest generated will allow us to look at opportunities to expand some of the genealogical and historical work in town,” Smith continued. “We want to preserve buildings like the Old Jail. We can start finding ways to create a groundswell to preserve more of Fincastle’s historical assets. I think it’s great for the town.”
Architectural Partners cited the courthouse’s reconstruction as a “legacy project” and could “spur a renaissance for Fincastle/Botetourt County.” The group’s primary focus of the new courthouse is developing a healthy building featuring two courtrooms, both with safety and comfort in mind for staff and citizens. New security and circulation paths are paramount to the new courthouse’s design plans.
The group looked at the courthouse’s existing design conditions, physical conditions, and caseload history when determining what is essential for the new design. When describing the new courthouse, a keyword was “sustainability” regarding the new building being energy efficient.
Additionally, the Historical Museum will be physically moved from its current location and into the center of Courthouse Square with a new foundation. The Confederate Monument, which currently rests on the southeast point of the square, will be relocated just north of the museum’s new location.
“I don’t want the museum to move out of town [during renovation],” the mayor said. “I hope that the Historical Society can find an alternative location in town to display town history and the museum’s artifacts. I think this renovation is going to bring a lot of traffic and re-spark some interest in a positive way.”
Ultimately, Smith wants the project to be about the county, not just Fincastle.
“There is a lot we can do by combining resources to repurpose some of the buildings in the square to promote a bigger museum,” Smith continued. “Tons of people come into town to research records at the courthouse and the library’s genealogy room. If you could bring all of that together at Courthouse Square and combine it with some technology where you had access to online resources, that would be wonderful for the town. My hope is that Courthouse Square can become a genealogical and historical center where people can look at the artifacts, research, and enjoy the square. Again, that interest creates an avenue where we can start raising funds to renovate the Old Jail and other historic locations around the county.”
The project’s projected cost is $24,477,000, with an estimated project length of three years, starting July 2021 through December 2024. more information, visit the Botetourt County news page at boteoturtva.gov/news.