Historic buildings are always good candidates for repairs and restorations. In cities and towns across the country, you’ll find workers shoring up sagging floors, replacing peeling paint, and even beefing up the building’s structure. However, here in Murphy, NC, the Cherokee County Courthouse recently received a rather unusual type of facelift.
Courthouse Lantern Removal & Repair
On the morning of Thursday, January 12, two huge hydraulic cranes lumbered into action on Murphy’s Peachtree Street, just outside the courthouse. Managed by Cannon Roofing Company, the cranes had a highly challenging task: remove the super-heavy copper lantern from atop the courthouse’s large dome. The word “lantern” is an architectural term, in this case referring to the ornamental structure that has topped the Cherokee County Courthouse since its 1926 construction.
First, a crane operator gently lowered the lantern’s dome to the street. Once workers examined the dome, they found that it was only secured by one solder joint, where up to eight joints had originally held it in place. In other words, the dome could have given way at any time, crashing onto the pedestrians and court patrons below. What had caused the joints to work themselves loose? Most likely, the dome’s waving American flag, followed by a copper American eagle, had created sufficient windage to negatively affect the dome’s structural integrity.
Next, an even larger crane plucked the much taller lantern from atop the building’s dome, and brought it safely to the ground. Constructed of eight 10-foot-high hollow copper Greek columns, the metal lantern is certainly a grand-looking structure. However, it’s also the subject of a mystery: the lantern is chock full of rifle bullet holes.
Cherokee County Courthouse’s Colorful History
The lantern repair’s unusual nature is the latest chapter in the courthouse’s unconventional history. In fact, the current building is the latest in a series of structures, the first of which was supposedly burned by Federal troops during the Civil War. Two more courthouses suffered the same fate, with the last one falling victim to fire in 1924.
In 1926, Cherokee County commissioners approved construction of the current courthouse. Designed by James J. Baldwin, and built with a veneer of imposing Blue Marble from nearby Marble (of course), the two-story Neo-Classical Revival-style courthouse easily commands your attention. Inside, the ground floor is home to numerous offices, while the expansive second-floor courtroom features finely crafted woodwork and plaster furnishings.
However, the Cherokee County Courthouse’s most dramatic feature is the two-story cupola that soars high above the entrance pavilion. Above the cupola’s lower stage, you’d normally see a striking large domed roof, topped by the lantern and smaller dome. With the lantern and small dome missing, though, the building looks strangely out of proportion.
What’s Next for the Lantern Repair Project
Of course, getting the lantern on the ground was only half the battle. To safely contain the cumbersome structure, Cannon Roofing workers had constructed a massive wooden box, which arrived atop a flatbed truck. After workers buttoned up the lantern for transport, the truck headed for Andrews-Murphy Airport, where skilled craftsmen would perform repairs inside an aircraft hangar.
Not surprisingly, fixing the 91-year-old copper lantern will be quite expensive. The Cherokee County government will soon issue a request for repair estimates, which should be the subject of much discussion around town. After the lantern repairs have been completed, workers will carefully reattach the copper eagle to the dome. Fittingly, this symbol of American liberty and freedom will soon resume its watch over downtown Murphy, NC.
The Poltrock Team – REMAX Mountain Properties – Murphy NC – ilovemurphy.com – Call us Toll Free at 1-866-Murphy-NC or 1-866-687-7496 – Murphy’s #1 Real Estate Team