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DAR gets Historic Courthouse tour

Posted on Wednesday, December 27, 2023 at 9:39 am


Bedford County Government photo

With its turbulent history, the Bedford County Historic Courthouse is a representation of the resiliency of the community’s people.

And the Shelbyville Chapter of the Daughters of the America Revolution got to experience some of that history through a tour of the renovated courthouse during their December Chapter meeting.

“The neat thing that has happened with the renovations is you can see much more clearly the history of the courthouse,” said County Archivist Carol Roberts.

The basics of Shelbyville’s founding are related to 1809-1810 donation of 100 acres by Clement Cannon. It was a requirement that the courthouse be a days-ride from residents.

It also sits on the “Shelbyville Plan,” that is, a square, which is an idea brought down from Virginia. Instead of the courthouse sitting on a side street or on a ‘T’ (think Pulaski’s Courthouse), it sits in the middle of roads that run at 90 degree angles.

“Even in other states it’s called the Shelbyville Plan because ours was the one that most prominently used the plan,” said Roberts.

Terrazzo map

When field trips take a tour of the courthouse, Roberts said the kids are always the most fascinate with the terrazzo floor map of Bedford County on the first floor.

“It’s really helpful with the young kids to understand where we are to understand how important the Duck River is,” said Roberts.

During the renovations, they were able to polish and restore the flooring.

Designed in 1935, during the reconstruction of the courthouse, the map is still a good recommendation of the county. Terrazzo, which is made of chips of marble, quartz, granite, or glass poured in with a binder, is almost indestructible, according to Roberts.

Members admire the terrazzo flooring depicting a map of Bedford County from the 1930s.

The DAR Chapter enjoyed pointing their toes at different areas and communities, talking about how some have grown or shrunk in population over the years.

Duck River Room

In the Duck River Conference Room, which is used for smaller committee or department meetings, is a print of a map of Bedford County from 1835, which predates the establishment of Coffee and Marshall Counties. “So this defines the whole of Bedford County in 1835,” said Roberts.

“This was a rough draft of a statewide map in 1835-36,” explained Roberts. It indicates all the mills that were once along the Duck River. One of them was a hemp factory on the Wartrace fork. Near Three Forks Bridge was a wool factory for the farmers who raised sheep in the area.

Members of the chapter listen to County Archivist Carol Roberts, far right, talk about a map of Bedford County hanging in the Courthouse’s Duck River Conference Room.

Historic courtroom

With stunning craft moldings on the ceiling and 1930s-inspired designs, the main courtroom on the second floor is certainly one of the more prized rooms in the courthouse.

Roberts said she was really excited they were able to preserve and restore the original pews for the audience as well as highlight the crown moldings.

“Part of the savings was they went back and maintained as much as possible for this room,” said Roberts. “The decorative treatments of the 1930s design are the simplified version of the 1870s building that was here.”

The “fourth” courthouse was built between 1869 and 1873 after the “third” courthouse was burned down by Union soldiers who were occupying the building during the Civil War, according to the county website. The courthouse was burned down yet again by an angry mob in December 1934.

Today, the “fifth” Bedford County Courthouse, of the Greek Revival design, was built in 1935 at the cost of $175,000 (almost $4 million in today’s money, according to the U.S. inflation calculator). It was built on the same stone foundation of the previous building.

Memorabilia from the Bedford County Archives display buttons from the Shelbyville Sesquicentennial Celebration in October 1969.

Tea party

The DAR members also celebrated the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, which took place on December 16, 1773. A tea party was held in the courthouse’s State Room.