CLINTON — The Van Buren County Courthouse in downtown Clinton has received a face-lift.
Thanks to an $89,600 County Courthouse Restoration Subgrant from the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program in 2012, workers in 2013 removed and replaced all of the mason mortar between the native stones that were used to build the courthouse in 1934. The courthouse, said to be the smallest in Arkansas, was built under the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works program.
Van Buren County Judge Roger Hooper said work on the courthouse has been going on for the past “three or four years to get it in good standing.” He said a new roof was installed during that time.
“We have also been able to remove the dropped ceiling inside the courtroom to allow more light to come in from the windows, which are original to the building,” Hooper said.
The courthouse, at 451 Main St., houses the circuit courtroom and offices of the circuit clerk and the clerk’s staff. A courthouse annex was built in 2006 on U.S. 65 and houses the county courtroom, offices of the county clerk and offices of the county judge.
“We were able to remodel the upstairs of the building after the outside work was done,” said Ester Bass, circuit clerk. “We used $50,000 from the recorder’s cost fund for that project. We opened up the windows so they are back to the way they were when the building was built.
“We were also able to enlarge the courtroom and remodel the judges’ area to give them more room. We put in new carpet, new tables for the lawyers and a new banister between the public seating area and the area used by the lawyers, judge and jury.”
The last thing that remains to be done in the remodeled courtroom is the installation of curtains.
“There is too much light that comes in now,” Bass said with a laugh. “Especially on sunny days, it is too bright in the courtroom. You will be able to raise the curtains so there will still be plenty of light.”
The Van Buren County Master Gardeners and the Maria Van Buren Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the America Revolution, are teaming up to provide a face-lift for the courthouse grounds. Hooper said he hopes the landscaping will be completed by Memorial Day.
“Judge Hooper asked me, as a Master Gardener, to help select plants for the courthouse grounds,” said Steve Smith, chairman of the Master Gardener committee working on the project. “They renovated the old courthouse last year and had to pull out all of the old plants.
“I got involved with two other Master Gardeners to come up with the plants to put around the building. We have selected the plants that will be used, but a contractor will come in and do the actual work.”
Smith said Master Gardener Marolyn Reck has selected plants for the north end of the courthouse, and Master Gardener Dianne Percefull has picked the plants for the southwest quadrant of the courthouse square.
Reck said she will use shade plants such as hostas, camellias and corabells in beds next to the north side of the building, and sun plants that are self-sufficient in beds near the street. She also plans to plant a cherry tree in the area.
“Dianne plans to use four or five different varieties of ornamental grasses on her side of the courthouse,” Smith said.
Smith said the east side of the courthouse will be planted with boxwoods and a new type of holly, Soft Touch Holly. The west side will be planted with azaleas.
Smith said members of the local DAR chapter have chosen knockout roses for the south side of the building, which is the site of a Vietnam War memorial. He said a new variety of abelia grandiflora will also be planted in that location.
“Our Maria Van Buren DAR chapter has always had a working interest in the area where the monument is placed for the men of Van Buren County who lost their lives in the Vietnam conflict,” said Alice George, chapter vice regent. “Our DAR member Diane Hall was responsible for placing the marker in memory of her husband, Gary Hall, and others who died. Our chapter places flowers and flags on Veterans Day and other holidays at that marker.”
George and other members of the DAR chapter presented a $100 check to Hooper on March 28.
“We make this donation in memory of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War Commemoration and for the Arbor Day Celebration,” George said.
Hooper said a grand opening of the courthouse will be held once all of the work on the project is completed.