Title: The Restoration of the Nassau County Courthouse
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00099621/00001
 Material Information
Title: The Restoration of the Nassau County Courthouse
Physical Description: 24p. : newspsper clippings, photocopies.
Language: English
Creator: Leuthold, William
Publisher: William Leuthold
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Copyright Date: 1977
Subject: Historic preservation
General Note: Restoration by John Pierce Stevens
General Note: AFA HP document 280
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00099621
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Full Text



Restoration by;
John Pierce Stevens

Presented by;
Bill Leuthold

The Nassau County Courthouse:

Built in 1R91, the courthouse has been a central figure
in the history of Fernandina Beach for 96 years. One
major problem with the building was that it was not main-
tained for the first 73 years of its life, which resulted
in its wood and metal steeple to deteriorate to an almost
unrestorable condition. When this condition was discovered
in 1965, the first thought was to tear the steeple down,
soon to be followed by the rest of the building, and re-
place it with a new, bigger and better courthouse. Luckily
Fernandina Beach is also the home of the Duncan Lamont Clinch
Historical Society, The Fernandina Beach Merchants Assoc-
iation, and the Amelia Island Historical Restoration and
Preservation Commission, Who stood behind the courthouse
and demanded that it be saved. They called in local experts
such as Herschel Shepard, who stated that the courthouse
was of historical importance and could be saved at a lower
cost than building a new courthouse. This lead the County
Commission to restore the old part of the courthouse and
add onto the rear to get more space. This was proposed,
the plans prepared by John Pierce Stevens, and sent out
for bids. When the bids came in, with the lowest being
$267,766 over the budget, it was decided to just go ahead
with the restoration of the existing building. This was
done and has been a great success.

* See attached newspaper articles for additional reference.

The Nassau County Courthouse:

Questions and Answers:

Who was the original architect?

Who was the original builder?

When was it originally built?

What was the original cost?
$10,000 to $12,000

What has its use been since construction?
It has always been the county courthouse.

What was the condition before renovation?
Fair. Following articles go into more detail.

Who were your advisers?
Duncan Lamont Clinch Historical Society.
Haley Keister, structural engineer, consulted on tower.

What is the new function?
County Government as always.

Cost of the new work?
$230,000 He only worked on restoration of the exterior.

How successful was the work?
95 successful.

Thomas A. White was awarded Craftsman of the Year
by the Jacksonville and State A.I.A. chapters for
his work on the building.

The Duncan Lamont Clinch Historical Society of Amelia Island has decid-
ed that the time has come for at least some of the facts regarding the county court-
house renovation and / or destruction, be made available to the taxpayers and citi-
zens of Nassau County. It is with this thought in mind, that this civic organization
has taken the trouble and gone to the expense of publishing a few of these very im-
portant facts. These should and must be considered by the county commissioners
before making the drastic decision to do away forever with our courthouse which
is the oldest, largest, most historical in both design and function, (as well as
beauty) of late Victorian architecture left standing in our land.
FACT: It is a fact that the beautiful steeple which stands atop our courthouse is in
very bad need of repair. It is also a fact that the remainder of the building is in
very bad need of repair, but the most deplorable aspect of this fact is that ,our
county commissioners have allowed this to happen.
FACT: It is a fact that the county commissioners several years ago employed an
architect, Mr. John Pierce Stevens of Jacksonville, to make a "feasibility study and
projected growth survey" for Nassau County in connection with the securing of
ur continued participation in the division of State Race Track funds, which are
divided equally among the counties. Largely on the recommendations and plans
drawn by Mr. Stevens, the county received something over one-half million dol-
lars, which was earmarked for courthouse construction.
FACT: Even though plans were drawn and paid for by the commissioners and
the new race track money was received and deposited in the bank, earmarked for
"New Courthouse Construction"; there is absolutely nothing to keep the commiss-
ioners from spending this money for other purposes, such as: remodeling the pres-
ent courthouse. Should they decide to do so. While actual sketches as to design and
"what the complex might look like" were made by Mr. Stevens and presented to the
commission for the "purpose of the bond issue" ... these sketches have never been
revealed to the public.
FACT: It is a fact that some of the county agencies housed in the present court-
house are in desperate need for additional space. But it is also a fact that all of these
departments or agencies do not have to be housed in the county courthouse. How-
ever, it is certainly a logical and reasonable conclusion to reach that the county
agencies or departments dealing with the legal or law enforcement aspects,of our
county government (such as County and Circuit Court facilities, courtrooms,
Sheriff offices, Small Claims Court facilities, Clerk of the Court, Tax Assessor and
Tax Collector offices, and any other facilities relative to law enforcement), mak-
ing the operation of our county government more efficient and economical, should
Ae housed in the same building. Departments such as County Welfare, School Board
facilities, and other public county services presently housed in our courthouse but
not directly related to law enforcement service, could certainly be moved.

FACT: Sometime ago the County Commissioners invited Mr. Hershel E. She
of Jacksonville to appear before the Commission. Mr. Shepard is m1
authority in the field of restorative architecture, being an1 adViSory l t
Jacksonville Duval Area Planning Council, of which both the Cit mbernandina
Beach and Nassau County are members. He is the architect in chage of the restor-
tion, repairs and preservation of Fort Clinch for the Florida Park Service. t is a
*ct that the public has not been informed that Mr. Shepard in his Survey of the pres
ent courthouse has advised the commissioners that there are many, many good
years of life and usefulness left in our present courthouse and that the cost of reno-
vation and remodeling, including the restoration and repair of the controversial
steeple, would cost less per square foot tian all new construction on a different lo-
cation.. This would certainly solve the question of space and preserve one of the
loveliest old landmarks in our land for at least another quarter of a century.
FACT: "Feasibility reports and projected growth preditions of from forty to sixty
thousand population for Nassau County in the next twenty years or so are certainly
not facts... they are predictions. But it is a fact that all the new construction and
expansion that Mr. John Pierce Stevens proposes in this feasibility and projected
growth report cannot be accomplished without making the taxpayers suffer the
pains, pangs, and unnecessary expenses involved in floating a Bond Issue, which
certainly is the only possible way this new construction can be consommated. At-
torneys fees alone for preparing the necessary paperwork for the bond issue could
amount to more than the total amount of money needed to repair the present court-
house steeple. According to Mr. Shepard's finding and recommendations, if the
property adjoining the present courthouse extending South to Ash Street could be
acquired at the right price, (either by direct purchase or condemnation proceed-
ings). The entire problem of space and preservation and projected growth for the
ext twenty-odd years could be solved without bond issue or any other expense to
e taxpayers, other than the wise spending of the $510,000.00 dollars we now
ve in the bank.
AND NOW. FINALLY IN SUMMING UP OUR FACTS: It is certainly a fact that
it would not be fair to the citizens of Nassau County who do not reside on Amelia
Island and Fernandina Beach to be expected to pay for any historical monument
which would only benefit these selected few. But it most certainly is a fact that
this location happens to be the county seat and because this lovely old historical
monument was built and paid for by all the people of Nassau County should be
preserved and maintained as our courthouse.
NOW, OUR FINAL FACT: It is a fact that many, many citizens of Nassau County
have indicated to our county commissioners, either through personal contact or by
the recent petition circulated throughout the county their feelings and wishes con-
cerning the restoration and preservation of "our old Nassau County courthouse";
together with all its trappings, if such is economical and feasible. The entire
membership of the General Duncan Lamont Clinch Historical Society and all its
friends believe that 'the statements contained in this report to the people of Nas-
sau County are facts that must for the sake of fairness be noted. We most res-
pectfully request that the necessary steps be taken without delay to acquire the
needed property adjoining the courthouse, to implement the repairs and improve-
ments necessary to save the courthouse from further damage and to table any
plans for a bond issue or other new forms of taxation relative to building a new
urthouse at this time.
CE URGE YOU AS TAXPAYERS to contact the county commission and ex-
press your feelings in this most important matter.
The General Duncan Lamont Clinch Historical Society for Nassau County

rC< 1 'n r 1IP'-7

4?* rl h'r I. J, 'hs
ti **t ffice Drraer I
!-rrn;;i;.-a ;-.a'r, Flrida 32034

RHe Improbo~mnto to 'Nast-uj ..csn>.y
courthouse Fern-iiru I n Pac
Job No. 147XX

L o- 7 jddy,

Sy-'ur re.que?,t r have extracted from a taped conversation with Mr.
Ti',r{y .ihit.. Information requested !,y Mr. Willigam Ni. Thurstcn's lettr.-
:f 3C0 :'pt, '} r 1977.

ihl- following Indicates some of thp unusual problems encountered .'-
Srrcedures refquirce in completing the works

1. 'ew dies for the decorative work were made with the use nf
the existing stamryingf after they were removed from the build--
inq, It was required that these existing stamping be built
up and repaired to a certain extent* This work was done with
the use of plaster of parts, hydrocal and bees wax. After the d
dies were made, a 20 ton Hydraulic press was used in lieu rf a
normal punch press operation In order to slow down the forma-
tirn of the sheet metal in an attempt to prevent the tearino ,f
the metal. C~oe tears occurred and were repaired with back-up
solder work. Examination of the original stamped metal work
showed that the manufacturer had the same problem in the pro-
paration of the original work. As an example of the Intrlc;cy
of this work, it took approximately six weeks to make the ,t,.
and strike the pieces for the garlands on the clock and bll
tower. All of the relief work, such as the garlands, flownTr
and rosettes, were made by the making of dies and stamping -f
the pieces.
'. At the consoles, the forming of the Ogee were very difficult.
They had to be made in several parts in order to match a. r.i:;e
forn of the original piece.
3. The pediments used various, nmrtall., such as zinc, lead and some
copper. The replacement parts were made using the most appro-
priate of the metals. They were formed by hand breaking, which
is the same way the original parts wer made.

D*..'. 14,


4. Foamelt~n Qf q M csplts we wri.sta idiffatowlt The iozicgtj wa;
gv~*nii~.r~ 1rn, but djl~c the *t.uophgin nd'.*4d ar.%d the
p4POritllas, Wt Ws the detlslon g M't I.t, to so t i
Less %t'l. ACft.* fo ming, it "as buf fd With'the Idea that
It WoMid Stint shiny ad rmIsea Rflective' for the longest pertnid
of. tlle poo.tble 'Th*. Iwnoi n', the spIre bed to be rwzade and
.,,kvlxt!up frpmAth nrigln4l P4,;U4 Tho nedle (or spike) ,was
apprimtht a$..)y.; ~ivfeet higheiod was rolled from 21 inches s at
Sbaetapeod.tp f inch in 4I'oteva at-tbh tapw Am to aravm1,
Ing L It w0 e pe41itlly dkilQ1Pt toke thI%.tv* nd pluand
5.. At the cornice,' dMIR thtft.' wa x*p nofahcEited Itmge ,
-bl, ceponerts had to be hand lade and %*pnd
They W"0t-pop 4vet" ad end ,0Uvedo Th couldn't bdo,
At th.0 t6*a* b,*MW#ee the# Was vat i i.4 w et aC 48ACh part

6. flu h 0 l a ud wlt% 40/60 atolder-
':;3'1(l. ~ rTwwetiyu-ou?? ) gquaqo gaflvantsd stool w&9 use
for` toiiof' ~the parts with rumors, zinc WW lead u5W -in other
portlbaiof 'the `tfl Wgi.
7. As a metter af, -ntatO0t tod 'a Sho* the: Inmqity f C. ti%
-' he~did Ro1 use a die tlor the, foawig of the ba13s Ofl:th,,OE~
59108o but found 4t a rtel ruxant, and supply houi. 4 Inch
steel soup ladl i *ubi.~h Jw aw~i9~ of -. Thea. were
S84' cCAnSles 1ifi h he usd th."' ita~s. ;
SAlso of Inta to.st, ti fact %tat ho -1ra weld-
ingto~rch- to*C401*Wr all, of the ekcmpcnwrits'tqg$tI@at ukln P4MO '
' 0$dn1ng lrpn,. 3t t!d1S b e 1 to f pe1:'Job'il d
alobe mpve ciwU~t*(-

The black ,and t.'fjra0 '
at,; an' erll r .I or 0t .,

l and 2. of-..Nx; "TVu'SftOOb e a~' !4J*hRO~1gS

tr believe this ;P I

John ierce Stevsns.. A.A, ACWtSGt

cc:/ Mw:

County Commission To Call For Bids N

On Courthouse Roof and Dome Repairs

Meeting yesterday the County The Commissioners asked what a
Commission instructed D. O. Oxley, patch-up job to the dome would cost
clerk, to prepare specifications on but the contractor said it would take
repairs to the roof and the dome of a complete inspection before an
the courthouse so that bids may be estimate could be given.
sought for the repair work. Other repairs to the courthouse
Alternate proposals will also be were discussed but the Commission-
sought as the extent of the repairs ers indicated they did not want to
will depend on funds available at expend too much on the old section
that time. as replacing may be considered.
The action came after a discus- Sheriff H. J. Youngblood inform-
sion on the condition of the roof ed the Commission of recent fire
and the dome, followed by a visit damage to the jail in the amount
into the dome by the Commission of around $400 to the building and
ong with a roofing contractor. $5000 to contents.
The, contractor said the dome The Commission authorized re-
needed irt mediate attention as there placement of the furniture lost and
was a possibility of it collapsing told Oxley to seek proposals for
from rotted timbers and rusted repairs. The damage was covered
metals. by insurance but a figure has not
He said that the bell tower and been established.
dome rebuilding and covering with Youngblood also asked for irm-
stainless steel would require an provements to the jail and sug-
expenditure of between $15,000 and gested that a new jail was highly
$20,000. I desirable.

Source: The Fernandina Beach
July 8, 1965

Looks as if county business will
have to be done in the same old
anliciuated courthouse for some'
tine to come according to the agree-
mentl of three nmemnbers of the CIoun-
It Commission last night on the pro-
per spli of a $1% million revenues
ci tilico(l issle. I strongly oppose
&any efforts at repairing the old
building and feel an expenditure of
.i;15,0(0 as proposed is only throwing
g.oo' money after bad. Maybe it
. would have been the proper time a
couple (.of weeks ago for the Corn-
rmissioners to have visited the office
of the Tax Collector and seen the
colossal mess caused by antiquated
piumbling on an upper floor. Only
speedy shuffling around during theI
"flood" saved important paperss and
records. I wonder if the Commis-
,ioners from the West side of the
county would have the same feeling
about new courthouse facilities if
thl county seat were in that area.

Once again I remind the taxpay-
ers that a considerable' amount of
money is to be spent and it might
be to their benefit to be in on dis-
cussions of where it will go. Elected
officials are not omnipotent and
their primary function is to act as
your voice in matters that concern
you. But they first must know
just how concerned you are.
4- -fr

Source: The Fernandina Beach
June 23, 1966

The 80 year old steeple, per
ched.atop the-scenic but aging
t*i CAn~ T7 Courthouse, has
Soecomme e subject of consider-
:able controversy.
i It all started a month ago when
Nassau County Engineer Richard
,IKing inspected the towering
structure. King, in a report to
.the County Commission, termed
the tower potentially dangerous.
King recommended that the
striiture be torn down as read-
ily as possible. He noted that the
timbers in the steeple had be-
come completely rotten and that
one of the large beams support-
ing the weight df the dome, had
Upon the advice of King, the
Commission, on Oct. 8, approved
the proposal and advised that
the steeple would be removed.
Enter upon the scene the Fern-
andina Beach Merchants Assoc-
iation. In a letter to the Com-
Snissioners, President Eldridge
SPartin urged that the County
give mu ch consideration to
maintaining this historic land-
Said Partin, "... if additional
buildings be needed they could
be constructed in the immediate
vicinity of the present facility.
This approach would eliminate

the costly and' tedious problem
of seeking and purchasing new,
*land, construction of new build-
Sings and would preserve this
historic structure."
This letter brought in an al-
most forgotten aspect of the
Steeple controversy.
At an earlier date the County
Commission had secured funds
amounting to $510,000 for the.
construction, of an entirely new
This brought up the problem
of removing the steeple and then
at a later .date demolishing the
courthouse or to confuse/matters
even more, tear down tee court-
house and the steeple at the
same time and construct a new
building on the same ground.
Getting flustered, just wait.
Suppose that the Commissioners
decide to build another structure
adjacent to the present .court-
house. Then they would be faced
with the problem of whether
or not to put a steeple on a
building that is no longer used.
Then we would have a new
"space age" courthouse in the
same proximity of the present.
1891 building..And.the. old court-
house would have an estimated
$40,000 "new" steeple attached
majestically, atop the old build-

Of course there is another
alternative to this quandry that
the Commission could possibly
They could take the $510,000
that has been allocated and re-
moddel the pnibsent structure,
restore the steeple and have an
all new "old" courthouse.
Then in 20 years we could
allocate another large sum of
money to build a' new court-
house that would accommodate
the present offices. This new
building would be necssitated
'by the great economic growth
forecast for this area in the next
20 years. Some experts estimate
that the popu nation of this
county will' double or possibly
triple in that time period. Even
the most highly devout tradit-
ionalist can see, that a court-
house built to accommodate
county business in a county of
less than 10,000 population in
1891, cannot possibly serve the
needs of an area which has
grown to 60,000 or 80,000 per-
Then in 20 years we would
have all our problems solved.
We would still have a "new"
old courthouse that cost $510,000
to remodel and also a new
structure that would cost

All of our problems would be
solved except for one main item.
We could do all of this much less
So what is being done at this
time to save the steeple, save
the courthouse and save the tax-
Tuesday at the'regular month-
ly meeting of the County Com-
mission, various groups of in-
spired citizens met with the
Commission in an effort to save
the steeple.
J. A. Beard, representing the
Amelia Island Historical Restor-
ation and Preservation Commis-
sion presented a letter to the
Commission which protested the
removal of the clock tower from
the Nassau County Courthouse.
Beard stated in the letter,
"The unique architectural style
of the courthouse is of particu-
lar historic significance and
should be preserved intact.
"After thorough investigation
of all restoration possibilities
and careful consideration of all
aspects involved, we are cer-
tain that you will not permit any-
thing to occur which would in
any way, alter or deface this

(Continued on Page Three)

Tear It Down
(Continued from Page One),
historic landmark."
Also presented to the County
Commission was a letter from
the Fernandina Beach Woman's
Club which recommended that
the spire atop the courthouse be
repaired and that the 1891 land-
mark of our town be preserved.
The letter was signed by Mrs.
B. F. Dickens, President of the
Commission Chairman, J. W.
"Bully" Jones informed the
group that they (Commission)
were aware of the considerable
interest created by the decision
to remove the steeple..
Also given to the group were
several petitions containing sev-
eral hundred names of persons
opposed to the removal.
In answer to the public outcry,
Jones arranged a special meet-
ing with all persons interested in
the "save the steeple" move-
The meeting has been arrang-
ed for 8:00 p. m., Monday, No-
vember 25 at the County Com-
mission Chambers, in the new
addition of the old courthouse,
which if another courthouse is
built could become, "the fairly
new addition of the old court-
house with the $40,000 steeple,
both of which are adjacent to
the brand new courthouse . .
but that's another story.
There is one conclusion that
becomes certain out of this whole
controversy. Something has to,
be done.
For the groups that believe in
the old courthouse and.its stee-
ple, something must be don e.
We agree that many times in
our push for modernization, that
old edifices are torn down in-
discriminately, without thought,
to historical significance.
Our courthouse has great his-
torical significance. This is cer-
tain. Viewed from a distance it
is indeed an imposing structure
and one that records the growth
of this community.
This courthouse should be kept
intact. If economically feasible
the steeple should be restored.
It is possible that some of
those Federal and State funds
that are floating around, could
be found and used to make this
a historical shrine.
It is even possible that it could
be used to house some organiza-
tion or business. This seems to
have worked well for the Cham-
ber of Commerce at their new
headquarters in the old railway
depot building.
The proper course for the Com-
mission to take is beyond our
But something has to be done.
Now is not the time for, political:
expedience to go by the boards.
We have $510,000 allocated for
the building of a new courthouse..
Whether we use this money y
for a new courthouse, an "old"
new courthouse or allocate the
funds for the importation of the
original settlers of the Island,
the Timuquan Indians, the Coun-
ty Commission has to do SOME-
"I think the Courthouse Tower
is an old landmark and a part of
the city. I really feel it should
be repaired and left as it is."
J. W. "Mule" Kittrell
"Our town is disappearing -
the courthouse will be one more
land mark gone that will remove
the evidences of our history."
ola IIaddock

Title: Here's The Courthouse, Here's
The Steeple, Tear It Down.....
What About The People.

Source: The Fernandina Beach News-Leader
October 24, 1968

"My feeling is that the county
should not continue to spend
money piece-meal. Whatever de-
cision is made concerning the
courthouse construction, enough
money should be spent to care
for Nassau County's needs. As
for the tower, I wouldn't miss
Dr. B. F. Dickens
"Leave the tower like it is."
Kenny Braddock
"I feel very strongly that we
should preserve the courthouse."
Gene Lasserre

County C

tonfI ct

To build a courthouse or lot
to build a courthouse ,. that
is the question.
And this is the question that
was debated and debated and
debated for more than two
hours at a special meeting at
the Courthouse Monday night.
The meeting was an indirect
result of a decision last October
by the County Commission 'to
tear down the tower atop the
County Courthouse.
At t at' time County Engineer
Richard King had termed the
edifice a safety hazard and the
Commission had given approval
to have the structure dismantld.
IThis decision was met with
demands by several local citi-
zens for a reversal of action and
a special meeting was called' in
November to discuss the situa-
t this meeting Jacksonville
chitect Herschel Shepard who
was termed by the dissenters to
be an expert on Victorian archi-
tecture was asked to do a survey
on the possibility of saving the
Shepard completed his survey
findings to the County Commis-
sion last week. Commission
Chairman Harry Poole called
the special meeting and asked
for Shepard to explain his find-
ings to the interested citizens.
rAt the Monday night meeting
20 of the area residents attended
and heard Shepard report on the
cost of the steeple and the even
more pressing topic of what to
do about the aging courthouse.
(The County Commission has
indicated that the steeple and
Courthouse are directly related
and that a decision'on one would
economically call for a decision
on the other.
oPreviously the County had au-
thorized $510.000(L in race-track



This small crowd of area residents heard test-
,imony of two leading Jacksonville architects
i.,concerning the feasibility of building a new

future hopes which some-
how did not materialize," said
He added, "There are several
ways that the building 'can be
saved, one of which would be
for a non-profit organization to
take over the structure and turn
it into a museum. This solution
is a must if any federal funds
are to be secured. In my opfn-
ion there is no non-profit cor-
poration in the County that could
afford this measure.
"Study shows that the County
Government needs more space
and if the County stays at this
site the building must be re-
modeled. It is necessary to find
some branch of the government
to utilize this existing space for
the courthouse to be saved. The
other branches of government
cannot stay on this site because
they will soon need more room
and parking facilities.
It was pointed out by Stevens
that he estimates a 46,000 popu-
lation for this county in the next
ten years and that the existing
building could not possibly
house all of the needed govern-1

structure to house the county offices. The
discussion lasted for better than two hours
Monday night.

Source: Fernindina
Beach News-Leader

Citizens Hear Courthouse Proposals

Finally; A Partial Decision On The

Steeple and The $510,000 Fund

The burning controversy over
the 80 year old steeple atop the
Nassau County Courthouse seems
to be over for the time being.
Meeting In special session, the
Nassau County Commissioners,
Monday night informed a public
gathering that no plans are being
made at this time to destroy the

steeple or to move the courthouse
The meeting was called by the
Commissioners in an effort to
obtain public sentiment over the
prospect of tearing the. steeple
The action centered on a re-
port by County Engineer, Rich-
ard King on October 8. On this
date King 'had informed the
Commissioners that due to the
deteriorating condition of the
steeple, he would advise remov-
al of the steeple or immediate ac-
tion of some sort.
The Commission authorized a
study of the removal and were in

agreement that something must
be done "before it fell into At-
lantic Avenue."
At that time a petition was
presented from the Merchants
Association for the County to
preserve the Courthouse.
The steeple added emphasis
on the fact that some decision
must be made on the renovating
or remodeling or removal of the
Money had been allocated pre-
viously for such a measure.
Money in the amount of $510,000
had been secured from race
track funds for the financing of
(Continued on Page Three)<

vision On The Steepl

(Continued from Page One)

.ructure to house county of-
,A large number of persons at-
mnded this special meeting in
the courtroom on the second
floor of the courthouse.
The meeting was called to or-
der by Commission Chairman,
J. W. (Bully) Janes. Jones asked
all interested parties to partice-
pate by stating their views to
the Commission. Sitting with the
Commission was County Engin-
eer Richard King.
Several local citizens spoke to
the Commissioners and expres-
sed their views on the steeple
and the courthouse. Sentiment
was definitely in favor of keep-
ing the present steeple and
Local attorney Albin C.
Thompson asked the Commis-
sion to consider retaining the
present structure.
City Commisssioner John Till-
akos also questioned the Com-
mission and asked did they have
the $510,000 in their possession
and could it be used for what
different purposes?
Chairman Jones said that the
money could be put into many
different allocations, a primary
one being the construction of
Jones said that "the money
was allocated before I came on
#hn 0-- Sinn 1"

ately two hours and Chairman
Jones concluded by saying "All
avenues will be explored for the
restoration of the courthouse."
County Commissioners meet
in December.
Questions left unanswered in
the meeting are as follows:
1. Will the County Commission
restore the old building?
2. Will the County Commission
restore the old steeple and how
much will this restoration cost?
3. What will be done to house
the county facilities in coming
years due to a forecast of a pop-
ulation increase in this county?
4. Will we have an all new
"old" courthouse adjacent to the
fairly new annex, adjacent to the
all new courthouse or will we
retain the old courthouse, make
it into a "new courthouse" and
keep the annex where it is at the
present time.
5. Where are the missing plans
for a new courthouse?
6. Will the Timuquan Indians
come back and inhabit the Is-
land? Will we retain our "status
quo", cut ourselves off from the
outside world and forget about
7. Will the County Commission
finally do something once and
for all about whether we have
a new courthouse or remodel the
old one? After all, in the final


The Fernandina
News- Leader

e.V y ,

...c~ UVIIIIYUIIVY ~------ L-- _ ------ --^ ---^^-

County Eyes $40 0,0i

Courthouse Addition

Preliminary plans tor a
$400.000 addition to the Nassau
County Courthouse were un-
veiled Tuesday, along with
pleas from local restoration
committee officials that the
Nassau County Commission
proceed with caution.

Restoration Committee
President Suzanne Hardee
urged the commission to
"demand architectural integ-
rity" in planning for the
three-story addition, to pre-
serve intact the historic value
of the Courthouse.

Mrs. *Hardee called the
Courthouse annex, a recent
addition to the historic
building, an architecturall
monstrosity" and urged that a
portion of the annex section be
removed or reworked.
County Commission Chair-

Architect John I'lerce Stevens explains preliminary courthouse expansion plans to the county y
Con miissioners, ,

Roscoe Moore, President of
the Fernandina Beach Cham-
ber of Commerce, asked that
an architectural rendering of
the building restoration be
drawn up and made available.
The Commissidn approved a,
resolution to that effect.
The planned courthouse
addition would call for a
major reshuffling of county
officials' office locations.
Sheriff's Department facili-
ties would be expanded with a
holding room, interview
rooms, records vault and rest
room facilities. The Supervi-
sor of Elections would move
into the present Sheriffs
offices. !

The second floor would be
devoted primarily to court
facilities, with a County
CoUrtroom added near the
present, Circuit courtroom.
Also ad.ed would be a witness
room, jury room, grand jury
room, lawyers conference
rooms and other office areas.
The present County Commis-
sion board room would be
movedito the third floor, as
would 'the State Attorney's
Office. Both would be expan-
ded, with a seating capacity
for about 75 in the new
Commission board room.

man D.H. Buchanan sa
"we've just got to get tt
space" that the cdurthous
addition would provide, "bi
not with such haste th;
mistakes might be made."
Architect John Pierce Stei
ens presented drawings fc
the proposed courthouse add
tion, which he said would cos
"at least $400,000."' Th
Commissioners indicate
funds for the project "ar
already in the bank,',' an
have been for some time.
The addition would brovid
new larger quarters 'for th
Sheriff's Department ]on th
first floor, enlarged cour
facilities including a Count:
Courtroom in addition to th!
present Circuit Courtrpom or
the second floor, and nev
State Attorneys Office quar
ters plus a new Count3
Commissioners' meeting roon
on the third floor.
A "small hydraulic, eleva
tor" would be installed in th(
new addition as well!
Stevens said his plans called
for "what's necessary anc
nothing more," calling them
"the minimum type, of gooc
He noted the addition would
be .planned to "follow the
desigi n ofhe present Court-
house," with same color
bricks and similar masonry
used if possible.
tisiorical Society member
George Davis asked why
"needed repairs" have not
been made to the Courthouse
steeple, and was told suffic-
ient funds are not available.
Davis said of the planned
construction, "V.e don't want
another horrible addition like
the (annex) we have now."
He said it would be
"prudent" for thp board's
architect to work! with the'
local restoration :committee
and historical society in
drawing up plans. Davis
added a request that the
courthouse steeple be "re-
paired, restored,i and made

Source: The Fernandina Beach
News- Leader
Nov. 29, 1973

Group Wants to See

Courthouse Plans

Officers of the local Histori-
cal Society met Monday night
to evaluate the county
commission's announcement
last week that a $400,000
addition to the historic Nassau
County Courthouse will be
constructed in the near future.
The Historical Society mem-
bers had indicated some
misgivings about the original
plans for the courthouse
addition, although architect
James Stevens later agreed to
modify the plans to meet the
Society's recommendations.
Monday, the Society direc-
tors indicated they will delay
taking a position for or against
the courthouse addition until
they have an opportunity to
see the final, modified
construction plans.
Society President Glenn
Matthews stated, "V.e haye
nothing to be hostile about."
Mrs. Suzanne Hardee, who
attended last week's county
commission meetrig, said she
felt the architect was amean-
able to the Society's sugges-
tions and felt the plans are
generally satisfactory. She
commended the county for
allowing the Historical Society
to sit in on forthcoming
planning sessions on the
courthouse work.
Mrs. Hardee repeated her
statement of last week that the
present courthouse annex
should be renovated, calling it
an architectural "horror."
She said the architect's
plans call for the courthouse
addition to be a "modern
adaptation" of the present
courthouse. "You get the
Impression of the old in the

new," she said.
Eldridge Partin noted that
while the county is planning to
spend $400,0;00 "to add on to an
84-year old building," there
has been little or no
maintenance of the present
structure during the past 25
years. He said funds should be
made available for preserving
and maintaining the Court-
house itself.
Society officer V..N. Galphin
agreed, saying the group
should attempt to obtain a
commitment for repairs to
the old Courthouse section.
Matthews suggested that a
meeting be arranged between
the commission's architect,
commission members, and
Historical Society officers to
discuss plans for the court-
house. "V.e should see the
(modified) plans to get a real
idea of exactly what we're
talking about," he said.
Partin agreed that the
county commission should be
contacted, so the Society will
have an input as to the final
design plans.
"\.e're not at opposite
ends," Mrs. Hardee stated.
"The Historical Society and
the County Commission. are
working toward the same
The commission's plans call
for a small portion of the
present courthouse building at
the rear of the facility to be
removed. A three-story addi-
tion will be constructed in the
area, housing enlarged Sher-
iff's Department facilities on
the first floor, with courtroom
additions and other improve-
ments on the other two floors.

Source: The Fernandina Beach News-Leader
Dec. 6, 1973


-Cdurthouse Addlitin Planned

Architect John Pierce Stev- house addition can be c- local historical society and
ens presented plans for a structed for the original restoration commission pro-
$400,000 addition to the Nassau estimated $400,000. Constr- tested that the addition should
County Courthouse Tuesday, tion costs have scored recent not be allowed to become an
with the announcement that due to skyrocketing mater 1 "architectural monstrosity"
bids for the construction and labor costs. on the order of the courthouse
project will be opened April 9. Plans for the three-st annex building.
Stevens said he was "hope- addition were. modified Stevens said his modifica-
Sful" that the planned court- Stevens after members of tions were made' "in an
attempt to balance historical
requirements with interior
\function." He said brickwork
around outside windows will
be. identical to the present
courthouse building design,
and that the courthouse front
entrance has been reproduced
for the east side of the new
Historical society member
Eldridge Partin, present at
the Tuesday meeting, said his
Organization was "generally
satisfied" with the new
construction plans.
However, local historian
George Davis questioned a
suggestion that the entire
exterior of the present
courthouse be coated with a
plasticizerr" substance to
waterproof the building. The
suggestion apparently has not
yet been approved for action.
It was also reported
Tuesday that some local
residents may ask the County
Commission to delay construc-
tion of the courthouse addition
for one year, to allow time for
stabilization of construction
\ costs.

county May Revise Plan.

*or Courthouse Addition

Lis i o iaddl a three-floor
I ,'io.i, to the Nassau County
', 'thiluse may be revised to
,itlole soine provisions which'
,,' dded for the benefit of
i. e lFrnaiidina Beach histoln-
':;i restoration program.
',unlty Commission Chair-
i-,n A Ray Beville said ar-
chtilect John Pierce Stevens
sl. dii be asked to revise plans
tr ihe proposed addition to cut
i C.;lr d,~r ion costs.
I'lnit 0,titY Cumniuisiull bad.

called for bids on the proposed
CuUrtlouise addition in May,
expeding'thatlhe project could
be completed for about
$400,00. Some $430,000 had,
been set aside for the job.
But the lowest bid received
was for $667,766. The Commis-
sion rejected all of the bids,
saying it didn't have enough
money to cover the higher-
than-anticipated cost.
The architectural plans for
the proposed addition were
:dravn up in colultatioa witL h

, age 2. t"ernuridina Beach News-Leader, November 14.

the local Historic R esoi ,nit,
committee. Members i.! til
group had asked the (:oii.s
sion to consider the historical
significance of the Courthouse
brwlding and avoid building dr
"architectural horror."
But Tuesday, the alter of
the Courthouse addition camte
up again, with Beville saying
the plans should be revised
"not necessarily to comply with
the wishes of the Fernandina
Beach historical society."
Beville said three contractors
had told him the courthouse
addition could be constructed
substantially below the $667,76i
figure if the plans are revised.
Beville also indicated Ste-
vens should revise the plans
free of charge to the county.'
"We got a S480,000 estimate and
a $670,000 bid," he remarked.
Beville indicated a spirit of
compromise will be needed in
drawing up the proposed new
Sl He also said enough changes
may be possible inside the
proposed courthouse addition
to eliminate the need for signi-
ficant exterior re-design
Beville said he had "com-
plete confidence" in Stevens
"to get us back down to where
we can go to work on this
County Clerk D.O. OKley
noted that air conditioning in
the Courthouse itself "needs a
complete overhaul" before it is
us d again. lle estimated tie
oib woulil cost up to $10,(tl).
'rite Courthouse .lditliolt, if
con.btlructed. would be built on
the south side ot tihe pres*'it
courthou.e building.

Page 3, October 16, 1975, Fernandina Beach News-Leader

County Courthiouse 'Top Priority'

Local attorney Arthur I.
"Buddy" Jacobs said Tuesday
the Nassau County Courthouse
will recieve top priority in

Legislature in April.
Jacobs said he met with the
State Historic Preservation
Project Review Council Thurs-

review preliminary proposals
for historic preservation pro-
jects under consideration for
state matching grant assis-

receiving state matching grant day in Tallahassee. The pur-
assistance from the Florida pose of the meeting was to Projects recommended by

the council will be included in
the state historic preservation
program for 1976-1977.
Jacobs said he also met with
Rep. George Grosse of the 15th
Congressional District and
discussed the matter with him.

(Nassau County

Page H, July 22. 1976. Fvi nan&h.

Courthouse Gets Fac




- -. ^

A Lcosmetic facelift", a painter delicately brushes a coat of
green paint to one of the framed courthouse windows,

is also another flight of
stairs which leads to the
The attic, which is quite
large, houses many old
county records and papers.
There are two oculi in the
ceiling allowing light to
filter through and three
Romanesque arched win-
dows in the front. There
is an old bell in the attic,
Downstairs, the annex
was added in 1954. The first
floor houses the Clerk of
Circuit Court and the
second floor contains the
Board of County Commis-
sioners and the Property
Appraiser. The annex was
constructed in a rather
modern style and was not
adapted to the style of the
original building.
The space between the
main building and the
annex was utilized in 1962.
This area is where the back
portion of the Sheriff's
nornprtlnnt it now located.


Unlike many of today's
buildings, one thing can be
said of the Nassau County
Courthouse -- it has re-
mained almost in its origi-
nal state.
The Romanesque struc-
ture was built in 1892 with
brick and wood as the main
elements. All staircases
are made of wood just as
the floor is, although it has
been covered with tile.
About half of the wall 'is
made of wood, too. The
other half is of plaster.
There are wooden benches
attached to the floor of the
first level. The outside is
done in brick.
S As one enters through the

main entrance he sees a
long hall with offices on
both sides. There is a
staircase to the right and a
very narrow one in the rear.
which least 'n the judge's
chambers .on the second
floor. There is also a plank
on the right which leads to
the annex. The first floor
houses the offices of the
Supervisor of Elections,
the Tax Collector, Clerk of
County Court, and the
Sheriff's Department.
On the second floor of the
main building is the Circuit
Court Room and the County
Court judge's chambers.
There is a door here which
opens to the balcony. There

lit .,, ..__

Courthouse attic is filled with dust, old files, papers, and
records. J

e Lift

The outside of the court-
house is presently under-
going renovation at a cost
of more than $200,000.
When it is completed, the
building will look the same
as it did in 1892.
There are four entrances
to the building. One is at
the annex and the others
are on the main building.
The one used most widely
is the entrance in the front.
It has steps leading to the
door which is surrounded
by an arch and two win-
dows. Corinthian columns
serve as supports.
Another entrance is on
Sthe east side and looks
almost the same as the
front entrance. On top of
the east side of the building
there lies a pediment of
At the very top of the
courthouse is a steeple,
where the Nassau County
Bar Association has offer-
ed to install a clock.

MI .fil I *l




Clocked In
The restoration of the old court-
house in Fernandina Beach
reached a watershed point last
week with the installation of four
clocks measuring more than five

Source: The Jacksonville
May 16,1977

feet in diameter in the building's
reconstructed tower. Plans for the
$200,000 project include a proposal
to have the clocks actuate an 87-
year-old bell. The new tower is an
exact replica of the original which
dates back to 1891 when the
building first was constructed.


Nassau Plans Repair

Work On Courthouse

Journal Staff Writer
The first major remodeling
and repair work project in-
volving the 85-year-old Nas-
sau County Courthouse was
scheduled to start this week.
Walker Construction Co. of
Hilliard is the contrac-
tor of the $202,000 project
which is expected to take
about three months.
Nassau County Commis-
sion Chairman John F. Arm-
strong and Circuit Court
Clerk D.O. Oxley said re-
pairs are needed throughout
the two-story structure.
The first repairs are ex-
pected to be made on the
roof on the courthouse annex
which was built in 1954. The

annex houses the commis-
sion's meeting room.
From there workmen will
make repairs on the cornice
and steeple.
Helen Litrico, secretary of
the Amelia Island Fernandi-
na Restoration Foundation,
Inc., said several years ago
there had been talk of re-
moving the steeple, "but his-
tory lovers made such a
protest that the steeple was
She said the building is lo-
cated in the Centre Street
historic district which is list-
ed in the National Register
of Historic Places.
Jacksonville restoration
artisan Tommy White has
been commissioned to do the
restoration work on the bell

Source: The Jacksonville

May 25, 1977

tower, clock tower and
steeple which are located on
top of each other and are
about 50 feet high.
White said "the bell will
be electronically activated
so it can be ning, and
there's talk that a clock sim-
ilar to Jacob's Jewelers will
be installed in the clock tow-
He is doing the subcon-
tracting work for Walker
Construction Co.
Oxley said the bell weighs
about 1,000 pounds and has
a two to three pound clack-
er. The last time it rang
was at least 20 years ago
and may have been as long
as 40 years.
It was six years ago that
a sound was made from it.
Oxley struck it with a 50
cent piece and the noise
could be heard two blocks
The courthouse has served
as offices for the state attor-
ney's staff off-and-on
throughout the years. Now
offices for the state attorney
are located across the street
in the post office.
Today, there are about 40
employes working in the
courthouse and assigned to
such offices as supervisor of
elections, sheriff, tax asses-
sor, county court and tax

Journal Staff Writer
Nassau County decided to restore
the courthouse tower in Fernandina,
city officials knew just the man for
the job:

Tommy White comes from a
long line of woodcrafters. His father
and grandfather were skilled
craftsmen in Columbus, Ga. And
White, who has lived in Jacksonville
all his life, continued their skill.

John Pierce Stevens, an archi-
tect who is involved in this project
said in his recommendation for
White for the Mellen C. Greeley
Craftsmanship Award "It has been a
satisfying experience working with
this gentleman on this restoration
work." The Jacksonville Chapter of
the American Institute of Architec-
ture recently presented White with
this award.

"There are so few artists who
are experienced in construction or
reconstruction of this type. I guess
that's why they chose me to do the
job. Of course, I'm real honored to
do the work. The building was
erected in 1891 and is proposed to be
the finest example of a Victorian
courthouse in this part of the coun-
try," White said.
The 60-year-old man has a wide
variety of architectural skills. lie has
worked on carousel figures for the
Smithsonian Institute, done a large
amount of work on the merry-go-
round in the Barnum and Bailey Cir-
cus World Amusement Park and
made a pipe organ for the John and
Mabel Ringling Museum of Art in

"I used to build and design rac-
ing boats. Three of my boats set
world records in 1953. I also drove
racing automobiles and flew in a
stunt show prior to my accident in
1942." Although White lost one of his
hands, his artistic abilityremained
untouched. Ile went on to teach auto-
mobile mechanics and mechanical
theory at Florida Junior College.
"My son and I love sports cars.
We're both Jaguar nuts. But I would
never want him to race like I did. lie
hasn't got the right temperament for
that sort of competition," White said.

But when it comes to being a
craftsman, Billy, White's 20-year-old
son, has proven to have his father's
talent. "lie and I work together. We
have a little shop in town. It doesn't
have a telephone so nobody can call
when I'm not there and say I'm irre-
sponsible. As long as they can't find
me, I'm safe," White laughed.

The father and son team have
worked steadily on reconstructing
the tower and spire to its original de-
sign. Their work started last June on
what wasoriginally slated to be a
four month task. Due to a particular-
ly cold and rainy winter the job has
taken nine months longer than ex-
pected. Thursday is expected to be

type construction, All the; various
embellishments and the fancy mold
ings were carefully removed anc
new dies were made. The panel;
were removed, labeled,numberec
and taken to Jacksonville where the3
were copied and replaced."

The final touches are being
made now as the tower is painted
white. The townspeople reportedly
are very pleased with White's work.
But D. O. Oxley, the clerk of the cir-
cuit court, whose office is in the
building, had one complaint. "I think
Tommy has done a fine job but I
wanted lights on the clocks and the
bell to ring the hours. I think that is

Title: His Skills Wi

the dedication day with a small cere-
mony taking place at the courthouse.

Their biggest task has been the
construction of a four faced clock on
the clock level of the tower. "The
clocks will run on a single drive
mechanism. Each is made out of
wood one-inch thick while the sur-
rounding moldings and the Egyptian
style spire are made of metal applied
to wood," White said.

"We buffed up the spire so that
it would glisten in the sun and
shouldn'tever tarnish. That's about
the only deviation from the original

Very important and I'm disappo
it wasn't done."
S "The bell was made by Mai
and Company from West Troy, P
in 1889. It weighs one and half
I'd say and was made in 188!
Maneely and Company in West.']
N. Y.," White said.

As for his plans after the t
is completely finished, White
he'd like to go visit his father's i
ily in Columbus. He also has a jc
construct new wheels for the c,
Outside the Department of Ret
tion on Market Street,whichuse
be the Duval County Armory.

.11 Tower Over

Source: The Jacksonville Journal
July 16, 1977

Scaffolding Comes Down ,F

As Craftsmen Complete

Facelift Of Historic

Nassau County

Courthouse Building

The old courthouse, now free from its surrounding scaffolding,
proudly stands displaying its decorative metal work, its new
steeple and clock, all produced by the hands of a craftsman.
This Thursday afternoon at 5 p.m., the "new" Nassau County
Courthouse will be dedicated in a ceremony which will recognize
the man who put it all together.
Tommy White, who has made paddle wheels for showboats, and
just about everything else, now has become known for the work
done on the courthouse building.
His talent recently won him the Craftsman of the Year Award
from the Amierican Institute"of Architects in- the Jacksonville
area. He has been nominated for the AIA state award.
SWhite is credited with all the metal work, restoring me building
to original design. The steeple, bent and shaped by his hands, is of
the same design that stood on top of the dome years ago.
The clock, which was always planned since the building was
erected decades ago, is completed. White, as confident as he is
skillful, says, "It's going to work well."
Many residents who have come to Fernandina Beach during the
past year have never seen the building without the scaffolding. *
"It's been there well in excess of a year," said County Clerk
D.O. Oxley. He pointed out, however, the scaffolding was erected
first to refurbish the bricks and other items on the structure as
The reconstruction of the front area of the building is part of an
overall project designed to repair and upgrade the outside of the
courthouse building.
Oxley noted that the entire project will have cost nearly
The courthouse was awarded a $6,000 federal grant to be
applied to the renovation project earlier this year. The offer was
declined, however, when federal agencies required too many
regulations attached to the money.
"It's something that the whole county can be proud of. It's truly
a beautiful building," one county commissioner said this week.
Full details concerning Thursday's ceremony were unavailable
to the News-Leader late Tuesday afternoon, but it was noted by
county officials that the public is welcome to attend the event.
"We'd like as many people as possible to come out Thursday
afternoon," said Chairman of the County Board of Commissioners
John Armstrong.
Source: The
Fernandina Beach
July 20, 1977

'LI; h*b"

Looking Good

i' '

t, >, *. ,* .' . . :y-

1,',: ..


Facelift Is Finished
The old lady has a facelift and she's looking good. The Fernandina Beach
Courthouse will be rededicated today at 5 p.m., and the natives couldn't be
prouder of the old building. Tommy White and his son of Jacksonville have
"worked 85 hours a week for 56 weeks" to rebuild the tower. The total resto-
ration cost about a quarter-million dollars. Today they'll start the clock and
she'll be off and running again. Story on Page A-16.

.- The orida.Tlmes-Union, Jacksonville, Thursda, July 21, 1977

lc Courthouse Fernandina Focal Point

-- Times-Union Staff Writer
S FERNANDINA BEACH Its red bricks match the
-' .summer sun's intensity, its silver spire is eye-blindingly
--bright and shiny. Few people brave the hot, muggy
Sweater and the town's streets and sidewalks are all but
S The Victorian building is the city's focal point. In-
'side, clerks shuffle papers, county commissioners con-
:duct business, taxes are collected, seals are affixed,
0ourt is held:
Nothing,.it would seem, has changed since the Nas-
sau County Courthouse in Fernandina was dedicated
'April 12. 1892. Old photographs show the same empty
Streets, the same silver spire rising above the tree tops,
the same dominant position on Centre Street.
That's the way the building's restorers planned it,
Sbut it almost didn't happen.
;. Dean Oxley, clerk of the Circuit Court and "custodj-
San of the courthouse," admits the tower was almost torn
"The tower had deterorated to such an extent it
I could've fallen," he says. "Eight years ago it had leaned
over m front. We called in the Road Department and
ihey jacked it up and put a 10 by 10 timber under it."
S "We were afraid to remove the sheetmetal prior to
shonng it up," says Tommy Whute, the craftsman tasked-
SVith restoring the building.
Longtime natives and newly arrived residents at-
.racted by Fernandina's turn-of-the-century charm pro-
A tested plans to destroy the tower and won. Their ap-
preciation for the building was seconded by a National
Registry of Historic Places report rating the courthouse,
S'one of the few Victorian courthouses left in the state,
"unquestionably the finest in quality of detail and -work-
Smanship in the state of Florida."
Finding the $220,000 for restoration was the easy
part compared with some of White's efforts. It took 16
garbage bags to remove the pigeon droppings that had
accumulated in the tower over an 84 year period.
:.-I "I started June 11, 1976," White says. "I and my son,
SBilly, have worked about 85 hours a week for 56 weeks.
:Each piece of old, rusty metal was taken down and iden-
l. tified as to location. We took them to Jacksonville for du-
: -plication then brought them back. It's the same guage
material as on the original only it's of galvanized steel.
There are 40,000 rivets in here.

Times-Union Photos
By Allan Walker

rne original ornamentation was carefully removed.
We waxed all the different parts as they would do in a
dental lab, made new dies and hand finished the various
: The original. sheetmetal work was done by a com-
pany in Ohio then shipped to Fernandina for assembly,
nueh like today's pre-fab operations.
"It was quite a feat atha that time," White says. "I'd
be hard pressed to do it today."
Hardd pressed or not, White did it and won a
Craftsman of the Year award from the Jacksonville
chapter of the American Institute of Architects and has
been nominated for an award on the state level.
To reach the bell tower, you climb the three flights
of stairs up to the building's record strewn attic then ne-
gotiate newly built ship-steep steps, dodging the large
bronze bell before straightening up. The view is impres-
sive shrimp boats in the harbor, tree tops, glare-blue
ocean. The bell, built by Meneely and Company of West
Troy, N.Y., in 1889, has a mellow, small-town sound, the
same tone that alerted residents to fires before the days
b f break-glass-in-case-of-fire boxes.
."The primary purpose of the bell was to set off the
fire'alarm system," confirms George Davis, a fifth gen-
pration Fernandina resident. "Everybody had wood shin-
gle roofs," he added, and if you were downwind of a fire,
Syou headed to the roof with buckets of water to douse
sparks. The city was divided into fire zones and after a
rousing series of clangs, the bell would ring out by num-
ber the location of the fire.
'"They used to have little cards that would tell ydll
the code," Davis recalls,
Every day, the bell would toll the hour, not of noon,
but of 11 a.m., to commemorate the Armistice.
:"I remember as a child the bell always rang at 11
o'clock. It was a time of silent meditation for the fallen
dead of World War I," Davis says. "Pepple .would st6p
for maybe a moment's meditation," ,
% i There is one change in the courthouse four R1o-
m- an numeralled clocks. The original tower left space for
them but none was ever installed. White, known by many
for.his restoration of the Jacob's clock in downtown
Jacksonville, has taken care of that omission.
SThe clock will start ticking at 5 p.m. today, when the
re-dedication ceremony is held, and residents will have
more than aesthetic reasons to look up at the tower. In
days past, they looked up for entertainment.
S.. "It (the courthouse) had a beautiful wrought iron
balcony on front of it," Davis says. "All the political ral-
lies were held there. I remember the bands on the front
porch. The traveling Chautauqua, a road show, used to
a always be held in the vacant lot next door where the
bank now stands.
S "William Jennings Bryan came here to speak with
the Chautauqua. If somebody prominent like that came
there were no public address systems he'd make his
address from the balcony.
"One of the things I remember most from my child-
hood, we had a very famous congressman here, (Claude
Pepper, he believes). He used to always recite "In Flan-
ders Field." lie was making a political speech from the
balcony and the people asked him to recite the poem.
"When he was reciting the bell began to ring (for the
Armistice). Whether he planned it this way or it was just
coincidence, no one knew. It was impressive. Needless to
say, he carried Nassau County.
The balcony went the way of a cutting torch because
of maintenance costs and was.not included in the restora-
tion, though not many people have noticed its absence.
Why did the county restore the courthouse tower in-
stead of tearing it down?
"We heard from the people," says Fred Armstrong,
S chairman of the County Commissioners.
"It was the meeting place," Davis says. "It was the
very heart of the town."
It still is.


Re: Mr. Thomas A. White

I consider this work exceptional because it required much hand work in

the shop, preparation of dies to refabricate deteriorated details, the

breaking of sheetmetal to meet the exact dimensions of the existing back-

up. The original work was built in 1892.

At the cornice, Mr. White prepared jigs and cut and assembled each con-

sole. To each side of the console was applied a raised leaf detail die

stamped from lead sheets. His work included the frieze and milding

down to the brickwork. The pediments including the tympanums are all of

metal and were made and installed by Mr. White.

The tower is composed basically of a bell level, clock level, cupola

and an ornamental spire all of metal and applied over a wood structure.

This work required the fabrication and installation of louvers, garlands,

wreaths, small consoles, rosettes, pilasters, small pediments, as well

as all of the remaining exterior metal covering of the tower.

During this period, he was also given the task of furnishing and in-

stalling a four (4) face clock. The diameters are approximately 65

inches. This work consisted of the metal facing with plywood back up,

numerals, hands, motorized drive and application of all custom painting.


R0 Th;Nea^ h. AWhit6

Page Two

Mr. White paid particular attention to detail and maintained graat

accuracy in his work. He was very conscientious throughout the en-

tire project.

The Job was further complicated by the requirement of working on

open scaffolding at heights up to one hundred (100) feet above

grade, handling large pieces of sheetmetal in high winds and other
related difficulties.

Please note this project was scheduled for completion in September

1976, but due to almost 100 percent replacement of the back up work,

undue cold and rain, as well as the workmanship required, the project

was delayed.

Confidentially, I would also attest further to this man's ability in

that he handles all of his work, whatever it is, with the use of one

natural hand. The other has been a prosthetic device most of his adult

life. )

It has been a satisfying experience working with this gentleman r .. /

this restoration work. '1'

Respectfullye su itted

John Pierce Stevens, A.I.A.


New metal

Another view
of new cornice.


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Craftsman Tommy White inspecting work.

Source: Architect's photograph.


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Reconstructed Steeple.

Source: Architect's photograph.


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