Preserving a gem

Published 8:38 pm Monday, November 22, 2010

When Suffolk opened the Godwin Courts Building in 1998, court officers and citizens got a jewel of a jurisprudential headquarters. With some of the most advanced technology available for courthouses, with thousands of square feet of extra space and with a sparkling new facility to call their own, judges in Suffolk were able to celebrate the benefits that came with moving from the old courthouse at the corner of Main Street and Constance Road into the new one downtown.

Some of those benefits were obvious. Safer courtrooms and public areas, a better and expanded law library and records area and significantly more parking all were features that made the new courthouse especially attractive.

At least one benefit, however, took some time to make itself clear. In fact, only last week did the city finally celebrate the benefit of having a dedicated space for its Department of Tourism. After using the old courthouse since 1998 for storage space, Suffolk finally renovated the historic building this year and has put it to use as a new Visitors’ Center. It’s an appropriate use for a building that has its own degree of attraction for tourists.

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There must have been ample pressure on Suffolk to tear down the old courthouse or to try to sell the property to a private developer. City leaders should be commended for seeing, instead, the advantage of holding onto the structure and using it to help tell a bit about Suffolk’s history. Now, further generations of visitors to the city can enjoy the architectural gem and learn about its significance to Suffolk.