Back in the 1940s and 1950s, the building that then housed the Paulding County Courthouse was the center of activity.
On Saturdays, men would come to town and sit on benches in front of the courthouse to shoot the breeze.
Square dances were held throughout the year in front of the building and included local entertainment.
And, on the Fourth of July, county residents would head to the building on the square in downtown Dallas for the annual singing and picnic.
“You could hear the music from a mile or two around,” said Paulding County resident Dale Loudermilk, who grew up not far from the old courthouse on Hardee Street.” You could hear all the singing.”
On the holiday, vendors would set up outside the courthouse, selling refreshments such as lemonade, ice cream and watermelon slices, and everyone would gather out in the square for the greased pig contest, in which they competed to see who could catch the pig when it was let out of its crate.
“Whoever caught it could keep it,” Loudermilk said. “That was a big prize back then.”
Do you have any memories of the old courthouse? Tell us in the comments.
The old courthouse, which stands at the corner of Main Street and West Memorial Drive in Dallas was constructed in 1892 at a cost of around $18,337, $1,000 of which was for the town clock in the tower.
During World War II, the steeple was taken off the top of the courthouse and was replaced when the war ended.
“They didn’t know if we were going to be bombed or what, and they thought that if it was sticking up there, it would a good target,” Loudermilk said.
In 1950, the Ordinary for the County, J.W. Watson, had the clock modernized with electricity and repaired the old works for a cost of almost the original price of $1,000 for the clock. On Sept.18, 1980, the courthouse building was listed on The National Register of Historic Places.
The Queen Anne-style building was renovated in 1956, 1984-85 and 1991. During the 1984 renovation, which cost more than $1.4 million, the building was gutted and, though the outside remained unchanged, a fourth story was added to the inside, so the existing windows and the new floors are not aligned, and in some cases, the windows span two floors. The work took several months to complete, and the building was dedicated in 1985.
“It always worried me because they had the walls braced up with big timbers and then built the floors from the ground up on the inside,” Loudermilk said of the renovations. “They did a wonderful job. It was nice.”
Although the renovations cost more than $1 million, the county didn’t go into debt. Loudermilk said that Donald Watson, who served at the time as chairman of the Paulding County Board of Commissioners, had made sure money had been set aside to cover the costs.
In March 2001, the District Attorney’s office was destroyed as a result of arson, causing the courts and county meetings to be held outside the courthouse until repairs could be completed. The county stopped using the building as its courthouse in 2009, when the Watson Government Complex opened on Highway 278. However, the building now houses offices for the Paulding County Genealogy Society, the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The Paulding County Historical Society also has a storage room in the building.
“We have plenty of room for what we want to do, but to me, it is being in a place where so much history of Paulding County was made and where the documents of the history of the county was stored for so many years,” said Loudermilk, a member of the genealogy society. “If the walls could talk, it could tell us many stories of the past that I would like to have the answers to.”