Rowan Countians get a look at new courtrooms in Justice Center
By Shavonne Potts
“All rise” were the first words a group heard from a bailiff as they stood inside one of two new courtrooms inside the Rowan County Justice Center.
It was not the beginning of a criminal trial, but a ceremonial session of Superior Court Wednesday that included an open house and dedication service.
Court personnel, including Rowan District Attorney Bill Kenerly, District Court Judge Marshall Bickett, Rose Cox with the probation office, and many more gathered in a courtroom and for a reception afterward.
Superior Court Judge John L. Holshouser presided over the ceremony.
Holshouser told of key moments in history for the Rowan justice system.
“Let your minds drift back some 256 years ago, virtually this month, when in 1753 the first little courthouse was built in Rowan County,” he said.
The courthouse sat on what is now the intersection of Innes and Main streets.
“It was a one-room wooden building that measured 30 feet by 20 feet, much the size of this room today,” Holshouser said.
One of the first justices to preside was Squire Boone, father of Daniel Boone. Andrew Jackson also practiced law there, he said.
That courthouse was replaced in 1800 by a two-story glass and brick building, which housed the courtroom, register of deeds and Masonic Lodge, Holshouser said.
In 1855, a third courthouse was built. In 1912, the granite courthouse that now houses the Superior courtroom was built. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the courthouse underwent a renovation.
The new courtrooms are on the third floor of what was formerly the Rufty Building, a car dealership, that anchors the north end of the Justice Center, which was completed in 1995.
The need for extra space came after court officials said they had increased caseloads and not enough courtroom space.
At times, Civil Superior Court sessions had been held in the county commissioners’ meeting room, in the Rowan Museum and in a small room used for small claims court.
District Court Judge Marshall Bickett has already held a session in one of the new courtrooms.
Bickett said the new space was great, it has more light and has windows. The current district court rooms have no windows.
“We’ve been crowded, holding court in the magistrate’s court. It’s nice to have another courtroom so we can give the public a nice place to come and have their cases heard,” he said.
Clerk of Court Jeff Barger agreed, saying they had five district court judges and only four courtrooms.
“I’m glad to have that extra space to be able to fully manage our courts,” he said.
Barger helps keep track of which judge is holding court in which room.
WareBonsall Architects of Charlotte did the design work for the project.