Courthouse cleanup

Snow and ice blanket old Holmesville courthouse last week, leading to broken pipes and collapsed ceiling.

A beautiful scene — snow on the old red-brick Holmesville courthouse — turned into disaster when pipes burst, a ceiling collapsed and water soaked floors, walls, cabinets and historical displays.

Sylvia Blake Johnson of the Brent Rifles Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy discovered the damage Monday when she went to the building prior to a UDC meeting that was scheduled for today.

 “When I went to check the courthouse yesterday afternoon, I knew it was bad before I walked up the steps to unlock the door,” Johnson said Tuesday.

“When I saw puddles of water on the parking lot and water seeping out the doors and walls, I knew there were broken pipes. But as I opened the front door of the old office, the sound of water spraying and splashing was that of being in a heavy downpour. It was certainly a great shock as I saw it was coming out the ceiling in what we call the kitchen area that has a sink and cabinets.”

She contacted Pike County Supervisor Robert Accardo and Holmesville resident and history buff Benton Gibson.

Gibson cut off water and electricity to the building. Holmesville resident and Pike County Historical Society official Malcolm Allen arrived to help as well.

“We were joined by him in our immediate decision to start sweeping water out of the flooded building and trying to save the artifacts displayed there,” Johnson said.

“We spent several hours mopping and sweeping water. One section of sheetrock in the big room ceiling had fallen to reveal beaded board underneath.”

Accardo arrived and climbed into the attic, where he found broken water pipes. Down below, sections of ceiling had collapsed, and water spots marked other areas. In the kitchen, soaked cabinets were delaminated.

Accardo asked county admin-istrator Tami Dangerfield to notify the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and got Jimmy Willoughby, head of the county’s buildings and grounds department, to check things out.

“The damage was bad but it’s fixable,” Accardo said.

“The building will be repaired, obviously. The biggest heartbreak is the damage to the displays and documents that the historical society was restoring.”

The UDC had planned to meet tonight to mark the 159th anniversary of the Ponchatoula Train Wreck of Feb. 27, 1862. That meeting has been canceled.

The historic old building also serves as a polling station for Precinct 13.

“The good news is there’s not a scheduled election that would have been held there,” Accardo said — thus giving county supervisors time to make repairs.

“While it will be up to the (historical) society to save the displays and artifacts, the county will begin the process of repairing and restoring the structure,” he said.

“We have notified the state of the situation and are seeking permission to re-plumb the building without putting the pipes in the attic. This should insure that, even if we do get broken pipes in the future, this type of damage will not happen again. We will also seek all other means to repair and restore the building.

“This building belongs to the people of Pike County and is a legacy of those who came and sacrificed before us. We will be no less diligent than they were as we go about this project.”

Supervisors’ next meeting is 8 a.m. Friday at the court annex in Magnolia.

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