The historic courthouse in Appling is still serving Columbia County, even after the opening of the Columbia County Justice Center in 2002.
Superior Court judges hold court at least twice a year in Appling, maintaining its status as the oldest continually-operating courthouse in Georgia.
“It is a grand old courthouse,” said Tom Gunnels, Augusta Judicial Circuit courthouse administrator. “It was beautiful.”
The courthouse sits on about five acres of land donated to the county by William Appling in 1792.
After the General Assembly authorized funding for courthouse construction twice, the courthouse was completed in 1812. This structure became the core of the new courthouse, which was built in 1856.
The courthouse, which housed most county court offices, temporarily closed in 2005 while undergoing more than $800,000 in renovations.
In 2006, the courthouse reopened after improvements to the pine floors, new paint, shutters and chandeliers.
“But it was virtually impossible to modernize it,” Gunnels said. “We couldn’t modernize it enough without spending a fortune.”
There is no handicap access to the second floor courtroom, the walls are concrete and inmate holding facilities are limited, Gunnels said.
Sometimes, if you stood in the right place in the courtroom, you could overhear heated deliberations from the jury room, Superior Court Judge James G. Blanchard Jr. said.
Unfortunately, renovations couldn’t accommodate technology, the movement of residents to the Martinez-Evans area and modern case loads.
“It became more important to develop a facility that could provide a sense of safety, a sense of comfort, a sense of formality that could not have been accomplished,” said Superior Court Judge Danny Craig.
The Appling courthouse still houses Probate Court and Clerk of Superior Court. County leaders and Superior Court judges still use it several times a year.