PETERSBURG, Va. – The Petersburg Fire Marshal’s Office has temporarily closed the Hustings Courthouse building due to safety concerns with the clock tower.
Fire Marshal Chief James Reid confirmed to CBS 6, the clock tower of the courthouse has some internal and external bracing issues.
In fact, brackets surround the base of the clock tower to keep the pillars from bowing out.
Reid said the tower is in need of repairs and a company has done some temporary repairs, but the courthouse will be closed until the clock tower can be properly fixed.
The decision to close the historic courthouse came after Fire Marshals met with Petersburg city officials.
Although Petersburg’s old courthouse is not used for a ton of cases anymore, it is the historic centerpiece of the town, and its closure is just another big blow to Petersburg.
“It’s just beautiful,” Petersburg resident Marilyn Ibin-West said.
Ibin-West frequently admires the beauty of the old courthouse, one of Petersburg’s oldest and most prominent buildings.
“My granddaughter, 8 years old, loves it,” Ibin-West said.
So news that the city’s Fire Marshal closed the building indefinitely because of safety issues with the clock tower, comes as a big disappointment.
“Not being able to get into a historic building, it's just a little too much to take right now,” Ibin-West said.
“The city has not invested to stabilize its historic structures over the past couple of decades,” Chip Mann, the former chairman of the Virginia Board of Historic Resources, said.
Mann said the building has not changed much, if at all, since it was built in the 1840s.
He said soldiers in the Civil War even used it to help tell the time, but you wouldn’t know it if you just came upon the building because there is no historical marker outside explaining the significance.
“They would set their watches to what they would call Petersburg time, and they would write home and say, I am setting my watch to the clock in Petersburg, we are that close,” Mann said about the soldiers.
Mann said a group of preservation activists are meeting to think of ways to fund re-opening the courthouse, as well as city museums that were closed due to financial issues.
He said there is a wonderful volunteer base in Petersburg willing to help out.
The city is currently working with the courts to move functions to other buildings in the City of Petersburg
The closure did not affect operations Friday. There is no timetable on how long the courthouse will be closed.