Historic Courthouse's Not-So-Historic Wall Sustains Damage

Trenton's idiosyncratic downtown geography requires Highway 11 drivers to circle the historic Dade County Courthouse like pilgrims at Mecca before proceeding on their way north or south, but not everybody's got that kind of coordination. A confused driver drove straight on Highway 11 instead of sidling eastward, resulting in some serious damage to the low brick wall around Trenton's abandoned central shrine.

"He just missed the curve," said Trenton Police Chief Christy Smith.

Trenton's pulchritudinous police pontiff said no arrest was made: the driver was an elderly gentlemen who was not intoxicated, only baffled and driving late at night, she reported. "It was just an accident," said the chief.

The crash happened around 1:30 a.m. Monday, she said.

What happens now? Dade County Clerk Don Townsend said the county will file an insurance claim and presumably the driver's insurer will be liable. Coincidentally, said Townsend, the county had already been seeking a brick repair provider for the west side of the courthouse wall. "The timing is right," he said.

Local historian Donna Street, who chairs the Historical Preservation Committee that is working toward restoring the old courthouse, which was vacated in 2010 in favor of Dade's new courts facility behind the Administrative Building, says the brick wall was never historically correct anyway. "If I had my wish, we would take it down and replace the brick with the old native Sand Mountain stone," she said.

Ms. Street supplied this postcard of the courthouse as it appeared before the advent of the brick wall, which she said was built after the paving of Highway 11 required cutting the ground around the courthouse down about three feet. She said the original wall was moved to the Baptist Cemetery north of downtown.

Longtime Trenton residents remember that this is not the first time a driver chose a straight line over a circle at Trenton's central landmark. Others reported near misses.

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