I’d mentioned to TOR earlier in the day that I wanted to stop at the Talladega County Courthouse on our way home. (ALERT: Double shameless self promotion #2!) Magic in Stone, my book about the history of Sylacauga marble, was published last October, but my other Facebook page, Cook’s Book Nook, adds updates about the marble from time to time. An attorney whose family heritage is associated with the quarries had told me the Moretti-Harrah marble used in that courthouse was beautifully matched, seam for seam, as each panel was put in place. I wanted to see what he meant and take a few photos to share on the Facebook page.
The courthouse, a beautifully restored red brick and stone building, sits on the landscaped grounds of Courthouse Square in the middle of the city of Talladega. Constructed in 1836, it has the distinction of being the oldest functioning courthouse in Alabama.
As we drove towards the square, it suddenly hit me that we’d taken the trouble to come through town and this building might not even be open. As we searched for an open diagonal parking place, I noticed several lines of people standing on the lawn on one side of the courthouse and realized they were conducting legal business through open windows in the side of the building. A sign of corona virus times, for sure.
This time TOR opted to stay in the car, in the shade, with Gracie, so after we parked, I walked around to the front door where I was greeted by several uniformed police officers and a woman with a thermometer. “This building’s closed to the public,” said one of the officers. “Unless you have a specific appointment, you can’t go in.”
This is when name dropping comes in handy. I explained that I didn’t have an appointment but all I wanted was to look at and photograph the white marble panels in the main hallway and the courtroom interiors. I also asked, with a smile, “Do any of you know Van Wilkins? He’s the attorney who told me about the marble.”
The name did it. “Let me go ask my boss,” said the officer. Three minutes later, after a forehead temperature test, I was allowed inside. It was worth the trouble. This marble, in place since the 1830s, was beautifully and carefully matched. It is extremely difficult to do.
The detour was worth it, and we headed for home.