A group of dedicated researchers in Canton has put together a notebook of newspaper clippings and other primary source materials titled “Madison County History Preserved,” and I was fortunate enough to have a colleague show it to me. Glancing through it, I noticed a number of 19th- and early-20th-century articles dealing with the Madison County Courthouse, and I was particularly drawn to this one with the headline “Want Court House Architecture Preserved: Board Petitioned to Not Remove Cupola from Historic Structure.” This was on an article from the Madison County Herald who’s font indicated it was not a recent article, and sure enough when I checked the date at the top, it was published May 5, 1925, way before there was anything called a Preservation Movement and before (I thought) this kind of language about “preserving architecture” and “historic structures” was being batted about. I also noted that at this time, the courthouse would have been about 70 years old–about the same age as buildings built in the 1930s and 1940s are today.
Because this is such an amazing piece of evidence about early preservationists in the state, I’m reproducing the whole article here for your reading pleasure. I hope it’s as much of an encouragement to you as it was to me:
A bond issue of $40,000 had been authorized by the voters for the repair and renovation of the Madison county court house building in Canton. Tentative plans submitted by architects call for removal of the cupola, which at present is said to be a menace to public safety.
There are many who wish to have the court house preserved in its present state of architecture when the repairs and remodeling of the interior are undertaken. A committee from the Literary and Civic Club and one from the Rotary Club, as well as a number of other prominent citizens, went before the Board of Supervisors yesterday to request that the general lines of the building be not changed.
The board has agreed to defer letting the contract for the work until the June meeting and the following petition will be circulated among the voters in the meantime and presented to the Board in June:
‘To the Honorable Members of the Board of Supervisors of Madison County, Mississippi:
‘The court house of our beloved county was built in 1855 and has withstood the ravages of time until 1925.
‘Its architectural lines are beautiful to look upon, and it represents in its grandeur a glorious and revered sentiment connecting the memories of the past with the present. This building is a stately and historic landmark, a heritage debt free, from our forefathers. It now needs repairs, and the people have voted for the issuance of bonds , for that purpose. The architect will submit plans, to you, for the necessary repairs, one providing for the removal of the cupola or dome, and the other for the preservation of the general outside architectural lines of the present building. The difference in cost is about $1,800.00 to $2,000.00 in favor of the former plan. We, the undersigned citizens and taxpayers of Madison county, respectfully urge you to adopt the latter plan and thereby preseve the monument handed down to us by our forefathers.
‘If the utility side is to weigh, then the latter plan should be adopted because,
‘Our court house is one of the best advertisements of our county and it is a noteworthy fact, that all visitors from within and without the state comment upon its beautiful and attractive architecture.
‘We appeal to you to preserve and adopt the sentimental view and not permit the cost to govern your decision.'”