McDonald County celebrates courthouse recognition

Monday, June 4, 2012 | 2:22 p.m. CDT; updated 5:13 p.m. CDT, Monday, June 4, 2012

PINEVILLE — Raylene Lamb, president of the McDonald County Historical Society, could hardly contain her excitement about the news she had been waiting to receive.

"The certificate that shows the old McDonald County Courthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places should be in the mail this week," she said. "We are tickled pink.

"This was a group effort involving several people, and everybody is excited."

The courthouse, built in 1870, is undergoing a renovation that will preserve the historic character of the structure. Private donations are restoring individual rooms in the two-story building.

"So far, five rooms have been adopted," Lamb said. "We have two more rooms and the courtroom upstairs to be adopted. Getting the courthouse on the registry should help us get the funds we need to complete the renovation.

"If you want to adopt a room, you should do so fairly quickly."

A formal announcement about the placement of the courthouse on the registry will take place during a fundraising event Saturday, June 16, at the new community building in Pineville. A spaghetti dinner will be served from 4 to 7 p.m. Participants may dine in or carry out their dinners. A dessert auction will take place at 6 p.m.

The nomination letter for the courthouse detailed how the production of the 1939 movie "Jesse James," which starred Tyrone Power, Henry Fonda and Randolph Scott, helped residents of Pineville and the county economically during a time when they needed the help.

Lamb, in her nomination application, wrote that the movie "meant so much to the people who lived there that the courthouse became, in effect, a community shrine — and decades later it was saved from destruction for just this reason."

As important as the movie was to the community, the courthouse was deemed locally significant under National Register criteria in the areas of politics, government and social history.

The nomination stated: "For 107 years, the foursquare-style building served as the political and geographic focus of McDonald County, housing various governmental and other public functions within its walls of locally made bricks, many of which were salvaged from the ruins of a previous courthouse on the site, which had been burned by bushwhackers during the Civil War."

Lamb said the carpeting, wood paneling and lowered ceilings that were installed late in the courthouse's tenure have been removed, revealing high ceilings, wood beams and decorative woodwork. Central air conditioning and heating have been installed to provide climate control for artifacts. Soon, the building's 28 deteriorating windows will be replaced.

The building, which was designed by architect Z.P. Cogswell of Neosho, has four rooms downstairs where county business was conducted. There is a large courtroom upstairs with a 16-foot ceiling. The building was expanded in 1905 and 1943. Electricity was added in 1924.

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