As the Santa Rosa County Commissioners continue with the process of selecting a site for the new County Judicial Center, the Main Street Milton organization announces that it has created a detailed and comprehensive proposal for adaptive-reuse of the historic Santa Rosa County Courthouse after it is vacated and is no longer in use as the county’s judicial headquarters.
The attached proposal is an illustrated guide to the ambitious plan which would transform the courthouse into a state-of-the-art public library/community center and a branch of the Santa Rosa County Public Library System. As per the proposal, the building would be completely restored to its original 1927 exterior appearance, while the interior would be adapted to the Library Systems needs.
“This concept really fulfills so many needs,” says Main Street Program Manager, Ryan Arvay. “By restoring and reusing the courthouse we are helping the library system to expand its services and giving the county a new and vital use one of its most important buildings. What’s more, we would be creating a magnate, something that pulls people into downtown and creates foot traffic. This in turn feeds local business and helps stimulate our local downtown economy,” says Arvay.
The proposal covers the history of the courthouse, lays out a detailed plan for its use and restoration, addresses inevitable questions, cites countless examples of other similar projects that have been successful, and even suggests a clever and practical use for the large amount of land the county owns behind the courthouse.
“This is a really crucial time,” says Arvay. “We hope the county will consider planning this project simultaneously with the new judicial center, so that when the old site is vacated there will be a prompt and smooth transition to a new use.”
The courthouse is the largest of the contributing structures in the Milton Historic District, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and one of the anchor buildings downtown.
As for Main Street Milton’s proposed new use of the building, Arvay says, “Over the years, there have been a lot of good ideas as far as new uses for the courthouse, but we feel the library concept will appeal to the broadest segment of the population and have the most consistent use year-round. Plus, the county already owns the building and the library system has needed more space for years - it’s a perfect fit.”
To date, this proposal has been shared with each of the five Santa Rosa County Commissioners, county administrator, the director of the county library system, and county risk management as well as Milton City Council representatives for Ward 1.
The current Santa Rosa County Courthouse was built in 1927, and is the third courthouse to serve the county since it was created in 1842. The first courthouse was on Berryhill Street, but burned in 1869. The second courthouse was built in 1877 on the corner of Caroline Street (Hwy. 90) and Willing Street, on courthouse square. It was replaced with the current courthouse, dedicated on July 4, 1927.