Federal courthouse to celebrate grand opening

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 21, 2007

W hen the gavel falls in the newly renovated federal courthouse, downtown businesses are hoping to hear the sound of money. After years of renovations, the Pearl Street building will officially emerge Monday as a modern slice of history.

Pearl Street Pasta co-owner Clif Brumfield said he is looking forward to serving his new next-door neighbors.

“We’re hoping it will be very, very big for us,” said Brumfield. “We’re getting ready to cater to them. We’re even naming a couple of menu items after the courthouse.”

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The historic Pearl Street building was built in 1853 and has had many lives since then — an auditorium, opera hall, skating rink and public library.

Builders used the courthouse’s original wood timbers in much the facility’s renovations. State-of-the-art security and courtroom technology bring a modern touch to the 154-year old structure. The new courtroom includes monitors for jury members, the judge and the public that attorneys can use to present evidence. A teleconference system allows witnesses to testify without actually being there.

Although the courthouse doors will officially open to the public Monday, the facility saw its first trial Wednesday. Brumfield said the courthouse-lunch crowd was the biggest he’s ever seen.

“We’re hoping it’s like that for us every time they have court,” he said. “We were just swamped.”

Natchez Coffee Company owner Davilynn Furlow is also hoping to bring in more customers once the courthouse is open.

“When attorneys are in town for extended periods of time, we’re hoping they’ll stop by here,” she said. “We have wireless Internet that makes us a great meeting place.”

Furlow said the coffee shop has begun marketing efforts aimed at attracting courthouse employees.

“We’re making sure the staff knows about us,” she said. “All the lawyers will know we’re here.”

Other downtown businesses are looking forward to the opening as well. Eola Hotel manager Ron Brumfield said the new courthouse will enhance the entire downtown area. Brumfield is hoping attorneys will use the hotel for meetings, depositions and pretrial conferences.

“I can’t wait to see the doors open up and the hustle and bustle on the streets,” he said.

Mimi Miller, preservation director of the Historic Natchez Foundation described the courthouse renovation as “an architectural testimony to the value of forging partnerships for economic development.”

Pearl Street’s Brumfield said he believes the new building is more than just a place to hold court.

“It enhances the attractions in historic Natchez, which is the biggest reason that people visit Natchez and eat in my restaurant,” he said.

The dedication ceremony for the courthouse will be at 10 a.m. Monday and the public is invited.

Chesney Doyle contributed to this story