Students at UNC understand what it means to have respect for an iconic structure.
And just like the Old Well epitomizes Chapel Hill, the aesthetic of Pittsboro is largely defined by the historic Chatham County courthouse.
One can only imagine, then, the sadness surrounding the recent fire that has destroyed much of the courthouse. Ironically, the fire occurred while the building was undergoing renovations.
“It’s the heart of our county and the heart of our town,” said Mayor Randolph Voller.
Either in its current form or in any of the three that preceded it, the courthouse has always been a point of pride in Pittsboro. And a unique sort of lore surrounds it.
The very impetus for building the current structure came in 1881 after the roof of the previous courthouse blew off. According to Voller, the judge overseeing the trial in progress simply dismissed the accused.
A more ambiguous point of interest is the secret passageway that runs beneath the courthouse. It ends at a building that was once an antebellum home but is now the empty site of an old Piggly Wiggly.
Voller said no one really knows why the tunnel is there. He suggested maybe certain people wanted a quick and clandestine getaway.
As if to demonstrate the inextricable link between the courthouse and the history of Pittsboro, the building has been home to the Chatham Historical Museum since 1990. Voller said that in spite of the fire, it seems that many of the museum’s artifacts will be salvaged.
The residents of Pittsboro understand an older time when the courthouse was the center of public life. The youth of Pittsboro today might substitute Facebook for trying to toss bottle caps onto the hat of the Confederate solider statue located on the courthouse grounds. But the sense of history and pride in the courthouse remain.
Residents and students in Chapel Hill know what it means to place pride in a symbol of the community.
Best of luck to the residents of Pittsboro as they restore theirs.