The big move is coming very soon. Lincoln County's new courthouse located near the YMCA and Lincoln County Health Department will be ready for the transition to the new facility early in 2022. This Saturday, history will in a way repeat itself.
Lincoln Masonic Lodge #137 will dedicate a cornerstone plaque at the new courthouse in a noon ceremony.
When the current Lincoln County Courthouse in downtown Lincolnton was completed a hundred years ago, the Masons placed a plaque and a time capsule there. Mason Tommy Smith went to Lincoln County Commissioners a few months back and asked the they be allowed to place a plaque at the new building.
The dedication will begin at noon with the opening prayer by Reverend Elizabeth Tester of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. Then Smith, Secretary of Lodge #137 will give remarks on the history of past Masonic cornerstones in Lincoln County. Worthy Matron Jennifer Smith of Order of the Eastern Star Chapter 114 will speak. Retired Lincoln County Sheriff David Carpenter, also a Mason, will also speak. Marty Paris will unveil the plaque and Prince Hall, Chaplain of Lomax Lodge, will offer a closing prayer. "It's an important day in Lincoln County history," Smith told us. "The current courthouse served the County well for a hundred years. This one may well do the same."
There will be another ceremony marking the opening of the new courthouse; this one was planned especially for the unveiling of the new plaque.
The site for the new courthouse was chosen for muliple reasons. The County already owned the property where it has been built. While some wanted to keep the courthouse downtown, parking has long been a problem, and the new location offers plenty of room for that.
Commissioners looked into the possibility of relocating the courthouse on West Water Street and commissioned a study about the possible expansion of the current building, but in both cases, the cost would have been greater and expanding the existing courthouse in its Courtsquare location would have made it necessary to use the grounds in such a way that the resulting building would be an unsightly monstrosity.
Commissioners decided on the new location and caught the building market at the right time. The estimated cost was initially expected to be well beyond $40 million, but since the contracts were let at the tail-end of the 2008-2014 recession, the County saved several millions. It has been estimated that to build the building starting now would have cost in excess of $50 million.
Commissioners have joined with the Lincolnton City Council in pursuing a possible public-private use of the old courthouse downtown. If the plans they've discussed come to fruition, it may well become the centerpiece of a significant revitalization of downtown Lincolnton.
The Council has already made several moves that are a part of the overall restoration program. They made it possible for an abandoned building to be renovated and a new restaurant, Local Roots, to open there. They have taken steps to turn an eyesore that was once a textile plan on Bonview Avenue into a new industry.
Smith said everyone is welcome to attend Saturday's dedication. "I can imagine some will be telling their grandchildren and great-grandchildren in years to come, 'I was there when they dedicated the courthouse.' Saturday will be a great and historic day!"