Downtown Courthouse Properties

NTHP Preservation Green Lab - Building reuse typically offers greater environmental savings than demolition and new construction. It can take between 10 to 80 years for a new energy efficient building to overcome, through efficient operations, the climate change impacts created by its construction. The study finds that the majority of building types in different climates will take between 20-30 years to compensate for the initial carbon impacts from construction.

HSF encourages the governing bodies of the City of Staunton and Augusta County to negotiate a fair transfer of the court properties to the City of Staunton.

Acquisition of the Augusta County court properties will allow the City to effectively rehabilitate the 1901 Courthouse for use as the City’s Circuit Court and to utilize the Cochran Judicial Building for the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts. These suggestions are based upon well-established preservation practice and sustainable urban development.

Moving forward will signal to the Commonwealth and Judge that Staunton can make well planned, incremental progress toward creating an excellent court system.

The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation:

#1. “A property will be used as it was historically or be given a new use that requires minimal change to its distinctive materials, features, spaces, and spatial relationships.”

#2. “The historic character of a property will be retained and preserved. The removal of distinctive materials or alteration of features, spaces, and spatial relationships that characterize a property will be avoided.”

Historic preservation is done best when buildings are reused in ways that preserve their architectural integrity. The 1901 Courthouse was designed to be a courthouse and sits at a place where a courthouse has been since 1747.

Furthermore, we believe that the City of Staunton can and should rehabilitate the historic courthouses so that these architectural treasures are preserved for the whole community.


Studies Outlining Potential Rehabilitation of the Court Properties

2015 Consolidation Study
In 2015, an excellent study evaluated the downtown courthouse buildings. The information is applicable to the 2023 Juvenile Courts Issue. 

2012 Feasibility Study
In 2012, an excellent study evaluated the courthouse and provided sustainable long-term solutions.

Augusta County Courthouse Study Vol.I (PDF)
Augusta County Courthouse Study Vol.II (PDF)

Photo Gallery
Visit our Flickr Gallery to see images of the Courthouse and courthouse complex.

Case Studies Supporting Courthouse Rehabilitation

Smart growth, economical operations, energy efficiency, and convenience are sustainable benefits attained through rehabilitation of historic civic buildings. Below are case study excerpts and links that encourage rehabilitation and continued use of older and historic structures.

Smart Growth Practices
Public buildings should set the standard in a community. Public buildings with civic stature, quality materials, and prominent settings project a sense of the importance of public institutions. For centuries, public buildings in Virginia such as city halls, courthouses, post offices, and public schools were always the community’s most beautiful and notable buildings. Since the 1950s, however, public buildings often have been relegated to little more than utilitarian boxes. We sometimes have designed schools and libraries that resemble correctional facilities. We have built fire stations and post offices that look like warehouses, and we have moved many of our public buildings from downtown to new locations on the strip outside of town.

People appreciate public buildings that express dignity and permanence and that harmonize with their surroundings. There are a number of instances in the Valley where communities have demanded higher quality in the design of new public buildings and resisted efforts to move civic institutions to out-of-the-way locations.  Better-Models-for-Development (pg. 97)

Success in Texas! Benefits of Restoring Historic Courthouses

In addition to saving important historic landmarks, there are many benefits that follow the restoration of a historic courthouse through the Texas Historical Commission’s award-winning Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program. Restored historic courthouses have proven to be an economic booster for the Texas and local county economies. The counties with restored historic courthouses also see an impact in the form of increased safety, accessibility, energy efficiency, tourism, and more.  Benefits of Restoring Historic Courthouses

Cost-effective Use of Tax Dollars in Wisconsin
Good Stewardship Is Cost Effective. Good stewardship and continual care of municipal structures is economically wise for many reasons, one of which is that rehabilitation and preservation avoids the huge capital costs of infrastructure replacement.  Current studies demonstrate that rehabilitation of older and historic structures is the most cost effective use of tax dollars. While buildings may need to undergo a major renovation every few decades, and operating systems may need to be replaced and upgraded from time to time, the preservation of a solid structural framework in an old building accounts for 15–30% of the value of the total cost of a building.  Therefore, the cost to rehabilitate is generally only 70–85% of the value of a building, thereby assuring that renovation will always be a competitive option.”  Preserving Wisconsin’s Civic Legacy, A Guide to Rehabilitating and Reusing Local Government Properties (pg. 3)
General Services Administration (GSA) guidance
One of the largest Historic Preservation organizations in the U.S. is the United States General Services Administration (GSA).  The GSA has developed some of the best guidance and case studies for the reuse of historic public buildings. Their publication Sustainability Matters provides many lesson such as space needs, security and energy usage that may be learned and adapted for our local needs.

Operating Costs
Recent analysis conducted by PBS’ Cultural, Environmental and Accessibility programs indicates that cleaning, maintenance, and utility costs at GSA-controlled historic buildings have been consistently lower than comparable operating costs for non-historic GSA buildings. Post-World War II buildings tend to consume more energy due to higher glazing-tosurface ratios and thinner exterior wall construction. Contemporary interior finishes using man-made materials are more likely to require frequent renewal or replacement in contrast to generously dimensioned natural finish materials such as stone and wood, designed to last indefinitely with routine maintenance. Minimally engineered modern building envelopes are also more prone to detailing failures remedied only by major capital investment after 20-30 years of service life. On the other hand, many of GSA’s pre-World War II traditional stone buildings remain architecturally sound after minimal exterior investment over a 60­ 70 year period.  Held in Public Trust: Public Buildings Service (PBS) Strategy for Using Historic Buildings (pg. 15)

Extending the Legacy
In 2009, GSA released new illustrated guidelines documenting successful approaches for integrating secu­rity processing functions into historic building lobbies. Lobby Security in Historic Buildings features model solutions for historic lobbies of different sizes and configurations. Designed to complete GSA’s general Lobby Security Design Guide, the historic lobby design guide provides images and narrative guidance for layout, equipment placement, and detailing to minimize the architectural impact of security processing activities on historic entry spaces and materials.  Extending the Legacy ( pg. 114)