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1916 Courthouse Saved from Destruction


This photograph taken in 2004 shows the west side (front) of the old courthouse after the additions were removed.  

This photograph taken in 2004 shows the west side (front) of the old courthouse after the additions were removed.

A few years after the Main Courthouse opened, the old courthouse was slated to be demolished.  Due to an increase in enthusiasm for preserving Palm Beach County history, the Board of County Commissioners voted in 2002 to restore the old courthouse.[55]  The restoration project began in January 2004 with a ceremony and demolition of the wraparound structure, and then the other additions were removed.   To see a time-lapse video of the four-year restoration process, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFN1WvGYhzA.[56]

There was great attention to detail in restoring the building to its original grandeur. A restoration process was implemented that included salvaging materials such as limestone columns, granite, wood windows, marble wainscot, mosaic floor tiles, wood flooring, doors, trim and doorknobs. When looking closely, old wavy panes of glass can be seen in original windows throughout the north, south and west sides. These 76 original wooden windows and hardware were repaired and restored, and 37 matching impact resistant windows were installed on the east side.

Twelve original limestone columns had to be installed in sections because each one weighs 30,600 pounds. Because the original eagle crest was destroyed years ago, a new one was created using old photographs.

Since the eagle crest over the main entrance was destroyed many years ago, a new one was designed by studying old photographs.

The windows and most of the brick on the east side of the building (pictured here) had to be replaced, but some original brick (on the right) was restored.

The windows and most of the brick on the east side of the building (pictured here) had to be replaced, but some original brick (on the right) was restored.

The original limestone columns were removed years ago and stored elsewhere. They were hauled back and reinstalled in sections. ​

Much of the original tilework was cleaned and kept in place, but some new matching tiles also needed to be installed.  

Much of the original tilework was cleaned and kept in place, but some new matching tiles also needed to be installed.

The project included restoration of interior décor such as the elaborate railings, and detailed mosaic tilework in the hallways was meticulously restored.

The original vault was kept in place in the basement where visitors can also see the bench that the late Judge Curtis Eugene Chillingworth used until his death in 1955.[57]  In the two-story courtroom, the judge’s bench, jury box, pews, chair molding and bar rail were all recreated.[58] 

Some original limestone bricks were kept in place and restored.  New bricks were crafted from limestone that came from the same quarry in Indiana that provided the original bricks.  The cornerstone on the west (left side) lists all the commissioners in 1915, and the one on the south (right side) reads, “This site was presented to Palm Beach County by Henry Flagler.”

Fortunately, the quarry that was used in 1913, could still provide limestone for the bricks needed in 2004. 

Fortunately, the quarry that was used in 1913, could still provide limestone for the bricks needed in 2004.

The building was placed on the Palm Beach County Registry of Historic Places in 2005,[59] and the restoration was completed in 2007.  The restored courthouse opened in 2008 when it became home to government offices, the Historical Society of Palm Beach County and the Richard and Pat Johnson Palm Beach County History Museum that is located on the second floor and is open to the public at no charge.  In 2011, the 1916 Palm Beach County Courthouse was designated a Florida Heritage Site under the Florida Department of State Historical Markers Programs.[60]

The original cornerstones were reinstalled on the southwest corner of the historic courthouse. 

The original cornerstones were reinstalled on the southwest corner of the historic courthouse.

Government Organization Remains Unchanged


Since changes were made to the “Palm Beach County Charter” in 1988, the Palm Beach County government structure has not changed.  The county is currently governed by the Board of County Commissioners consisting of seven commissioners elected from single-member districts.  Each year, the commissioners elect a mayor and vice mayor.  Commissioners can serve a maximum of two, consecutive four-year terms.  The terms are staggered, and commissioners from Districts 1, 3, 5 and 7 are elected during presidential election years while the commissioners from Districts 2, 4 and 6 are elected in gubernatorial election years. 

The longest serving county commissioner was Lake Lytal.  He served a total of 32 years -- eight four-year terms -- from 1942 to 1978.  The commissioner with the longest continuous record of service on the board was Karen Marcus.  She served seven consecutive four-year terms from 1984 to 2012. 



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