BRADENTON -- A $1-million restoration of an old courtroom at the 1913-era Manatee County Courthouse is slated to begin Monday.
Refurbishment of the 25-foot-high courtroom, which occupies part of the second and third floors of the building, is expected to take five months, according to Reed Giasson, vice president of operations for contractor Halfacre Construction Co. of Sarasota.
The company will install new terrazzo floors and use high-level wood finishes on paneling typical of the era when the building was built, said Giasson.
A third-floor room will serve as a mini-museum housing artifacts from the original courtroom, he said.
Also on tap is new electrical wiring, air conditioning and lighting, said Giasson.
"It's more than just cosmetic," said Giasson.
The Neoclassical Revival-style courthouse at 1115 Manatee Ave. W. is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
When restoration is complete, 22 refinished pews from the original courtroom will be reinstalled, said Jerry Zoller, an architect with Zoller Autrey Architects P.A. of Bradenton.
"The main thing is it will be fixed up as a courtroom and as a community room," Zoller said. "They want to try to rent it out for movie sets, too."
The contractor had crews outside the building Monday setting up scaffolding in preparation for the project, said Mike Lawton, a superintendent for Halfacre Construction.
Over recent decades, the old courtroom was used for criminal cases, including arraignments, motion hearings and trials, according to Lori Tolksdorf, director of courts for R.B. "Chips" Shore, clerk of the circuit court.
It was also used for large events such as judicial investitures, she recalled.
In May 2008, the old courtroom hosted its final official duties just before the new Manatee County Judicial Center opened next door at 1051 Manatee Ave. W., said Tolksdorf.
Most of the historic courthouse's top two floors have been updated and remodeled and now house workers formerly operating from a variety of rented locations in downtown Bradenton. Most of the second floor, renovated at a cost of $2.7 million, houses a rent-paying tenant: A state program that handles child support enforcement.
The courthouse sits upon land John Crews Pelot deeded in 1892 to Manatee County for $200, according to a Manatee County Historical Commission marker.
The parcel was cleared for $62.50, and a new courthouse built, the first in what then was known as Braidentown. Construction of the present structure began in early 1913. It was built of reinforced concrete and brick by Falls City Construction Co.
The courthouse and jail facility cost $97,445.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.