Effingham County Courthouse
For more than 100 years, the Effingham County community identified with the image of the existing historic courthouse on their town square. Designers knew it was important to give great consideration to this image when planning a new courthouse and its location. The Shive-Hattery design team members (who were with another firm at the time) also needed to create a safe, secure, and efficient facility to meet the demands of today’s court systems.
After town hall meetings and conversations with concerned citizens, it was determined that the new courthouse should be located within the same downtown area, adjacent to the county administration building and jail. This location allowed for linkages between these county buildings, creating a “one-stop shop” for all county government functions.
The new courthouse design was intended to establish a sense of place and building identity that the American mind would relate to the phrase “on the steps of the courthouse.” This phrase indicates the potency of architecture by symbolizing the stability and authority of the judicial building. Because going to a courthouse can be an intimidating experience for some, the design provides welcoming, day-lit, accessible places while responding to critical requirements of separate interior circulation for public, restricted, and secure movements. Each floor is configured to assure that no breach occurs of these discreet circulation patterns.
The new courthouse is a three-story complex with four courtrooms. The first floor includes a lobby with security control, offices for the circuit court clerk and probation officers, and access to a drive-thru vehicle sallyport. Courtrooms with support spaces occupy the second and third floors. The lower level houses the mechanical and electrical rooms and has a tunnel connecting to the existing jail. This secure underground tunnel between the courthouse and the jail allows for inmate transport out of sight from the public and surrounding downtown businesses.
With the construction of the new courthouse, Effingham County is prepared for the growth and change to come in the next 100 years. It is also allows the opportunity to restore the existing courthouse and open it up for tours. The project creates an efficient workplace for the everyday functions of the county and maintains the historic identity for the community.