Friday, December 07, 2018
At long last the old Fayette County Court House in Lexington Kentucky has reopened. The building was built in the 1890's at a cost of $250,000 as a replacement for a previous stone court house on the same site, that burned down when it was less than a decade old. It operated as the Circuit court house until about 2001, when new District and Circuit Court buildings opened a couple of blocks away. I had a couple of motion hearings in the building, I tried my first cases in the old district court building a few block away.
When the new buildings opened, a back room deal was cut to sell the old district court building to a church - it was torn down so the church could expand. A lease on the old circuit court building was thrown in on the deal. The church used some office space and the first floor hosted a small museum for a few years. The building proved difficult to repurpose. It needed major repairs, and suffered from a 1960's remodel that filled the central core and rotunda with mechanical systems. In the end the city took the building back, and over the past couple of years invested $35,000,000 in restoration and renovation.
The first floor houses the new Lexington Visitor Center, and two restaurants. The second floor contains the offices for the Breeders Cup horse racing series. The third floor is an event space, open to the rotunda. If is a great reuse of the building. The city is lucky the building didn't get torn down, of converted into apartments.
Was it worth $35-million to save this building?