One of the aspects of being a lawyer that I really enjoy is the opportunity to visit the historic courthouses that are the centerpiece of many Florida panhandle communities. To me Courthouses represent a community’s commitment to justice and the law. The Courthouse is usually the largest and most ornate of the public buildings in a community. Most were designed and often continue to be multi-functional buildings housing public records as well as dispensing justice. Entering a Courthouse, especially an older one, is like entering sacred space to me. When I walk across a creaking old wooden floor I think about the history contained in the walls, the dramas that were played out in the courtrooms, and the men and women who came before me to argue cases. These old buildings remind me that justice is an evolving process and I feel privileged to contribute to that evolution.
However, you don’t have to travel to the outlying counties of the Florida panhandle to find a historic courthouse. The United States Bankruptcy Courthouse, located at the corner of Park Avenue and Monroe Street, in downtown Tallahassee is a magnificent old building that dates back to 1930s. With its magnificent granite exterior and marble floors it is truly a modernized relic from another era.
According to a pamphlet available in the main lobby of the Courthouse, the building was constructed as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal Program. It was originally designed to serve as both a post office and a Federal Court. The two story Courtroom, which is I consider to be magnificent, is located on the second floor. Sadly, few people ever get to see this room since it is open only when the Bankruptcy Judge is holding Bankruptcy Court hearings, which are usually of little public interest. However, the main lobby downstairs is open during regular business hours and is definitely worth poking your head inside to view. The main lobby reminds me of the main Post Office in Jerusalem, Israel which I suspect was built around the same time. The rectangular shaped lobby has an elegant curved staircase on one end and windows for the Clerk’s office on the other end. The tables and fixtures throughout the lobby all appear to be original and speak to the history of the building. However, the most stunning feature is the eight beautiful murals that cover the upper level of the entire length of the back wall. The murals all tell stories of Florida’s past and our State’s unique beauty and culture. It’s a magnificent piece of artwork and is well worth a visit to the lobby.
For more information on the history of the Tallahassee Bankruptcy Court you can follow the link to Court’s website. I was not able to take pictures inside the Courthouse due to security concerns, but the website has images of the Courtroom and the mural and discusses in detail the history of this grand old building.