Who Knew? DeKalb Courthouse Once Had a Pond/Fountain Out Front

Next Stop…Decatur just posted quite the intriguing picture of the NEW DeKalb County Courthouse circa 1965.  You can view it HERE.

Obviously, the thing that will strike the post-1965 Decatur resident first is the pond out in front of the Courthouse, now a massive flowerbed, as Dennis points out in his post.  Personally I had no idea there was once a pond in that location!  I would love to know when and why it was eventually filled in.

However, that’s not the only cool thing about this photo.  The other is the DeKalb government building across the street, which once stood along Trinity in the current Calloway Building lot.  I’ve been sitting on a pic of this building for quite a while, meaning to scan and post it in the name of general historical interest.  But Next Stop’s pic is actually superior to mine, as it gives better locational context.

However, my pic – from the AJC’s now defunct DeKalb Extra – also came with a little blurb about the short history and fate of the government building, which I will now share with ya.

Progress Took Government Building – Standing on the corner of McDonough and Trinity Streets in downtown Decatur, the old DeKalb County government building was built during the county chairmanship of the late Scott Candler in the mid 1940s.  Nearly 30 years later, it was demolished to make room for the construction of the county government’s Callaway Office Building.  The old government building housed, during its lifetime, the departments of Plice, Fire, Sheriff and the DeKalb County Jail, Family and CHildrens Services and Planning, among others.

13 thoughts on “Who Knew? DeKalb Courthouse Once Had a Pond/Fountain Out Front”

  1. Awesome. The huge setback on the Courthouse actually makes more sense design-wise when you see the context under which it was built. Because the south side was framed by the Government Building, the east side by City Hall (and other things) and the north by the old courthouse, the setback–with its reflecting pool–seems clearly intended to work as a sort of second civic square.

    Once the Government Building was torn down and replaced with a parking lot, the space lost a lot of its definition, leading the setback to slowly devolve, I guess, into the seemingly random and pointless “front yard” we have today.

    Put a building back on that corner and restore the pool!

    1. The old jail/admin building didn’t actually frame the space in front of the new courthouse. The angle of the photo is a little deceiving because the old building was actually in line with the new building. That was never a great civic space, in fact it destroyed an entire city block which once defined the original courthouse square and was the beginning of the destruction of the traditional square. The reason the pool is gone is because it was a maintenance and liability nightmare like most pools and fountains. I vote to bring back the buildings that were torn down.

        1. Scott, back in high school, we would walk up to the Square after school past the old jail to one of our favorite soda fountains and the girls always got a kick out of the prisoners on the top floor whistling at them. We would taunt them back with something insulting. It seemed innocent enough back then.

  2. The reflecting pool is actually still there. It’s just filled in with dirt. The granite curb that can be see in the picture is still present in front of the courthouse. I bet someone got tired of keeping the pool clean.

  3. That’s an orderly line. What were those people doing, registering to vote, arriving for jury duty, or taking a tour of the new courthouse? Could you imagine such an orderly line today?
    The picture shows a good contrast between old and new Decatur. To me, there was nothing interesting about the new courthouse but the Trinity building, now that was something else! As a young boy, I would walk up to the third floor jail and ask a secretary if any of the prisoners wanted to buy the Atlanta Times, a newspaper that competed against the Journal and Constitution papers. Sometimes the Deputy Sheriff (?) would say no but most of the time, I was allowed to enter the cellblock to sell papers. A huge metal door separated the office lobby with the cellblock, which was L-shaped. Usually I stayed at the metal door, just inside the cellblock but on several occasions, the trustee allowed me to walk the hallways with him as the prisoners bought papers. This was quite an adventure for a young boy. After making a couple of bucks, I headed to the drugstore on the corner square for Limeade, maybe the greatest liquid concoction ever created. I also remember seeing families, young mothers and kids, standing on the Trinity sidewalk talking to prisoners. In the picture, you can see at least one window on the Trinity side open. An earlier post mentions the interaction between the public on the sidewalk and the prisoners. I believe the reflecting pool survived until the 80s. I think there was a small plaque that stated that any money thrown into the pool would be donated to the Scottish Rite hospital. I remember a lot of trash in the pool.
    Such were the experiences for a twelve-year-old boy in small town Decatur in the early 60s. Hard to imagine today.

    1. Thank you Chris and Udog for your memories. I actually worked in the new Courthouse in the late 70’s and early 80’s and the pool was working at that time. But, the immediate environs were so impersonal. The landscaping there now (at least a few years ago when it looked better) seems an improvement. I would agree with Udogg and Scott on tearing down that building and returning to the old things! Isn’t dreaming fun!

    1. It is sure ugly. I would like to see photos of that block and the west Court Square area before they ruined the square with “urban renewal” efforts.

  4. I wonder if the line was to get license tags? There used to be long lines for that right before the deadline.

  5. There is still a very small non-functioning “fountain” pool towards the parking meter end of the courthouse flower bed. It is always full of nasty black water and I’m sure the mosquitoes absolutely love it in the summer.

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