The conversion of the mid-nineteenth century building known as Memorial Hall into a United States District Courthouse is an unusual state and federal partnership involving the City of Natchez, Adams County, State of Mississippi Department of Archives and History, U.S. Marshals Service, General Services Administration, and the Courts.
In Phase 1, the exterior was restored and the interior was cleared of non-original elements. Phase 2 includes the build-out of a light colored interior with built in wood casework for the Marshals and Courts, as well as a new stairway, elevator, and sallyport additions to the historic structure.
This is the only United States Courthouse not originally constructed for judicial purposes, adn the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Historic elements were faithfully restored, including plaster and brick façades, wood windows and doors, and a grand entry stair hall. When program necessitated subdivision of the generous auditorium space, glass was introduced between courtroom and corridor to assure that the original building volume would remain fully evident. When beams at an upper level had to be replaced and stair hall flooring proved too deteriorated to restore, replacement floor boards were milled from the salvaged cypress beams.
The external additions required for judge’s elevator, exit stair, and vehicular sallyport utilize plaster to harmonize with the original material palette but also zinc panels and glass channels to achieve contrast without sacrificing nobility or longevity. The arrangement and form of the stair and elevator additions both frame and extend the adjacent historic architecture.
The additions were composed to continue the line of the existing masonry walls and reinforce the historic connection of the new Courthouse with the adjacent Historic Natchez Foundation. A design approach sympathetic to the building’s history did not come at the expense of modern standards. The building meets current-day requirements for security, courtroom technology, life safety, and accessibility.