LOUDON, Tenn. — For more than 140 years, generations of people living in Loudon have had weddings, gone to trial, adopted kids, or just stopped to admire the beautiful building. Never in that time has the Loudon County courthouse looked as frail as it does today.
"It’s sad. It’s sad," said one woman watching as fire firefighters continued inspecting the building for hot spots Wednesday morning. "The courthouse has been here for so long. It’s a part of everybody’s life. It’s like going to a funeral."
One by one they stopped to pay their respects to the courthouse the town had lost in a devastating fire. The building that seemed larger than life in this small town looked burnt and tried.
"You’ve always seen this building. It’s a part of the city. And now you just see it like this and it’s like someone you love is gone. A big part of the city is gone now," said Andy Choate a Loudon resident. "Just growing up I’ve always loved that building."
Beyond the archives, the books, the pictures, and the documents torched in the fire, the memories of events big and small shared within the courthouse will live on forever. The building, built in 1872, has long been the center of Loudon.
"They were very big life events. My wedding, we were able to set up a whole ceremony on the courthouse lawn," said Lynsi Bolling. "Every time I pass by there I go, 'Hey that’s where mommy and daddy got married,' and 'Hey Riley, that’s where our adoption was finalized.' It’s just a place that brings back a lot of memories."
Pictures over the years tell a story of a resilience that outlasts time. With fire hoses and ash now blanketing its grounds, a town remains grateful for everything the courthouse has given. Residents hope the city can rebuild the courthouse. That could take several years and millions of dollars.
"Nobody can take away our memories," said Dan Bell, who runs the Loudon Daily Edition newspaper. "You can replace the building, but you can’t take away our memories."