UPDATE: Massive fire destroys Hancock County courthouse

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News 12 First at Five / Monday, August 11, 2014

(WRDW) --

Georgia lost one of its historic treasures Monday morning. The Hancock County courthouse has been watching over downtown Sparta for more than 130 years, and that all changed this morning. Around three o'clock in the morning, this historic building, went up in flames.

"It was our pride and joy," said Sistie Hudson. She saw thirty two years of memories go up in flames this morning. "It's my home. I'll be sixty four this year and it's my home," she said.

It's not just the building she's upset about, it's what was inside. One hundred and thirty years of historical documents, gone.

The financial records are safe, but all of the old records and minute books are a total loss some dating back to the days of slavery. Allen Hayword with the development authority says that's really the heart of the damage. "The history of this building, there will be a lot of historians throughout the state crying today," he said.

Feelings shared by a lot of folks, like Tomeka McClendon, who worked in the building. "I was just here wow... getting people to go out and vote and it just breaks my heart to see where I once was working is now up in flames," McClendon said.

And the pain is even worse because of the timing. Renovations to the building started less than a week ago. "It's just heartbreaking we were making some progress in this county," Hayword said.

The fire is now being investigated by the state fire marshal, and Hudson said she does not believe the renovations are to blame.

Whatever the cause, McClendon hopes for justice. "Only God knows the truth and I hope and I pray that justice prevails. I pray it was an accident. I don't know lord only you know the answer," she said.

In the mean time, Hudson is focused on the future. "We're going to build. We'll rebuild. Somebody sent me an email this morning to save as many bricks as possible to put in the new one," Hudson said.

Hancock County does have around five million dollars in insurance on the building, but they don't think that is going to cover the cost. The county commission will be meeting at a local technical school in the meantime.

Monday, Aug. 11, 2014

HANCOCK COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW) - A massive fire destroyed the Hancock County Courthouse overnight.

The fire chief tells News 12 the courthouse is a total loss. No one was injured in the fire that started at 3 in the morning.

By the time crews got it under control, there was nothing left. The fire chief said within five or six minutes after getting on scene, the entire building was engulfed in flames.

The only thing left after the fire were the outside walls. Crews are monitoring the courthouse to make sure there are no hot beds.

The building is 130 years old and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Georgia DOT was on the scene to direct traffic and to make sure no one gets too close to the building in case it collapses.

Anyone who may have pictures from when the fire started this morning is asked to call the Hancock County Sheriff's Office at 706-444-1220