Historic Hampshire County Courthouse has a new owner

  • The Hampshire County Courthouse, as seen from Gothic Street in Northampton, is home to the Hampshire Council of Governments. Photographed on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. gazette file photo

Staff Writer
Published: 11/29/2019 11:25:17 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The historic courthouse on Main Street has a new owner.

On Tuesday, Gov. Charlie Baker signed a bill to transfer the Hampshire County Courthouse, which was owned by the Hampshire Council of Governments, to the state Trial Court. The fate of the building had been up in the air as state lawmakers worked on the dissolution of HCG, which was the successor organization to county government.

The bill that Baker signed Tuesday was presented by state Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, and transfers control of the property to the state.

The deed conveying the property to the state includes provisions for the courthouse to remain open to the public and for historic items in the building to remain publicly available in the Northampton region.

“I think it’s a very positive outcome for both the building as well as for the city, and I thank and applaud Sen. Jo Comerford for her stewardship of this effort — and obviously the rest of the delegation,” Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz said in an interview Friday.

The Gazette could not immediately reach Comerford for comment Friday.

The courthouse has undergone several million dollars worth of repairs over the last few years, including repair of the tower on top of the historic courthouse and its steps.

Narkewicz said the Trial Court owning the building makes the most sense because of the connections the courthouse has with the neighboring county courthouse building. The two buildings share heating and ventilation, and the historic courthouse is handicapped-accessible only by first entering the county courthouse.

“I just think for every reason it makes sense,” Narkewicz said.

The new legislation does give the Trial Court the ability to sell or lease the property through a competitive bidding process if it determines it has “no current or foreseeable use” for it.

Narkewicz said he isn’t concerned about the building being sold or leased in the future, though.

“I feel confident, given that the building has historic restrictions on it, that any future sale by the state would be limited in terms of what could and couldn’t be done on the property,” he said, noting that the property is used for public events such as summer concerts and the annual Fourth of July naturalization ceremony.

Legislation is still working its way through the state Legislature to dissolve HCG. The organization’s assets and liabilities must be unwound, including how its health care and pension contributions are handled.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.

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