Crowds Attend Courthouse Celebration

The long-awaited reveal for the freshly renovated Hinsdale County Courthouse came Friday, September 15 at 1 p.m. The large crowd packed with state and local dignitaries, judicial representatives, locals from every corner of Hinsdale County as well as a bevy of Lake City Community School students, gathered to view the ceremony, enjoy the punch and cookies, and take a tour of the fabulous, fresh-faced historic restoration.
County Commissioner Stan Whinnery who has had oversight of the extended project, welcomed the crowd and gave brief opening remarks. He noted, “The original plan in Hinsdale County was to eventually build a more impressive stone courthouse.” He added that the silver mines began closing before it could be accomplished and we were left with the frame courthouse. “Since then,” he stated, “We have made do and made do and made do. By the time we got started on this project, the old girl really needed some help.” He stated that building improvements to electrical, phones and other repairs made in every decade since the turn of the century offered special challenges for the contractors. “We open up one thing and find two or three other things that needed to be done!”
Grant Houston, local historian, SILVER WORLD editor and consultant on the courthouse renovation project was asked to give a historical overview of the courthouse. Houston quoted from SILVER WORLD edition of the day giving a rollicking account of revelers dancing all night long at the Inaugural Ball held in the upper floors sans windows which were overdue at the grand opening. No story of the courthouse would be complete without a recounting of Alferd Packer and his trial. Particularly poignant were Houston’s recounting of the Susan B. Anthony speech delivered precisely where he stood on the courthouse step as she passionately spoke in favor of voting rights for women.
Houston drew laughter as he recalled former Colorado Governor Charles Thomas’ recollection of District Court when it was first convened in Hinsdale County’s new courthouse in 1877.
“The entire town assembled in the courtroom for the occasion. The Sheriff was Henry Finley. The Judge was not prompt in arriving. He finally appeared, however, and edging his way through the crowd, managed with some difficulty in reaching the bench.”
“Taking his seat, the Judge looked over the room for a moment, then removed the cigar from his mouth, blew a large volume of smoke into the air, and said to the Sheriff, “Turn her loose, Fin.”
Houston concluded his remarks, “To Hinsdale County Commissioners and county residents on this glorious and historic day, I would say the same, “Turn her loose!”
Present in the audience were Marty Galvin from the Underfunded Courthouse Commission at the State Court Administrative Office, as well as the Alamosa County Commissioner, Darius Allen, who also sits on the Underfunded Commission, which funded a portion of the courthouse.
Colorado State Historic Fund representative Michael Owen offered special thanks to persuasive Hinsdale County grant writer Kristie Borchers, architect Ben White and building code inspector Jack Nichols, all of whom worked diligently to keep the project to State Historic standards. He added, “This is such a great day for Hinsdale County and all of Colorado.”
Next introduced was Christy Doon, the regional director for the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) which provided a significant amount of grant funds for the project. She presented a commemorative plaque to the Commission Board which was accepted by Stan Whinnery.
Dan Hostenpiller, District Attorney for the 7th District made a heartfelt case for the importance of history: for knowing it and preserving it. Turning to the large group of students in the audience, he stated, “You kids may wonder why you have to learn all this history, it helps us have pers-pective. Not until we really learn history do we really gain perspective on our lives today.” He continued, noting that we like to think of history in glowing terms where everything was better. “However, if Alferd Packer’s trial were today, he’d be appointed a bunch of lawyers and it would take years to convict him.” That was precisely what happened, he revealed, at the original trial when it took 12 years to finally convict Packer after his original hanging conviction in Hinsdale County was overturned on a technicality. Hostenpiller concluded, “We must continue the work today to make sure that justice continues to be swift and sure.”
Judicial Chief Judge J. Stephen Patrick was introduced by Whinnery. Addressing the complex necessities for the courtroom, he stated, “We want you to know how much we appreciate how cooperative and wonderful everyone has been throughout this project.” He tossed a question out to the school children asking, “What is the law of the land?” With no immediate youthful response, Hinsdale County Attorney Michael O’Laughlin handily replied, “How about the Constitution?” This received laughter, audience applause and agreement from Judge Patrick.
Patrick then asked if people knew what was to be celebrated a few days hence on September 17th? Ann McCoy Harold, Regional Director for Senator Cory Gardner, responded with enthusiasm, “National Constitution Day!” “Yes,” Patrick noted. “We should never forget and should always treasure our Constitution which gives us the right to be represented and for all of us to be treated fairly.”
Whinnery then asked Grant Houston to return and have the honor of cutting the red ribbon to officially open the courthouse. Surprised at the unexpected honor, Houston returned.
As Commissioners Dozier and Thompson held the ribbon across the threshold, Houston took the ceremonial scissors and the rest, as they say, is history.