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Sunday, January 22, 2012

13th Anniversary of the 1999 Clarksville Tornado

Montgomery Co. Courthouse 2

This is the 4th Courthouse to be built in Clarksville. It was constructed in 1879 for $100,000, and was placed in a location that was away from the town square. It was designed with Italianate and Victorian elements in a classical style and is topped with a tall clock tower.

This courthouse was built after a devestating fire turned the previous courthouse and much of the city was turned to rubble. On April 13, 1878, the fire started, which was aided by wind as well as the town's only fire engine broke down early. This fire wasn't fully out until another fire engine was sent by train from Nashville.

On March 12, 1900 another fire almost destroyed this courthouse. It was believed to have started in the southeast section of a flue in the office of the Circuit Court Clerk. By now, the town had learned its lesson and had better fire-fighting practices in place, which saved the building. Steel girders and beams in the ceiling were anchored in cement keeping the lower floor intact, although the roof and tower collapsed. After inspection, the remnants were deemed structurally sound and the building was rebuilt with a new clock and the soaring bronze eagle was reinstated in his aerie on the top.

On March 20, 1976, heavy winds caused the eagle on top to be blown off and it was feared to be lost but eventually found and reattached.

Disaster struck again on Jan. 22, 1999, when an F4 tornado struck downtown, crippling the courthouse and causing $74 million damage to the city. Sections of the roof and spires were ripped away, the clock tower was leveled and the east wall was collapsed. The eagle was never found. After considering building a new courthouse, city leaders decided to rebuild this one again. The exterior was rebuilt to look just like it had been and the interior was redesigned. A replicated tower and eagle was again placed on top. All repairs were completed in the fall of 2002.

How long will it last this time? Clarksville has a very storied past of disasters with fires, tornados and floods.

This view was taken in July 2008 from the top of a parking garage.

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