There was a lot going on atop the Greene County Courthouse over the summer, and none of it was very good.
First, the statue of Gen. Nathanael Greene was deteriorating, so much so that the situation was described as “critical.” Then, the wooden deck of the dome on which the statue rested was also crumbling, causing an architect to conclude “the stability of the dome structure is questionable.” A host of other problems were itemized, including the instability of the metal rods that hold down the statue.
This crisis followed a $700,000 restoration project to reinforce timbers above the ceiling of a large courtroom. They had pulled loose over time and their failure could have resulted in the courthouse ceiling tumbling down.
It would have been easy to point a finger of blame toward county officials for not recognizing the problem with the statue earlier. But, frankly, it was not their fault.
The condition of the statue was not discovered until contractors completing work on the courtroom ceiling discovered the rotting likeness of Gen. Greene. Also, Miles Davin Sr., who created the statue, died in 2008, and no one did any repair work since then.
But, last week, a new fiberglass statue of the Revolutionary War commander for whom Greene County is named was lifted to the dome of the courthouse. Putting Gen. Greene back on the courthouse dome came at a rather hefty price, however. The statue was fabricated by Fiske and Sons Inc., a building preservation and restoration company from Erie, at a cost of $32,375.
The new statue was modeled on the second of the three statues that are believed to have graced the courthouse dome since the structure was built in 1850. The new fiberglass statue, which also includes a lightning rod, is expected to last many years. As Jeff Marshall, the county’s chief clerk said, “We shouldn’t have to worry about it, not in our lifetime.”
So, we wonder, was the cost worth it? Frankly, the closest Greene ever came to this part of the world was when he participated in the Battles of Trenton in New Jersey and Brandywine and Germantown in Pennsylvania, and acted as quartermaster general at Valley Forge. When the war began, Greene was a militia private, the lowest rank possible; he emerged from the war with a reputation as George Washington’s most gifted and dependable officer. Greene suffered financial difficulties after the war, though, and died suddenly of sunstroke in 1786 at the age of 44.
There are many places in the United States named after him, including Greene County in northeast Georgia. Although Greene never fought a battle in Georgia, his leadership was the catalyst that turned the tide toward American victory in the colony, freeing Georgia from British forces.
Greene’s name was affixed to the county because of his reputation as a commander during the Revolutionary War and the respect bestowed on him by George Washington. Though he might not have become as well known as the Father of Our Country, his role in forging the nation was also crucial.
And why not name it Greene? The name Washington was already taken by the contiguous county just to the north.