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Old courthouse reopens

Teton Valley News

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

By: Julia Tellman

After over a year of remodels, the old courthouse in Driggs is back in action.

Merrill Schneider, who bought the courthouse in mid-2017, said he’s happy to finally be finished. He worked with an architectural historian to preserve the historical character of the almost-century-old building.

According to Teton Valley Museum records, voters passed a bond in 1924 for the construction of the courthouse. C.A. Sundberg was the architect and contractor Charles Zollinger of Rexburg built it. The final cost was $106,657. The building housed county operations until the new courthouse on Bates Road was constructed in 2009.

Outdoor renovations included the removal of some of the awning next to the library, the installation of a patio, a thorough brick cleaning, and extensive landscaping. In addition to cosmetic improvements, Schneider made safety and efficiency upgrades to bring the old systems up to modern standards.

The building retains much of its character; the largest safe is still intact, as is the barred door to the old jail cell. The big courtroom upstairs feels almost like a ballroom. The wooden doorframes with transom windows and original wood floors have been carefully rehabilitated. The old coal furnace, now decommissioned, is still in the basement.

Some of the new commercial space in the courthouse has already been leased. The Rusty Nail furniture store is relocating to the spacious ground floor area, an attorney has claimed one of the offices upstairs, and Teton Literacy Works will also call the building home. Other clients are eyeing the vacant areas, Schneider said.

He will be hosting an open house on June 25 for anyone seeking to satisfy their curiosity about what’s been happening behind those red brick walls. The event will go from 5 to 7 p.m. and refreshments will be served.

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