St. Maarten Courthouse renovation underway

POSTED: 03/19/11 8:29 PM

St. Maarten – The St. Maarten Courthouse on Front Street is finally surrounded by scaffolding and painters are busy preparing the monumental building for a thorough face lift. The work was scheduled to take place last year, but it got underway only last week. The Dutch government pays for the project.

The courthouse is now 218 years old. It was first built in 1793 and then served as the home of St. Maarten’s first governor, Commandeur John Philips.

In the course of the years the building has been used for a variety of purposes. It has been a jail, a post office and a fire station. To this day visitors entering the building on the ground floor are met with a notice that reads, “Dear visitor, this is not the post office. It is the courthouse.”

The bell tower has a carillon with 25 bells. The pineapple on the roof is of a younger date. Frank Gonsalves, an Australian master shipwright carved it in 1996 to replace the original that has been lost in a storm.

The Coat of Arms of the Netherlands Antilles that still decorates the front of the building will in all likelihood be taken down during the renovation and end up in the local museum.

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