Donald Lovette, chairman of the Liberty County Board of Commissioners, called the recent damage to the outer wall of the historic Liberty jail a setback, but vowed restoration and repairs will move forward.
“It’s our desire and passion to restore this building, and we are going to make sure that happens at all costs,” Lovette said Friday morning while assessing the damage caused by a single-vehicle accident Thursday on South Main Street.
Shortly after 5 p.m. Thursday, the driver of a white Chevy sedan lost control of the car, which rolled over and struck the brick wall at the landmark, causing significant damage to the southern portion of the jail’s exterior wall.
According to Hinesville Police traffic-accident investigator Richard Boucher, an unidentified couple in the vehicle had been involved in an altercation. At one point, the woman exited the vehicle in the parking lot of The Heritage Bank on South Main Street. After a few moments, she got back into the 2010 Chevy Aveo.
As the male driver pulled onto the roadway heading in the direction of the old courthouse, the woman jerked the steering wheel to the right, causing the vehicle to hit the brick wall. When the vehicle struck the wall, it rolled over once and landed upright.
The driver received minor injuries and was treated at the scene. The woman was airlifted to Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah, where her condition is unknown.
The driver will be charged with failure to exercise due care, while charges are pending against the woman.
Lovette and Hinesville Development Authority Executive Director Michelle Ricketson assessed the damage Friday morning. Lovette said there were plans in place to restore the wrought-iron fencing that once sat on top of the brick-exterior wall in an effort to reproduce the façade of the jail as it originally appeared in 1892.
“There have been some historic-preservation funds set aside to restore this site because it is very near and dear to the heart of the citizens of Liberty County,” he said, adding they are working with Savannah Technical College for the restoration efforts.
“We’ve been working real hard on preserving this site … one of the historical jewels and icons in Liberty County … one consolation, though, is that there was no loss of life, so we are happy about that,” Lovette continued. “We do have a great resource in Savannah Tech and their historic-preservation program. I am hoping Steve Hartley and the class at Tech will be able to do wonders here to reconstruct this site.”
Lovette said as far as he knew, the damaged bricks were original, dating back to the early 1890s. He said they will do their best to use as many of the original bricks as they can. Lovette said they will call the insurance company, meet with Ricketson and the HDDA staff and the board of commissioners. He said they will also call in Savannah Tech to get an evaluation as soon as possible.
Lovette said the damage was a bit tragic considering the additional costs they might have to incur, but added that the BoC was 100 percent behind the project.
“It’s not just a wall … this is a city where we have a lot of new, but we want to work hard in preserving the old,” he said.