Workers dismantle a section of oak furniture in the old federal courtroom, third floor of the downtown post office on West Broad Avenue. The century-old furniture has been donated to Albany Technical College for use in their law enforcement classes. In the foreground is the main section of the judges bench. (Staff Photo: Jim West)
ALBANY — Most people will outlive the things they use from day to day — clothes, cars, electronic equipment.
Some things, though, just never seem to go away. Crafted fine oak furniture, such as that which graced the former federal courtroom in the downtown Post Office building, belongs in that group. But change does happen. Then even century-old furniture may have to move around a little.
Frances Krack, leasing agent for Lone Star Equities which owns the Griggs Building where the courtroom in housed, was faced with a dilemma recently. The courtroom has gone unused for years and so her company would like to make the 2,200 square foot space more attractive to potential renters. That meant finding a place for the stained oak judge’s bench, jury box, chairs, rails and other items. Most area residents know the Griggs Building at 357 W. Broad Ave. as the downtown post office building, completed 1910.
As Krack considered her options, Lynn Miller, a teacher of law enforcement at Albany Technical College, got wind of the situation and offered a solution: Lone Star could donate the vintage courtroom furniture for use in her classes. Historically, her students have pushed chairs and tables together to simulate a courtroom situation, but it “just isn’t the same,” Miller said.
“Our students are really excited,” Miller said. “We were on a field trip to the Georgia Supreme Court when we got the news. I like to teach by doing. Textbooks and videos are all right, but this will give (the students) the real feeling.”
Workers have been dismantling the big oak pieces and packing it for the big move down South Slappey Boulevard to the college. Discovered on the underside of the judge’s bench was a shipping mark and date written in white paint: Maly Brothers Ltd. Albany, Ga 1911. The building itself has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 1979.
Among the notable federal cases tried in the third floor courtroom was the Preston King case in 1961. King faced charges of draft evasion for refusing to report for conscription until an all-white draft board addressed him as “Mr,” as it addressed white draftees. King was convicted, but fled to the the United Kingdom to avoid imprisonment. He was later pardoned by President Bill Clinton.
“(The furniture) is very much a part of Albany history and especially downtown,” Krack said. “I just couldn’t see it going out the door and to a landfill. That would be a national disgrace. I’d prefer it to be moved on for someone else to enjoy it as it has been used for all these years.”
Krack said that should Albany Technical College ever decide they had no use for the furniture, it would automatically be re-donated to the Thronateeska Heritage Center for display in its museum.