Tuesday, January 30, 2001

Georgetown's aim: to rise again

Fire's not the first in historic area

By Randy McNutt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        GEORGETOWN, Ohio — Georgetown's first challenge of the new century is to rebuild yet another piece of its colorful past.

        A downtown block heavily damaged in a fire on Monday is one of Southwest Ohio's architectural gems — in a small town that could easily serve as a movie location.

        The west side of the courthouse square, where the fire occurred, is called Commercial Row. Its Victorian Italianate buildings were renovated in 1976 with help from wildlife artist John Ruthven and his wife, Judy.

        They worked with business leaders to coordinate the repainting and renovation of old buildings in pleasing colors, complete with period-style signs.

        When the work was finished, Mrs. Ruthven said it took the downtown back “as close as we can get to proba bly its most charming time.”

        If you drive downtown when the light and your imagination are just right, you might think you've returned to the late 1880s. Ornate wooden buildings line the area around the courthouse. Several are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

        During the U.S. bicentennial in 1976, the old Steele's Pharmacy won first place statewide and third place nationally in a business renovation contest.

        But Georgetown didn't have time to savor the

        improvements. The Greek Revival courthouse, the cultural and historical focal point of the village, burned the next year.

        Through private fund raising, Brown County reconstructed the courthouse, built about 1851. It finally reopened in 1986.

        Another fire struck the downtown a few years later.

        “There was a fire on one end of the row last year, too,” said Ka therine McElroy, who works in the village offices. “That's been restored now. Luckily, there was a fire wall. We hope that there are government grants available to help restore things.”


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