, Salem, MA

Local News

November 2, 2011

Sneak peek at 'stunning' new courthouse

The transformation of courthouse row on historic Federal Street begins this month with the opening of the $109 million J. Michael Ruane Judicial Center.

The new courthouse will combine the operations of four state courts in one building for the first time locally.

The glass and steel structure at the corner of Federal and North streets has 11 courtrooms: four each for Superior and District courts, two for Juvenile Court, and one for Housing Court.

"This is a major justice center," said Richard L'heureux, manager for programming, planning and design for the Trial Court of Massachusetts. "Like the rest of the world, it's one-stop shopping."

The sprawling, five-story building will open in phases, with Superior Court scheduled to be up and running by Monday, Nov. 21, and the others to follow.

"Everyone should be here by Christmas," said L'heureux, who led a tour of the building yesterday for about 40 business and community leaders.

The hard-hat group entered the building through the main entrance on Federal Street and walked under a high crossbeam upon which was scrawled a quote from Daniel Webster — "The law: It has honored us; may we honor it."

L'heureux led Mayor Kim Driscoll and others into the law library, a large room with five chandeliers and ornate wooden balconies that was once the First Baptist Church. The state bought the 1806 church building and moved it a short distance nearly three years ago to make way for courthouse construction. The law library is attached to the main courthouse.

In a few weeks, antique furniture and portraits of judges will be moved from the old law library in Superior Court to this new room. The court's witchcraft records will be on exhibit here.

On the top floor, the tour group saw judges' private offices and jury deliberation rooms, which have large glass windows with views of the North River and beyond.

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