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Revitalizing Union County’s History with Historic Tiles

MONROE, N.C. (WBTV) – In a tale of history preserving history, the historic courthouse in downtown Monroe witnessed a unique preservation effort unfold.

After more than 130 years, the slate tiles adorning the courthouse roof required attention. County officials, however, approached this maintenance task with a twist in mind.

Union County Deputy Manager Patrick Niland remarked, “Those tiles were installed just seven years post the invention of the light bulb. When the decision was made to replace them, we believed that discarding these tiles would not align with the county’s best interests.”

Rather than disposing of the tiles, the county opted to offer them for sale, turning them into pieces of Union County’s heritage. Priced at $5 each, individuals had the chance to acquire an original slate tile from the historic courthouse roof.

The local community eagerly seized this opportunity, leading to over 873 tiles being sold and generating nearly $4,400. Yet, the narrative didn’t conclude there. The county chose to donate the proceeds to the Carolinas Genealogical Society, situated within the courthouse premises.

Marian Morgan from the society expressed, “We felt honored by this gesture. It provided us with the opportunity to progress on a long-discussed initiative.”

The society, committed to conserving the histories of Union, Anson, and Mecklenburg Counties, manages various rooms within the courthouse housing an array of historical materials. The funds from the slate tile sale were earmarked for the preservation of thousands of historical photo negatives, currently undergoing the process of scanning and digitization.

Barbara Moore, the Society’s President, exclaimed, “The unexpected monetary contribution brought us immense joy. It enabled us to advance our mission of safeguarding the legacies of these counties.”

Moore emphasized, “Understanding one’s family history necessitates delving into their roots. Visual representations, such as photographs, offer insights into individuals’ characteristics beyond mere names.”

With the newfound resources, the society diligently converts these negatives into digital archives, with the intention of eventually sharing them online for wider access.

Linda Vert, a society member, shared her enthusiasm for scanning the photos. She highlighted the process of comparing the negatives, often sourced from old newspaper archives, with contemporaneous newspaper clippings to unravel the context behind each image.

Vert reflected, “We recently scanned a photo related to a 1921 trial, showcasing how historical photos breathe life into narratives. They transcend mere genealogical records, embodying stories and identities.”

This endeavor transcends mere photo preservation; it encapsulates the essence of memories, faces, and the intricate tapestry of Union County’s past. While the courthouse roof tiles no longer adorn the building, their legacy endures, ensuring that the stories they sheltered for over a century remain alive.

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