Contractors began demolishing the Jailhouse Gallery on the Historic Burke County Courthouse Square in Downtown Morganton Monday. The removal of the building, which most recently housed the Burke Arts Council, will clear the way for the construction of a new amphitheater, common area, and green space that everyone will be able to enjoy.

In order to complete demolition of the Jailhouse Gallery, contractors will close the section of East Meeting Street in front of the building at 8 a.m., Thursday, September 3. This is so contractors can safely knock down the exterior wall of the building. Once demolition is complete, the road will be reopened.

“We are so excited that this project is getting underway,” said Department of Cultural and Creative Development Director Sharon Jablonski. “Our intention with this renovation of a portion of the Courthouse Square is to provide a welcoming space that will invite families to enjoy its amenities year round. The Courthouse Square is one of the most iconic vistas in Morganton, and we believe this renovation will make it an area that is the envy of many other cities in western North Carolina. Realizing this vision for the Courthouse Square has been many years in the making, and we can’t wait for our community to enjoy the finished product.”

Demolition will be completed this week, and contractors are expected to get to work on the planned renovations shortly after the demolition is finished. The City hopes that renovations on the square will be completed by summer 2021, in time for the TGIF Concert Series, Morganton Festival, and many holiday events hosted by Main Street each year.

“This renovation is not just about building a new amphitheater — it is about so much more,” said Main Street Manager Abby Nelson. “This is about constructing a space in the heart of our City that will welcome everyone. We are creating somewhere that families can go and enjoy a day in downtown while relaxing in the heart of our City, or where working professionals can grab something from one of our local businesses and eat lunch in a beautiful outdoor area. We are so ready to see this transformation happen.”

The transformation of the Historic Burke County Courthouse Square has been a decades-long effort. Morganton’s vision for the square to become a gathering space for the community was first laid out in the 1996 Downtown Master Plan, and further detailed and identified as a top 10 goal in the 2018 Master Plan. Both Master Plans were completed with extensive input and feedback from the community. Upon its completion, it will bring to life one of the community’s longstanding goals to make the Courthouse Square the center of community life in Downtown Morganton.

“Downtown is the economic and cultural heart of our City. Over the years, as times have changed, downtown has continued to grow with our community and adapt to its needs,” said City Manager Sally Sandy. “This project will drive economic development in the heart of our City, and continue to make our downtown one of the most attractive in the region for people to visit and enjoy.”

Demolition on the Jailhouse Gallery, which previously housed the Burke Arts Council, began Monday.

The above rendering shows is a concept for what the Historic Burke County Courthouse Square renovations will look like.

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