Courtyard goes back in time

Published 8:29 pm Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Taking a tour around the newly finished brick-paved Leverett-Lucas Courtyard at the Firehouse Gallery with Joyce Leverett is a history lesson in motion.

The courtyard, which will be dedicated on Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m., is all about the residents of the City of Bainbridge.

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One finds bricks recognizing those businesses that have been in Bainbridge for generations. There are bricks naming their founders and all their descendants, grouped together and arranged in family trees.

There are also individual groups of families, banks, churches, and memorial bricks dedicated in memory of loved ones, or significant events.

There is even a brick in the Dr. Phillip Todaro family group for Barney the dog, who often accompanied the good doctor on his rounds at Memorial Manor, adding comfort and joy to the residents.

Recently, Leverett guided me around the courtyard, explaining as she went how the funds were raised, how it was all organized, and how she and her crew personally oversaw the laying of each and every brick.

OVERSEEING THE COURTYARD project at the Firehouse Center and Gallery is Joyce Leverett.

Joyce Leverett is a modest soul who was reluctant to talk about herself, but she had no trouble talking enthusiastically about the project itself.

Leverett served a three-year term as fund-raiser on the board of the Firehouse Gallery during the years it was being renovated. When she went off the board she agreed to continue to be involved in the project by selling bricks to pave the courtyard.

And sell bricks she did!

She says there were approximately 100 bricks sold previously, and she sold 600 more.

Leverett had the idea the bricks should be representative of the history of Bainbridge. She began contacting those people who had businesses in Bainbridge years ago, even those who may have moved away. She found they were eager to have a brick or two in recognition of their contribution to the town’s history.

Cost of the bricks was $50 each, if buying in lots of three or more. If less than three, the cost was $55 each.

The actual courtyard design is the work of Gina Bryan Bell.

“We just carried out her vision,” said Leverett.

The “we” she refers to are the members of the hard-working group that helped bring the project to reality. She names them easily and frequently. They are first and foremost Basil and Phyllis Lucas, who have spent hours and hours on all aspects of the Firehouse restoration and maintenance.

When it comes to how she was aided in planning the display of the bricks, she gives credit to Betty Peak, who came up with a huge paper grid with brick design, scaled to the courtyard space. This helped Leverett visualize how to place the printed bricks.

Leverett said that grid was laid out on her living room floor for months, and as she sold a brick, or a family of bricks, she would put the names in order on slips of paper, sized per brick, and tape them on the grid. That way she could move them around until she got it “just right.”

Others to whom she gives credit are City Manager Chris Hobby and the city employees who helped her with, “Everything I ever asked for.”

As the named bricks were delivered, they were stored inside the Firehouse in appropriate groupings.

The brick layers arrived from Atlanta and Leverett’s crew composed of herself, her husband, Jack, the Lucases, Sally Bates, Hilda Hines and Roslyn Palmer worked with two wheelbarrows taking the signed bricks out as needed.

The bricklayers soon determined the best method was to lay all the plain bricks first, then let the Firehouse crew tell where the signed ones went, according to the layout. They would pick up the blank ones and put down the signed ones.

Thanks to the well-organized grid it only took a day and a half to lay the bricks.

J.C.I. Contractors, in charge of the Streetscape plan for the city, offered to do all the landscaping, etc., but Leverett wanted as much of the work as possible to be done locally. The iron fencing is the work of Welding Kings and the landscaping is by In the Garden.

Leverett said she is grateful to all the people who supported this project by buying bricks, or gave in other ways. The major portion of the cost was covered by the purchase of bricks and private citizen donations, but they also received $17,500 from a state grant.

She describes the project as being more fun than stress, but said the biggest stress was making sure she could get all the names in the right place by generation.

She said she was driven by the desire to have the courtyard be a thing of beauty and a welcoming place where people can come for functions, or just to rest on the restored benches and enjoy a quiet moment.

As we looked at the bricks that late summer day we were visited by two Bainbridge residents who were very touched to find bricks in memory of friends they had loved and lost.

This writer was even amazed to find that Sam and Mary Ann Griffin purchased bricks, not only in the name of The Post-Searchlight and their extended family; but a brick for each of the 77 employees who worked at The Post Searchlight in 2006.

What a warm feeling to know “my by-line” will live on with all the others whose names are “set in stone” in the history of Bainbridge!