Why do they call it that? Citrus County Courthouse in Inverness -- How Elvis saved the courthouse

6:54 AM, Mar 14, 2012   |    comments
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This is the coolest 100-year old you may ever meet -- a movie star who hung out with the King of Rock and Roll. And this celebrity's home is here in Tampa Bay.

Why do they call it the Citrus County Courthouse?

Forty-nine years old is a little late to start a Hollywood career.

But don't tell that to this building -- shhh! It was just born to be a star.

Built in 1912 to serve Citrus County -- named for the fruit that made Florida famous -- the courthouse finally got its big break in 1961.

That's when Hollywood, California came to Inverness, Florida.

In 1961, Elvis Presley traveled to Citrus County to film his ninth movie, "Follow That Dream."

That's right -- the King himself held court in the building's beautiful courtroom. The courtroom scene makes up the last nine or ten minutes of the movie.

"Probably the Summer of '61, things were very quiet, and that made for a great opportunity to film the movie upstairs in the courtroom," said Kathy Turner Thompson.

Turner Thompson oversees the historical resources of what was then a very sleepy county of fewer than 10,000 people.

But not long after Elvis left the building, the courthouse got all shook up.

The county made much of this place into office space. The interior? Torn apart. For example, inside the men's restroom, you'll find the door to a vault, which was part of the Sheriff's Office sometime in the past.

The classy courtroom was converted, too. Its charming touches were taken away and it became a bland, boring room.

"You would have seen drop ceilings with fluorescent lights, all of the original plaster work was covered over with paneling, the original railing -- judge's bench -- was no longer there," Turner Thompson said.

Court functions were eventually moved out, into another building. So the county decided in the 90's to restore this place to its original good looks and make it a museum.

But they had a problem.

"There wasn't a lot of historic photographs around of what the courtroom looked like originally. So... we got permission from MGM... and we took still photographs of the video," Turner Thompson said.

That's right.

Still images from this Elvis flick became the archival records, the basis for the blueprints architects used to accurately bring all this beauty back.

Why do they call it that? Now you know.

Get this -- Elvis is saving the courthouse for a second time!

Last year, a group started performing a play in the historic courtroom. It's called "When Elvis Came to Town" and it re-creates what it was like in sleepy Inverness when that movie was filmed 51 years ago.

The performance raised $17,000 to help restore the courthouse.

They're performing the play again next month. And, of course, there will be an Elvis impersonator in the starring role. You can catch it April 20th, 21st, and 22nd. Tickets are 25 dollars. You can get them from the Citrus County Historical Society website.

We feature new "Why do they call it that?" stories each Wednesday on 10 News at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Check out previous editions of the Emmy-nominated series at our "Why do they call it that?" website: wtsp.com/callitthat.

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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