When the Jackson County commissioners decided they needed to find someone to provide a little tender loving care for the county’s 146-year-old courthouse, they turned to a company in nearby Columbus.
Workers with that firm, Ken Neely Building Restoration, have spent the past month restoring the limestone blocks that are the foundation of the building. The work cost $31,171.
The owner of the company, Ken Neely, said the restoration work, which includes replacing the caulk between the limestone blocks, should last anywhere from 50 to 100 years.
He said it has been a long time since the exterior of the courthouse has been addressed.
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“And a lot of it wasn’t done right,” Neely said.
The original courthouse was built in 1870, according to the National Register of Historic Places. The two-story brick building was remodeled in the classical revival style in 1911. It features a four-sided bell tower along with an attic and a basement used for storage of records. The basement also has some office space.
Neely’s crew used a limestone putty caulk to replace the existing caulk. The putty is designed for restoration work.
The new caulking is typical of what might have been used at around 1900 and should last a long time, Neely said.
Neely’s workers also repaired the blocks that have cracked or had pieces break away. Those repairs were then treated with acid to better match the existing limestone, and everything was sealed.
Commissioners President Matt Reedy said Mitch Patrick, the county maintenance supervisor, approached commissioners about the need for repairing the limestone around the base about four months ago.
Reedy said water was getting into the joints and cracks of the blocks in the winter, and then freezing and causing the limestone to crack.
“It was pretty bad and getting to the point where some stones were falling apart,” he said.
Commissioners decided to hire Neely for the project based upon Patrick’s recommendation.
“He’s one of the best,” Patrick said of Neely’s work.
Patrick said he, Commissioner Jerry Hounshel and Neely recently met to explore some of the masonry issues with the parapets and capstones on the roof of the courthouse.
The parapet, a protective wall on the roof of the building, and capstones, which sit atop the parapet, need repairing and sealing, and the clock tower will be cleaned and sealed to prevent water from getting into it, Patrick said.
Both need some repairs and if not fixed could lead to more serious issues, Patrick said.
“They also are going to repair the caulking between the joints on the bell tower and paint the hands on the clocks black so they look like they used to,” he said.
On Tuesday night, Patrick and Neely met with commissioners about the work on the upper portions of the courthouse. Neely said presented an estimate to $36,000 to repair the parapet and capstones and another $24,000 for repairs to the clock tower.
Neely said there are open joints everywhere in the tower, inside and outside.
Hounshel said the work is something the commissioners need to get going on it they don’t want the problems to get worse.
Commissioners asked county Treasurer Kathy Hohenstreiter to see what kind of funding might be available and give them a report at their meeting at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 20.
In 2002, county commissioners approved a $4.5 million project to renovate the courthouse and remodel the former Jackson County Jail for a courthouse annex. That work, however, mostly involved interior modifications.