By Aubrey Woods | The Tribune
A Columbus company with plenty of experience restoring historic buildings has set up shop at the Jackson County Courthouse in Brownstown for the second time this year.
This summer, workers with Ken Neely Building Restoration focused on renovating the limestone block foundation of the 146-year-old building. That work cost $31,171.
The company’s newest project, which has a $60,000 price tag, involves tuck-pointing of the parapets that ring the top of the two-story brick structure and recaulking of the limestone caps on the tops of the parapets.
“There are holes in the caulking, and it’s alligatoring,” said Ken Neely, who owns the company that has worked on the Indiana War Memorial, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in downtown Indianapolis and other courthouses and historic buildings.
Neely, who has been in the business for more than 40 years, said a lot of the caulking between the capstones has lived its life and just needs to be removed.
He said holes in that caulking allow water to get inside the courthouse and that causes damage when the water freezes and thaws and then refreezes during the colder months. A lack of mortar or damaged mortar between bricks on the parapets and the exterior of the clock tower also causes similar problems.
The restoration process begins with everything being power blasted and then cleaned with an environmentally safe product, Neely said.
“We used a chemical called Bio-Clean on the capstones,” Neely said. “We spray it on and let it sit for a few days. It takes a couple of days to work to get the carbons out.”
The project then requires cutting or grinding the caulking out of the joints between the capstones and the mortar out of the joints between bricks before new mortar can be put in place.
The capstone joints will be refilled with high-grade urethane, called MP-1 Sausage, that has a lifespan of about 20 years, Neely said.
“It works really, really well. We’ve used it for years and years,” he said.
Once the caulking is put in place and mortar is put back in place between the bricks in a process known as tuck-pointing, everything has to set for five to seven days before it can be cleaned with another environmentally clean product, Neely said.
“After it’s clean and we get our caulking done, we waterproof everything with another environmentally friendly product,” he said.
The company has spent about four weeks on the job and has nearly completed the work on the parapets.
The clock tower is going to require rigging with scaffolding, Neely said. The clock hands also will be repainted.
Mitch Patrick, who is the building maintenance supervisor for the county, said the work is just a part of the general maintenance of the building that is ongoing.
Next year, for instance, he plans to look at doing something with the windows and interior lighting, Patrick said.
“We’re just trying to maintain it all while saving money in the future,” he said. “It’s a really old building.”
The original courthouse was built between 1870 and 1873 by Travis Carter and Co. of Seymour at a cost of $38,220.
The building was remodeled in the classical revival style in 1911 at a cost of less than $100,000. That work began July 13, 1910, and ended Sept. 20, 1911.
The last major work at the courthouse occurred in 2002 after county commissioners approved a $4.5 million project to renovate it and remodel the former Jackson County Jail for a courthouse annex. That work mostly involved interior modifications.