Crumbly courthouse needs facelift, repairs/Commission exploring financing options

Monday, November 19, 2007
This view of the south entrance to the Saline County Courthouse, taken in July, shows some of the surface coating flaking from the columns. The county commission is currently exploring possibilities for financing renovation work to the county landmark. (Eric Crump/Democrat-News)

What will it take to restore the Saline County Courthouse to its former glory?

Money -- lots of it.

That's the conclusion reached in a feasibility study undertaken by the Saline County Historic Preservation Committee at the request of the Saline County Commissioners.

It doesn't take a close look at the exterior of the Saline County Courthouse to see where wind and water have taken their toll on the surface coating. The courthouse has a number of other problems that need attention, according to a feasibility study submitted this year to the county commission. The building is considered sound, according to the report, but needs extensive repair throughout. (Eric Crump/Democrat-News)

The $37,000 study, by the Kansas City firm of Susan Richards Johnson, was partly funded by a grant from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources through the Historic Preservation Fund.

The classically-styled courthouse celebrated its 125th anniversary this year. Although the Johnson report found the building in overall good condition, the list of needed repairs is quite long.

According to the documentation prepared for the building's designation as a historic landmark, the entire building cost nearly $52,000 when it was built in 1882 by John Volk and Company of Rock Island, Ill.

Laid out in a cruciform fashion, with a two-story rotunda, the building's arms reach more than 100 feet and the tower stretches 110 feet into the sky. The red brick load-bearing walls are built on an elevated limestone foundation.

Some of the needed work is obvious -- take, for example, the imposing columns at the north and south entrances to the building.

Made of sandstone, they were covered with a "cementitious parge" coating and a layer of acrylic paint in an earlier restoration attempt.

Unfortunately, the coating and the paint have drawn moisture into the sandstone, resulting in the unsightly cracking, spalling and peeling visible now.

The roof and gutters and the windows need attention very soon, as does the limestone and sandstone exterior detailing.

Ominously, there is a crack in the masonry of the north elevation.

The architectural firm that did the feasibility study spotlights the masonry crack as one of the top priorities.

Getting the study done in the first place was the product of a two-year effort on the part of the Saline County Commissioners.

The historic preservation committee and commissioners expect to meet with representatives of the architectural firm to discuss the study at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 21, in the commission office.

Contact Kathy Fairchild at

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