Keeping historic Lincoln courthouse shining is never-ending job

January 21, 2004|EMILY BURTON

STANFORD - Polished floors shone like looking glass Tuesday as the winter sunlight streamed through the hallway doors in the Lincoln County Courthouse.

Its warmth mingled with the perfume of fresh paint as workers painstakingly covered dingy walls with a fresh coat of antique white. With only a few feet of wall space left, the week-long painting project will be finished with the next few days, but for head custodian, Oliver Miller Jr., the courthouse is never done.

"Whenever you've got a building as old as this is, you try to make it look as nice as possible," Miller said as he watched the walls' transformation. "You don't spend enough on it."

The fresh paint has been two years in the wings, coinciding this month with continual work on the courthouse dome that began last summer.


Miller said he started the project after he noticed the halls were looking lackluster, and was given project approval by Judge-Executive Buckwheat Gilbert. Flat white paint now adorns the ceilings, doors are decked in a clean white semi-gloss, and for a new visual spark, ornamental panels have been accented with a creamy antique white.

The color accent was the brainchild of David Roberts, who crowded into a narrow doorway Tuesday as he slid his brush over the white rectangles. His eyes glued to the delicate task, he hesitantly attributed "a steady hand and patience" as key to a good job. He worked with James Osborn as part of a community service program offered through the Lincoln County Regional Jail, but it was not just service hours for the men.

Both painters showed off their work with pride, talking about the merits of doing a good job and the on-going challenge of keeping the courthouse sparkling.

This week called for fresh paint. Last week they changed light bulbs. And every week they battle old breakers and pigeons while finding time to keep the floors at a high gloss.

"We try to do that every week. If you come in, sweep it, mop it, buff it and wax it, and if you do it right, it takes about a day," said Miller.

"Yea, it takes about seven or eight hours," nodded Osborn, speaking from experience.

Miller also maintains the Courthouse Annex, Buzz Walker Community Building and the old Kentucky Utilities building. In the rare moment of down time, he can be found beside a glowing space heater in a forgotten basement room at the courthouse, reading his Bible and preparing his sermons.

As pastor of Crab Orchard's First Baptist Church, Miller enjoys his career's co-existence with his ministry.

"I get to deal with people. I get a chance to witness to people," said Miller.

In the future, Miller has high hopes for the courthouse, but acknowledged some might have to wait.

"I'd like to strip and repaint all the banisters, but " he said.

Miller, above all, is a realist. Just as his building has waited decades for dome repairs, the interior will hold together with equal patience.

In the interim, Miller eyed the interior courthouse steps, their plastic tiled surface showing their age, and talked through the project.

"Maybe clean them with a toothbrush," he said with a smile. "I can make them look good again."

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