Lincoln courthouse project slowed by rain

June 17, 2004|EMILY BURTON

STANFORD - The rain and wind that have taken a toll on the Lincoln County courthouse dome for decades have slowed restoration efforts as well, though not by much, said Judge-Executive Buckwheat Gilbert.

"The rain has set us back some," but nothing worth panicking over, said Gilbert.

As it stands, the project is scheduled for completion by the first of September.

The dome was opened for the first time in years in early August. At that time, workers were sent up with shovels and particle masks for protection against the foul air, filled with the dust of rotting bird droppings and pigeon carcasses. The bell tower and dome floors were buried under moldy droppings and feathers. Broken glass shards hung in windows where the birds had flown into the portholes, the August heat and suffocating smell not escaping through the openings.

The windows have since been wired over, said Gilbert, the carcasses removed and ammonia sprayed in to kill the smell and disease.


The restoration faze of the project, set to replace the sheet metal dome and roofing with copper, began the first of June.

The peeled paint covering the dome's woodwork, also was scheduled for repair and has been removed.

"They have got all the old scrapings off it; the painter should be here to paint the woodwork," said Gilbert. Metal workers are to follow.

Restoration could produce income for county

The restoration efforts could produce more than just a pretty face. The former courtrooms in the upper sections of the building haven't been used in years, said Gilbert, but with an overcrowded court system across the street in the courthouse annex, those rooms could help the county once again.

Several law professionals already have expressed an interest in practicing law in the historic space, said Gilbert.

"As you know, the courtrooms across the street are generally full ... We're going to try to fix it (the courthouse) up, where once again, we can utilize that (space)."

Gilbert said the county could have gotten the work done for free, paid for by the state, if they had acted when the court rooms were still holding court.

"It should have been done years ago, when the (state) office of the courts would have paid for it. As it was, the rooms were used despite leaks that placed jurors beside 5-gallon drip buckets.

The leaks have been repaired with a temporary patch but will be permanently repaired this summer. The old metal shingles are slated to be removed, rotted wood replaced if necessary, and new metal roof laid in their place.

The roofing project is being managed by Tri-state Roofing of Lexington.

Gilbert said the effects of the dome restoration will be around for the next generations to see.

"We're not always going to be here, and we're just trying to prepare the building to last another hundred years," said Gilbert. "I think it's the prettiest courthouse in the state, and I've seen plenty."

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