January 10, 2019

It’s taking a little longer than originally anticipated, but construction on the Façade Restoration Project at the Colfax County Courthouse continues progressing.

During a recent conversation with the Sun, County Attorney Denise Kracl, who frequents the facility most days, said that some work is still being completed on various portions of the 1920s-built structure.

Real talk of what was to happen with the facility began in October 2017 after the three-person Colfax County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted in favor of accepting a $962,564 bid from Bierman Contracting Inc. of Columbus, as previously reported by the Sun. The project was slated to get underway in April 2018 and be completed sometime in fall 2018, however, it wasn’t fully completed in that time frame.

Originally, the project was planned in two phases. The first was restoring the north and east facades on the courthouse and installing and repointing terracotta in 2017, followed by up to four months of work on the south and west facades from April to July in 2018.

However, the decision was ultimately made to complete work on all four sides of the courthouse in one wave of work. The board’s primary reason for the shift from a two-phase to a one-phase project is that it was expected to take about six months to produce the terracotta in winter 2017.

The renovation is needed because moisture had penetrated the nearly 100-year-old courthouse’s exterior in spots, separating the bricks from the walls and cracking and wearing away the glaze on the clay-based terracotta embellishments, as previously reported by the Sun.

Upon reviewing a façade study completed in 2016, the county board recognized the need to invest in long-term restoration solutions in order to preserve the building’s exterior and to help prevent further deterioration, released information states. As a major defining feature of the building, the highest priority was to repair and replace -- where needed -- the terracotta units that showed signs of cracking, deglazing, spalling and joint failure.

The total scope of project work calls for terracotta restoration, masonry restoration, masonry cleaning, new fourth-floor windows, exterior painting and improvements to the handrails and guardrails around the perimeter of the building to improve the safety and accessibility in these areas.

The existing courthouse was designed by Lincoln Architect George A. Berlinghof, who designed the building in the Beaux Arts style with a symmetrical five-bay façade constructed of cream-colored brick and buff-colored terracotta detailing, released information states. The original terracotta on the building was manufactured by the Chicago-based Northwestern Terra Cotta Company and features both sand-rubbed and vertical drove finishes.

The Colfax County Courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its architectural and political significance and continues standing as an iconic landmark for the city of Schuyler and the county.

See next week’s edition for a more in-depth look on the project and what’s ahead.

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