Courthouse renovation nearing completion
Published 10:30 am Wednesday, June 17, 2020
Lady Justice stood glistening in the morning sunlight, her sword in one hand, her scales in the other.
The silver galvanized metal statue on the south side of the Jessamine County Courthouse, and an identical one on the north side still surrounded by wooden scaffolding, were returned to their places last Wednesday after they were restored by Clark Tool and Die, a Nicholasville firm, as part of an eight-month, $1.3 million courthouse renovation expected to be substantially completed this week.
Construction workers and painters were still putting finishing touches on the courthouse’s facelift, but the day before, when the statues were erected, was a moment of meaning for County Judge-Executive David West, who had invited Pastor Moses Radford of Nicholasville’s First Baptist Church to mark the occasion with a prayer.
“It’s ironic the parallels and symbolism we can draw with this and what is transpiring in our country,” West said, referencing the rallies across the country for racial justice.
“When these statues were removed, we observed damages, holes and deterioration from age.”
The Jessamine County Fiscal Court decided to refurbish them, though the cost was high and the process complicated, he said.
“Now we have our fellow citizens, neighbors and friends who feel like our justice system is unfair to them. And just like these statues, maybe it’s time to look at some of the holes, some of the deterioration and some of the damage, and maybe it’s time to institute the changes necessary so that everybody can enjoy justice equally in the United States.”
The Jessamine County Courthouse, built in 1878 and designed by architect Thomas Boyd in the Second Empire style, hasn’t had a major overhaul in memory. In 1964, an addition was built with a flat roof, but it didn’t drain well, and there had been water damage to the courthouse as a result.
West said the renovation, under contract with Midwest Maintenance of Piqua, Ohio, and Augusta, Georgia, included improving how the water is funneled to the new downspouts and adding new insulation, three layers thick in places. What’s most visible to the public, he said, is the paint job, which was done by Brian Brothers Painting.
The painters pressure-washed everything, got all the rust and scale off and put three coats of paint on the exterior.
There’s new structural steel in the attic, a new ceiling and floor in the cupola, mortar and stone repair, bird netting in the bell tower and a new weather vane that points in the direction the wind is blowing. Rotting wood was replaced with weather-resistant panels, and there’s new lighting.
“We still had a solid courthouse, but it needed some care,” West said. “This should put it in good shape for the next 150 years.”
West said there will be a rededication ceremony when all the work is finished.
The work, he said, was funded by a court fee that can only be used for courthouse preservation and restoration.
Jerry Hazeltine, a manager for Midwest Maintenance, said last Wednesday the job should be done within the next couple of weeks.
“We’re hoping to get our final punch-out next week, and we’ll have another week just to make sure that we’ve got everything done, and then we’ll be out of here,” he said.
West said future projects the county has in the works are an $80,000 restoration of the William Neal Cassity Building, a row of county offices south of the courthouse where a fire ravaged businesses in 2005, except for the historic facades, and some landscaping of the courthouse lawn.