Courthouse recognized by state

Renovation work to the Auglaize County Courthouse was recently recognized with a state award for historic preservation.

The Auglaize County commissioners and Garmann-Miller & Associates architectural firm, of Minster, received a preservation merit award from the Ohio Historic Preservation Office for their efforts in preserving and rehabilitating the county’s courthouse built in 1894. 

The selection committee recognized the commissioners’ goal to preserve the historic architecture and character of the building, while converting it to a 21st century facility.

“The results of this project reflect a dedication to detail and commitment to excellence by all involved, from the county commissioners, to the architects, to each of the contractors involved in the work,” according to a Ohio Historic Preservation Office news release. “Preservation of the Auglaize County Courthouse is a significant contribution to the history and architecture of Auglaize County and to Ohio.”

Throughout the state, there were 16 recipients from 14 communities recognized with awards for preservation efforts. The Auglaize County Courthouse was the only courthouse project this year recognized with the honor.

The Preservation Merit Award is meant to recognize the preservation of Ohio’s prehistory, history, architecture and culture, according to information from the Ohio Historic Preservation Office. Only five courthouses in the state have received the award, with only three of those remaining in use as county courthouses.

“The Board of Auglaize County Commissioners are honored to receive this prestigious award on behalf of previous Boards of County Commissioners, the elected officials and employees of Auglaize County, and most importantly, the citizens of Auglaize County,” said Auglaize County Administrator Mike Hensley, who accepted the award on behalf of the county.

“The Board of County Commissioners is extremely pleased with the fine work produced during this lengthy project by the architectural firm of Garmann-Miller and Associates and the contractors who labored unceasingly to achieve the commissioners’ and elected officials’ vision of converting this historic and beautiful 19th century building into a 21st century architectural model for the administration of justice,” he said. “The commissioners were keenly interested in maintaining the historical integrity of the courthouse and that goal was realized through the teamwork of many involved in the project.”

In an explanation of the project presented to those in attendance at an awards ceremony in Columbus, it was explained that after a lengthy period of discussion and planning involving several boards of county commissioners in the state and the finalization of a budgetary commitment, work on the courthouse began in 2011. 

The process was funded in part by a $1.3 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant and $7.3 million from the county’s Permanent Improvement Fund, which is supported by the county sales tax.

Included in the complete overhaul of the building were repairs of deteriorated historic features and replacement of materials to match the original whenever possible. A 100-year-old coal-fired boiler was removed and replaced with two water-source heat pumps, missing window and door trim was recreated to match the original, and original room dimensions and configurations re-established after having been heavily altered during the decades since the building’s construction.

Conservators from Blanck Studios, in Wisconsin, were called in to uncover original stencil patterns, decorative elements and paint colors and restore several large murals, including one which was a covered up and forgotten depiction of Pickett’s Charge, discovered during the project.

“Courthouses are important focal points of the communities in which they reside,” according to the Historic Preservation office. “They are important symbols of democracy and justice and are often works of high-style architectural design. The loss of a historic courthouse, as occurred recently in Ohio, can have a devastating effect on the appearance and even the identity of a community.”

The Historic Preservation office also recognized the county’s balanced approach to rehabilitation of the courthouse, something that is recommended for rehabilitation of any historic building.

“The Auglaize County Courthouse is a good example of how a courthouse can be used and adapted to a modern functional purpose and still maintain it’s character,” Ohio Historical Society spokesman Tom Wolf said.

The Historic Preservation Office, which serves as Ohio’s official historic preservation agency, has been recognizing outstanding accomplishments in historic preservation in the state for 30 years.