Thursday, March 29, 2012
Isaac's Victorian Court House
At last, a group of prominent citizens decided to use private funds to erect a brick building of which the town could be proud, and since they were bearing the expense, they chose the location--the corner just to the southeast of the park. They selected brick rather than wood, not only to make it more elegant but also to reduce the risk of fire destroying the building and all the important records kept inside.
The story is told that one of the County Comissioners refused to accept the gift of the building. Somehow he was tricked into coming to the new structure to sign a document, and this act of business was deemed to show acceptance of the building, waiving his objections.
The citizens of the county decided that it was irresponsible not to reimburse those people who had spent their own money to build such a fine county building, so bonds were voted. Later, someone discovered a state law prohibiting voting bonds to repay private individuals for something already given to the county. The local newspapers followed the dilemma of whether the county had a moral obligation to repay the private donors, regardless of the legal prohibition concerning bonds, with arguments from both sides published.
Despite the controversies of its construction, the Victorian court house was enjoyed by the community from the time of its construction in about 1886 until September of 1925, when a petition signed by more than one-fourth of the taxpayers of the county asked the county commissioners to levy a tax to raise funds for a new court house. Within three years enough money had been raised to begin.
The elegant Victorian court house that Isaac Werner visited for business, lectures, and meetings was not replaced because people had tired of its style. Rather, the Board of County Commissioners' minutes of February 1, 1928, describe the conditions of the forty-year-old structure: "...the walls of which are what is commonly known as soft brick...are now cracked and the key stones in some of the arches of the doors and windows have loosened...and the walls of said building are spreading apart and have spread apart to the extent that the county has found it necessary to support the same by rods and other devises, and the plastering on said Court House is in bad condition and in many places has broken loose and fallen and much of the plastering is now loose and in danger of falling and injuring persons within said building, and the roof...is shingle and old and dilapidated and the said building needs a new roof." The minutes continue to describe a gaping crack running completely from top to bottom and from east to west, as well as fire risks and other dangers.
For all those reasons it was decided to demolish the grand old structure, to salvage any materials that might be used in the new building and store them on county-owned lots elsewhere in the city until they were reinstalled in the new building, and to rent space in The Delker Building in which to conduct county business while the new court house was being built. During the previous year, three architectural firms had been interviewed--Rutledge & Hurtz, Mann & Co., and Hulse & Co.--with Mann & Co. of Hutchinson chosen to draw the plans and supervise the construction of the new court house. With everything in place, the work proceeded quickly, and the new court house was dedicated in 1929.
(Remember, you can click on the images to enlarge them.)