Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Monroe County Courthouse Renovation

Recently my husband and I had the opportunity to tour the Monroe County Courthouse with the site manager who is in charge of the construction being done to the historic building.  The building is closed to the public, but we were given a full tour, from the basement to the top of the dome, while our gracious host explained all that they were doing to fix structural and mechanical problems that had been found as well as their work in bringing back the Beaux Arts beauty to the 1907 building.

This circular staircase was uncovered on the first floor.  It had been closed up during a previous remodel of the courthouse.  They decided to leave the staircase in place, even though it will not be used.

A grate blocks off the top of the staircase.

Reproduction lights with energy-efficient bulbs match the original lights in the courthouse.

We carefully made our way up a dark, winding, steep, narrow staircase to the dome.

Cinder blocks act as the counter weights for the clockworks. 

The upper side of the stained glass dome.

They are trying to figure out a better way to light the dome so that the lighting is more even.

The bell sits silent for now.  As the workers have to turn the power off occasionally, the timing for the bell to ring gets messed up.

The clock room.
This room sits above the stained glass dome.  
Once a week someone walks across a couple of planks to the room to wind the clockworks so that the clocks keep proper time.  All four of the giant clock faces in the dome are connected to this clock room and are synchronized.

The steel structure holding up the dome.

Looking North from the dome.

Looking to the Southwest.

Looking to the Southeast.

As our host had warned, going down the stairs was much more difficult than going up had been.  Finally we got to the lower level.  Even here the railing is decorative.

On the balcony overlooking the third story courtroom.
I have had meetings before in this room.
Unfortunately, the Beaux Arts beauty had been undermined by the addition of early 1980s architecture.  Tacky early 1980s architecture.

The original light features in the courtroom.

The gate to the doorway leading to the dome.

The plastered and painted dome in the courtroom.
At one point this dome had been covered up.

The eagle and flag behind the judge's chair in the courtroom.

Another view.

Another original light fixture.

More intricate railing.

A lovely Beaux Arts light fixture.

Faux painted column.

I look forward to coming back when the dome is lit up in all its glory.

The columns below are in the process of being faux painted to look like marble columns.

The upper part of the stained glass windows.

Close-up detail.  This had been restored but I neglected to write down the name of the firm that restored the window or the date.  I'll have to do that the next time I tour the building.

Another close-up view.

Lovely cast iron railings.

The murals underneath the stained glass dome.

Imagine how these would look with theatrical lighting.

Everything is a work in progress here.

These terrazzo floors have been treated with a process known as vitrification.  It acts like melted glass and will last for years.

New railing that blends in with the old.

The original safe.

The upper railing to the newly rediscovered circular stairs.

This marble fronted curved counter had been removed in the 1983 remodel (one has to wonder why?).  It had been sitting in a nearby antique store all these years.  The store had closed and the owners offered to sell it back to the county.  The county gladly bought it back.  The wood counter top will be refinished.  

A worker is drilling a hole in the concrete floor for electrical wires.

More of the lovely work that the workers are doing at the courthouse.

During the 1983 remodel, the original doors were removed and generic commercial doors were put in.  A craftsman custom-made these wooden doors for the courthouse.

Historical marker outside the courthouse, part I.

Part II

In 1910 Bloomington, IN was the center of the US population.

I love a courthouse I can actually take pictures of both inside and outside.

I'm so glad you could join me on this tour.

1 comment:

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Very interesting. Thanks for the tour. Looking forward to seeing more.