PC Board Moves Ahead With Testing on Historic Courthouse

In a split vote, the Putnam County Board decided Monday to move ahead with testing to determine what exterior repairs will be needed for the historic courthouse, built in 1839.

The testing services will cost an approximate $21,580. The courthouse, the oldest functional one in the state, needs tuckpointing work. How much that will cost will be determined by what is found after the testing, which includes limestone analysis, mortar analysis and a Rilem tube test which shows the rate of moisture penetration, according to George Cary of Basalay, Cary and Alstadt, an architect firm in Ottawa.

Cary said it is not uncommon for mason contractors to use the wrong mortar for older buildings. A special, softer mortar that allows for contraction and expansion must be used, he said.

“If you don’t, it tends to be too hard,” Cary said. “It’ll pop the face off of the brick.”

The bricks that are bad will have to be replaced with a custom-made brick, he said.
When asked, Cary said the testing results will belong to Putnam County and they can be used down the road for any kind of tuckpointing — the tests won’t have to be run again if the county decides to hold off on repairs.

“You really can choose to do portions of the building at a time,” Cary said.

Chairman Duane Calbow said county boards, past and present, have been the stewards of the courthouse and have acted and must continue to act in the best interest of the county, financially and historically.

“I’ve always thought that it’s important when moving forward to know where we’ve been,” Calbow said.

Board member Chauntelle Biagi-Bruer said although the testing is a lot of money, it’s something that must be done.

“It’s an historical landmark though, it’s something we have to take care of,” she said.
Abraham Lincoln is believed to have walked the halls there, she added.

Board member William Holmes said he also walked the halls there during his years as custodian of the building.

“I worked here 10 years,” he said. “It’s terrible in here.”

Holmes specifically mentioned problems with the heating system.

Board member Sheila Haage said, in her opinion, the county should move ahead with the testing.

“Because it’s the oldest working courthouse in Illinois, I just can’t see not maintaining it as best as we can,” she said.

Sidney Whitaker, president of Putnam County Historical Society, said he applauds the work that has been done in the past to maintain the courthouse.

“It’s just a marvelous job that’s been done,” he said.

He said Putnam County Historical Society will lend its support in maintaining the building.
“We’re really invested in this courthouse ourselves and anything we can do to help, we will.”
He urged the board to move forward with the testing.

“It’s very difficult to make any decision without the results of those tests, I think,” he said.
In the past, the historical society has accepted donations solely for specific projects.
“That may be something we can do,” Whitaker said.

County clerk Dan Kuhn said that, as an office holder, he sees people visit the courthouse during the day from all over the state, and even out of state, for the sole purpose of seeing the historic building.

“People are pretty fascinated this building is as old as it is and it’s still being used,” he said.
After a vote, the board voted in favor of testing, 4-1. Holmes was the board member who voted against the testing.

Source: News Tribune