Courthouse improvements made; more in the worksThe dank, dark and dirty basement of the historic Stutsman County Courthouse has been transformed by the removal and mitigation of its mold, asbestos and lead paint.
By: By Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
The dank, dark and dirty basement of the historic Stutsman County Courthouse has been transformed by the removal and mitigation of its mold, asbestos and lead paint.
Eventually, courthouse supporters say, the building may be open for tours as a state historic site.
“It’s going to become usable. I never thought that it would be, but this was a delightful surprise. We’re very pleased,” said Barb Lang, treasurer of the local 1883 Courthouse Committee. “This just turned out great. It’s going to be a good, usable place.”
Concerns arose last year that contaminants from the old courthouse could potentially get into the nearby Stutsman County Law Enforcement Center. Both buildings were tested, and while the air in the LEC received a clean bill of health, the old courthouse definitely had a mold problem, along with asbestos and lead paint.
In June, the State Historical Society of North Dakota, which owns the historic courthouse, received $60,000 in emergency historical funds from the state’s Emergency Commission.
That money, along with another $58,900 from the 1883 Courthouse Committee, was used to hire MAVO Systems of Mandan to mitigate the basement’s mold, asbestos and lead-based paint in October.
Landscaping work done in the fall already helped route water away from the old courthouse to prevent the mold problem from recurring.
“That whole project went very well. We were very pleased with out that turned out,” said Fern Swenson, director of the Archaeology and Historic Preservation Division of the SHSND.
The historical society has more plans for the building going forward.
The next step, Swenson said, is to put a concrete floor into the basement — replacing its wooden floor — and add drainage tile. Then the building needs rewiring and an environmental control system, which would help keep it dry and prevent mold from returning.
Swenson said the SHSND has “no idea” how much that work would cost, and added it would have to be put out for bids.
“We might start on some of those projects this year. Everything always depends on the funding,” Swenson said.
Eventually, the building will be opened as a historic site, but what exactly that means has yet to be determined.
This winter, Swenson said, the SHSND is working on an interpreter plan that will help guide what exhibits could be placed in the building, how it could be used and what kind of historical interpretation would be best for the site.
“The courtroom, of course, would make a marvelous community event area,” Swenson said. “We might do interpretation of courthouses in North Dakota. It could also be interpretation regarding the Dakota Territory.”
Lang said the committee is very pleased with the work already done on the courthouse, and it hopes the building will be open to tourists as early as this summer.
“We’re looking forward to a new and tidy courthouse in the summertime. I hope we can get a big volunteer crew and do a summer cleaning … and get it all shaped up,” Lang said.
That summer cleaning would include basic dusting and tidying up — work suitable for a service group, church group or community group.
“The committee is very happy, and we’re looking forward to the spring when the state has more things they want to do,” Lang said. “… it’s going to be fun.”
To volunteer or join the 1883 Courthouse Committee, call Lang at 701-320-4570. No membership fees are required.
Donations for the courthouse may be sent to the State Historical Society Foundation, P.O. Box 1976, Bismarck, ND 58502. For more information, call 701-328-2666.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453 or by email at email@example.com